As I reflect, here's a little from my Kona 26.2 run recap:
"It's very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit."
As a coach, exercise physiologist, dietitian, 5x Ironman finisher and 2x Ironman world championship finisher, I respect the human body for all that it allows me to do on a daily basis. Throughout this Ironman journey, I have developed a deep relationship with my body and with the right balance of my lifestyle of triathlon with my passion for living my life to the fullest and helping others, I feel I was able to enter this Ironman in the best mental and physical shape of my life.
What I find so amazing about the body is that for many of us, we have a gift. Regardless of finishing time, those of us who reach an Ironman starting line have a gift, comprised of mostly perseverance. This is a gift that many people don't recognize and for others, that many people would love to have, but lack the desire, motivation or means of wanting to train for a 140.6 mile event.
For most of us, we are age-groupers. The Ironman event series gives us a challenge, a way to feel successful and a way to see the body become something that we never thought was possible. We surround ourselves with people who support us, believe in us and are inspired by our decision to sign-up, train and compete in an Ironman but then there are those who are in our lives, that call us "crazy" for putting our body through such pain and torture. When it comes to race day, our reasons for getting to the finishing line include a raffle of thoughts and ideas. While we shoot for personal bests and an inner strength to dig deep, we also consider the time, money and personal and emotional investment that we contributed to the last x-months in training for this Ironman event.
Although I feel the 140.6 mile Ironman distance fits my body and personality the best, out of the many available triathlon distances, I do not take for granted that anything can happen on race day. Sure, anything is possible on race day, but I see my body as this amazing machine that should be taken care of as if it was glass.
This Ironman journey included much more than "training hard and long". Actually, I feel as if the training was beyond hard because it forced me to break down the sport and focus on the little things that would make for a great race day performance. With only 1 ride over 100 miles and my longest run of 16 miles off the bike, my goal with my training was to develop the confidence that I needed to believe in myself that I could put my training to the test.
I believe that anyone who sets out to do an Ironman, needs a solid base. Once that endurance base is built, he/she must focus on quality training, in addition to focusing on a goal with the right attitude. I believe that Ironman training should be fun, but it isn't without its up and down moments. Because we often question the reason for participating in the most self-fulfilling, one day endurance triathlon event, we must have a goal. This goal allows us to be consistent with training, to rest when the body can no longer perform at an optimal level and to go into the race with a practical plan.
With every training session in my 14-weeks B4KONA training plan, I saw myself in the Kona race...I could see myself crossing the finish line with a specific time and every interval in Jacksonville took place - in my mind - in Kona, on the Ironman course. I was not afraid to "RACE" Kona because I had believed in myself that I could race my plan. I recognized that obstacles would be thrown my way on the amazing BIG ISLAND of Kona but I always plan to race within my stretchable limits.
The Ironman is an indescribable accomplishment because it is more than just a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run. Because we can't compare race to race, season to season, event to event, you are always forced to put your current training to the test and be one with your mind and body on that given day. The deciding factor on race day isn't how far you swam, biked or ran or how much money you spent on gear or how much body fat you have on race day. When it comes to racing or participating in an Ironman, you have to want it....bad Although many people want that finish or best time...."PR or ER" as some may say, I believe that the Ironman should explore our boundaries of what we are capable of achieving.
One thing I have learned in my triathlon and Ironman career is that athletes are not made in season, nor are they defined by one race. Many people look at results, rather than what happened within the race.
On October 8th, 2011, I did not have the race that I dreamed of having. On paper, my time did not reflect what I had trained my body to do. But after relishing in my accomplishment of finishing another Ironman over the past few days, I have done plenty of reflecting to decide that this was the best race of my life. This was a true test of my ability to overcome obstacles and this is what will drive me, motivate me and will allow me to succeed in the future. This race forced me to use the most significant training tool that I had included in my 14-week training journey. For if it wasn't for my mind and ability to listen to so many conversations in my head, I would have left KONA as a DNF athlete.
"Determination, patience and courage are the only things needed to improve any situation."