Some time ago in the not so distant past, my husband asked me if I would ever do a triathlon. “No way!”, I answered. “Swimming is gross, and you know I don’t like to get in the water. Biking might be okay, but I don’t even own a bike.” Yet... I didn’t shut the door all the way. “I should just do a half marathon or something.”
In 2015, he joined MM and by the end of the season, I was warming up to the idea of becoming active. As I spent more time around the team, I was certain this was a group I wanted to be a part of. I still wasn’t sold on the whole triathlon thing, but I decided to do a sprint tri in 2016 and my goal was “just to finish”.
Starting in the new year, the consistency (or maybe unrelenting frequency) of my new plan was a complete lifestyle change. This was my first week of what I came to call the “couch to Cindi” program:
I had bouts of fitness in the past where I would run or have a dedicated yoga practice, but there was no consistency and there certainly wasn’t much intensity. When I started, I struggled to run a single 10 minute mile without walking. But it didn’t really matter where I started, because as long as I showed up for practice and did my best to try to keep up with anyone on the team, I was improving. Having a coach and and a supportive group to train with was a game changer for me.
The rapid improvement I experienced was exciting. Not only did I complete several sprints, I crushed my goals as well as my perception of what my body was capable of every time. My dreams and my goals got bigger as the year went on.
By the end of that summer, I was thinking really big and it was time to decide if I could take on Ironman in 2017. Even the thought of it would have been crazy seven months earlier.
But everything in my life felt like it was settled enough that I would be able to dedicate the time and energy required to training. Conveniently, my “carpool” and near constant companion, Carly, was also ready to take the leap. A group of us exchanged excited texts as we registered on September 12th.
In November, I told Cindi I wanted to run a marathon. I knew I would feel more secure in my Ironman decision if I had at least done each portion of the race by itself. She said it wasn’t really “required,” but I knew I needed to be confident in my ability to cover the distance. Plus, a marathon seemed like a good way to keep motivated over the winter.
The Mesa-Phoenix Marathon was my first race of the year. My goal was to run under 4 hours, but I wanted to push myself see how close I could get to 3:30. Lofty for someone who could barely make it a mile just the year before. The course was pretty flat, the weather was mild, and I even had amazing teammates show up to surprise me in Phoenix and catch me every few miles.
In the end, I ran 3:41:40. I was very happy with my result and loved the experience, despite it being more painful than I possibly could have anticipated. There were many moments where I thought, “Why did I sign up to do this after a 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike? What was I thinking?!?” Good thing my teammates assure me that “the Ironman marathon is just different”.
After the marathon, I decided to race less frequently in the year ahead. I had just two 70.3s on the calendar. The first, Ironman Madison 70.3, was a grueling introduction to the distance. After a beautiful swim and bike, I was destroyed by the heat on the run. Like many others, my pace suffered as I slogged around Lake Monona. I didn’t meet my goal of breaking 2 hours on the run, but I was happy to have covered this distance without any mechanical or nutrition issues.
Luckily, I had another shot at a sub-2 run at the Door County half in July. After a shortened swim and relatively flat bike, I was ready to go. I watched my average pace on my watch knowing that it had to be under 9:09 to break 2 hours and that I would need to bank some time for hills in later miles. I executed according to plan and my run time was 1:57:11. All that was left now was the full distance in September.
Now, in the days leading up to Ironman I am unusually calm. As I see others on facebook worrying about the swim start change, bike course, or other things ultimately outside of my control, I am not fazed. The hard work is done, now it is just time to execute and enjoy the day.
In writing this and reflecting on my journey, I think about where I started and how far I have come. From my first sprint, to my first marathon, to my first 70.3, I have had great races so far and I simply trust the process. My training and race planning I have done with MM has never failed me in the past. Thinking about race day, about that first swim stroke until I cross the finish line, ultimately completing my journey from couch-to-226k, I am excited and ready to take on Ironman.