From my first Ironman to now my 5th Ironman, I do not take the journey of becoming an Ironman very lightly. Although an Ironman finish looks like a thrill of a lifetime when watching it on the internet, seeing pictures or reading a race report, any Ironman athlete will tell you that balancing training with the rest of life is a constant struggle and often requires wishful thinking for the stopping of time (or a magician) and 140.6 miles of swim, bike and run does not come without its ups and downs (both mentally and physically) on race day. Although the Ironman is likely the most exhilarating, mentally challenging, life-changing experience that many of us will voluntarily commit a year of our life to, the journey of becoming an Ironman requires much more than sheer determination, an individual training plan and good nutrition.
In 2006, I was recently out of graduate school w/ my Master of Science degree in Exercise Physiology, had just finished an internship with the Ironman Corporation (WTC) and started a new job as the Wellness Coordinator of the North Pinellas YMCA. I was broke, living with my parents, starting my writing and speaking career and dedicating my entire life to training for my first Ironman. With high ambitions to qualify for Kona in my first Ironman, my entire life revolved around the Ironman. A few Gearlink Cycling Team members wanted to set me up with a very sweet and smart guy who was an exceptional fast Category 3 rider and had a very cute Czech accent. Although I didn't want a boyfriend at the time, Karel came into my life and it was hard to push him away. Unsure of how to balance a boyfriend, work and IM training, I focused primarily on the Ironman and entertained myself with the idea that if Karel actually wanted to unconditionally support me throughout the journey of my first Ironman, he would likely be someone that I would want to spend the rest of my life with.
With great excitement, I ended up qualifying for Kona by winning the 18-24 age group at my first Ironman. And marrying this wonderfully amazing, smart and thoughtful guy..who still has a cute czech accent :) Now 4 Ironman's later, Karel is my husband, best friend, coach and love of my life. He continues to support me as I pursue my Ironman dream of one day standing on the Ironman World Championship age group podium but he also challenges me to reach my goals and ambitions in my personal life. He has shown me that triathlons is a great lifestyle but it doesn't have to be my life. Therefore, in pursuit of helping others reach their personal dreams, I continue to feel blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life. Therefore, he is not alone when I think of all the people who have been in my life, supporting me and believing in me, throughout every IM journey.
Ask any Ironman athlete and they will tell you that months of "IM" training can not be complete without a great team. A team that is supportive, helpful, informative and understanding. A team that believes in you when you find yourself lacking the confidence and motivation that is needed to reach the IM starting line and a team that encourages you by saying "you are almost there!" when really, you are only at mile 1 of your 26.2 mile IM run. We all have different team members but I think you'd agree with me when I say that the Ironman Journey is not complete without a BIG THANK YOU to our team members.
There are 3 very important Team Members that I would like to thank.
MOM, DAD and AARON
I come from a family of hard-working individuals. Although my brother and myself had our moments as teenagers, my parents raised us to the best of their abilities. My parents never forced us to do competitive sports but I believe they always wanted us to challenge ourselves. I played piano at an arts school and performed/was judged for most of my young life. I started swimming competitive when I was 12 and my brother started gymnastics at a very early age. We both continued our sports throughout college and my parents supported us no matter the cost or time commitment. I am not only grateful that my parents allowed us to focus solely on school and sports up until the end of college, but I am extremely grateful that my parents encouraged us to always reach for our dreams. I was always the athlete and student that had to work a bit harder than everyone else. It would take me longer in the pool to progress with my swimming and I would spend hours and hours studying, only to grasp the material that was just taught to me in class that day. But despite lacking "natural" talent, I believe I came out a winner because my parents encouarged me to never EVER give up. I am not afraid to come in last, I am not afraid to pursue a challenging degree and I am not afraid to speak or write about something that I am truely passionate about. Thank you mom, dad and Aaron for believing in me, for allowing me to be me and for always encouraging me to hang in there when life got tough and I really, really, really wanted to quit.
Karel What a year this has been!!! After qualifying for Kona at IMWI in Sept 2010, you were my number one supporter throughout my 10-month internship. Thinking that the Ironman was one of the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, my internship challenged me in ways that I could have never imagined. And just when things were starting to look bright, my hips started to give me extreme pain around early Feb and I went without running for 14 LONG weeks. Once again, you did everything you could to keep me staying positive and you told me to focus on school and that everything would be just fine for Kona. As you always say, "trust me, babe". Karel, you never stop believing in me but I want to say that I will never stop believing in you. I will always be there to support you, cheer for you and believe in you, no matter what you want to do in life. We both have worked really hard to be where we are today but because of you, it makes me want to work that much harder. We certainly have a lot of fun together and at the end of the day, we always keep life balanced. You don't even think twice to try my TriMarni creations and you are always surprising me with new triathlon-related gear. Even though you joke "Why run, when you can ride a bike?" I know that you support me in triathlons and always want me to succeed. But more than anything, you support me in LIFE and I truely appreciate that from the bottom of my heart. I wish words could describe how much you mean to me and how great it feels to be your teammate for the rest of our life. LOVE YOU BABE!!
By now, it's probably easy to see that my life is shared with Campy. When Campy came into our life around 3 years ago, I never realized how much he would change Karel and myself. Campy was found behind a building around the age of 8 months or so. We found him from a foster family and we welcomed him into our family in Oct 2008. Campy is now an east-coast traveler and the most popular cycle dog at Florida Cycling races. No surprise, this dog goes EVERYWHERE with me. Rather than thinking that my life revolves around Campy, I feel as if I am truely LIVING my life because of Campy. The wonderful thing about dogs is that they never judge you. They never run out of unconditional love and they make you feel special, without even trying. What I love the most about Campy is that he makes me feel balanced. When life gets stressful, I know a walk with Campy will help me clear my mind. When I feel anxiety for challenging situations, Campy has a way of kissing you, telling you that it will always be all right. Without knowing it, Campy continues to make me a better person. Campy is one lucky dog but I believe WE are the lucky ones. I always have a running partner no matter what the time of day and even if I feel I am out of energy, Campy's smiling face gives me the boost to do just 1 more "campy" mile. No trip is boring without Campy and Karel always tells me that he races better, with less pressure, when Campy is around because Campy never seems to notice a "bad" race. Every day is a lottery winning day for our furry litle one. Campy, you know how much I love you 'cause I show you every single day. Thank you for making my life complete and I look forward to making many more memories with you!
Lastly... To all my blog readers, thank you for believing in me, for reading my articles and for checking out my blog on a daily basis. To my internship preceptors for being so very patient during 10 hour interning days and for putting up with me when I was completely stressed and overwhelmed. To my friends, both near and far, thank you for accepting me for me and for letting me be a part of your life. To Marjorie, thank you for the best massages and for giving my body the right amount of energy to keep me balanced. To my athletes who inspire and motivate me on a daily basis, thank you! And lastly, to the many people who have emailed me your stories, asking for advice, help or just someone to listen - thank you for reminding me of why I do what I do and why I worked so hard for all my credentials. To the Jacksonville Running Company, thank you for having the most fun, smart and kind staff to help me with all my running needs. I am always in good hands at JRC and Campy and I just love visiting the store just to say hi (and Campy likes his doggy treats). To the Trek Bicycle store of Jacksonville - THANK YOU! To my Oakley Women ambassadors and crew, thank you for inspiring ME to perform beautifully both in sport and in life. A big thanks to the Hammerhead triathlon club for a wonderful Kona send-off party, for 7 of us, heading to the big island next week!