So it might as well be established that I am a sporadic blogger at best. I will own it. I love my busy, busy, life and when I get to a point that I can blog regularly I probably won’t have anything interesting to blog about anyway. At this point I have five kids, two jobs and I’m six days out from competing in Ironman Coeur D’Alene. I wanted to do this post because I was chatting with one of the mentors in the beginner- tri group I am coaching about how we all start somewhere and that my journey started 50 pounds heavier, and much, much slower. I joked that there were pictures on Facebook if she really wanted to see. She said she did because it is always inspiring to see that most people don’t start as Ironman. So here is a recap of my triathlon journey. J
My first triathlon ever was a sprint at Beaver Lake in Issaquah WA in 1997. I was 104th out of 112 women. I was ecstatic to have done one and finished strong and happy. I had (modestly) nursed my 4 month old in a one piece swim suit at the start and was almost as proud of that feat as I was the tri. My time was 2:06:22 and I was last in my age group of 20-24. A couple of weeks later I went back to school full time. I signed up for swimming as my PE credit. I did the Medical Lake Sprint tri in 2008 and was faster on the swim and overall. With a much smaller field I finished third in my age group (there were probably 4 people in it). I was one of the first people out of the water and in the top 10 women overall off the bike. Then I did my usual (at that point) shuffle and watched all the other women pass me. I was pretty hooked on tris at that point and wanted to continue but life sort of got in the way.
Fast forward 10 years and 3 more kids (that makes 5 total). I had finished school and had decided to be a stay-home mom for a bit. Being a mommy to a lot of little kids makes for not a lot of working out time. A triple jogging stroller was way outside my price range and I honestly couldn’t muster the motivation anyway. I was walking pretty regularly while the older kids were at school but I wasn’t seeing any weight loss. I got my thyroid checked and sure enough that was the issue. Thyroid medication wasn’t an overnight fix but it let my come out of my mental fog and say “hey I want to do something about the way I look and feel.”
My sister Nyla lives in Canada about 4 hours away and together we hatched a plan to do some races together and then check in with each other by phone and help each other stay motivated. The first one we chose was the Kal Rats Triathlon in Vernon B.C. I still didn’t follow a training plan, just kind of started swimming, biking, and running randomly and then calling my sister on the phone and talking about it.
Being a family of 7 on one income meant that I would be riding my husband’s bike (size 56, yup I’m 5’4”) and wearing a water skiing wetsuit (I didn’t know any better). I loved and still love biking and became addicted to spin classes at that point (the bikes fit better than the one I was riding outside). J
The day of the race came and I decided that my wetsuit was too small ( I had gained 50 pounds between my 5th baby and the thyroid issues). So I would wear my husband’s. He is 6’ tall with broad shoulders. I got out there in the water (which had A LOT of milfoil) and realized that I had miscalculated some things: 1. Men’s XL was not my size. I was dragging a man sized bucket through the swim.
2. I should have trained in open water.
3. I should have checked the distance of the swim more carefully and remembered that there is a pretty big difference between yards and meters. And it was 750 meters.
When I finally got out of the water with the guy in his seventies I rushed to my bike and rode it like I stole it. It was hilly to say the least. I passed a few people and started my run. It was hillier. Like up one side of the steepest hill you can think of then down the other side and turn around and climb it again hilly. I did not finish last but I was not excited about my performance. My sister kicked (my) butt.
I decided my next race should be a half marathon. Which Nyla and I did together in the fall of 2007 (Spokane, in 2:30 ish if you are wondering ).
Then a cool thing happened. Nyla and I signed up for Kal Rats and our first Olympic distance (Titanium Man) in 2008 and I met Sarah Foster. She introduced me to training plans. Here were all these workouts laid out on a schedule and all I had to do was follow it. And they had instructions for transitions, nutrition, biking up hills, running at a steady pace, open water swimming and more. I signed up for the tri Sarah was doing at the end of summer too. She also dragged me out to Couer D’Alene to watch Ironman CDA that year. I was so inspired I was ready to think about, maybe, someday, sort of consider, doing it. Maybe.
My tri experiences got better from there. I had started to eat a mostly raw vegan diet at that point and not having as much dairy and gluten did great things for me. I didn’t stick with totally raw but wish that I could. I have completely eliminated dairy and gluten from my diet and feel tons better.
That next stint at Kal Rats was a lot better. I got a 10 min PR and had a much more positive feeling about the race. My race with Sarah was great too. I was a runner again and lighter. Still not a great swimmer but I did just fine.
Titanium man was also fun but I was hoping for an easier time swimming. It still seemed really long even with the downriver swim. My overall time was 02:47:01. Nyla beat me by over 10 min. But I had finished it. That was a quarter of an Ironman! Almost. J
So I signed up for my first and then second marathons. 6 weeks apart (don’t do that).
In the meantime hubby had signed up for and completed his first Ironman, the Grand Columbian. And for CDA but he didn’t tell me. He’s weird that way. So when He did Ironman CDA In 2009 (He finally told me what he was up to so I could come watch) I decided I was signing up. I had signed up for Troika Half Iron and was training for that and best of all I had gotten a bike.
Let me introduce you to Watson (Watts for short-get it?). Oh yes I AM that triathlete. I ride a Cervelo P1 tri bike. It has zero carbon on it anywhere. Ultegra components and a Terry saddle. Speed play pedals (regular not lite action). When I race I usually borrow carbon wheels from my generous tri friends, which makes the aluminum frame a little nicer to ride for long distances. I love my bike and while I will upgrade someday, it works just fine.
I also got a wetsuit. I now race in a women’s Zoot Zenith. It makes me look like Bat Girl but it’s a little too big now that I’ve lost weight. This is not too much of a problem because it will never be as bad as that first Kal Rats (what doesn’t drown us makes us stronger, right?).
I’ve continued to get faster since. My first Troika was right around 6 and a half hours. In 2010 I joined Team Blaze and was blessed to have Scott and Tristin Roy give me advice and wisdom for my first Ironman. I raced Ironman CDA and finished in 12 hours and 55 minutes . I had raced Boise 70.3 in 6:02ish and Onion-man Olympic in 2:51:39 as precursor races and I felt strong and was really happy with my times and my experiences. I especially appreciated the camaraderie of Team Blaze and the boost of the extra cheer and encouragement that wearing flames seems to bring.
The next year I signed up for Troika again because I really wanted to go sub six at that distance. Thanks to a migrating swim buoy and 4 extra miles on the bike course I did 6:02:24. I cried but then realized that If you took the overall winner out, I had won my age group. I also qualified for Nationals. I had done Valley Girl (1:12 and third in AG) and went on to do Priest Lake tri (2:45:06 and 2nd AG) and titanium man (2:34:53 1st in my AG) that year too.
2012 was all about the sub six half. I picked Chelan-man and it was the only one that I did last year. I think. Hubby will tell you that I forget stuff. I trained hard and was really excited because my running had improved a lot. I knew that I could do a 1:47 stand-alone half marathon (Windermere). It was the first and only time so far that I have ever ridden a disc wheel and it must have worked because my time was 5:49:35 and I was the 5th woman overall and 1st in my AG. Thank you Charlie for lending me your wheels. Okay I just remembered the other “half” that I did last year. Boise. Ugh. I blocked it from my memory. Just kidding you can look up all kinds of things about Boise 2012 but I’m not going into it.
So that brings us to this year: Hits Half Ironman (5:57:56 and 2nd AG) and Onion-man (2:39:01 and 5th AG but 10th overall). I’ve run a 3:37:44 marathon (my 13th, at Leavenworth in October) and a 1:43:56 half (Windermere). I rode two loops of the ironman course without crying (113.4 miles, not sure how that number came out). I think I’m ready. If I don’t break my PR it won’t be the end of the world, it’s a different course for both bike and run, but I really hope to.
I've loved my triathlon journey. There have been ups and downs of course. When Scott Roy passed away in April of 2012 was a definite low. I will borrow his saying in order to cement it a little more firmly into my mind for Sunday. Enjoy the Journey friends.