Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Start of a Journey - Ironman North Carolina

It has been quite some time since I've updated this blog.  My last post was 2 years ago in April 2014.  A quick scan of my blog made me realize it's a smorgasbord of posts.  This started as a travel blog, which I used to do a lot more, then morphed into a running/exercise/race re-cap blog.  Either way, it's still about Amy, the single girl, and my travels through the world.  It just so happens my travels these days aren't abroad as much and tend to be more on foot or bike.

I'm not sure what inspired me to update this today, but I'm getting ready to take on a big challenge and I want to keep a record of the journey.  It's mostly for myself, but perhaps some friends will want to follow it as well so I'm making it public.

I am going to participate in Ironman North Carolina in October!!  For those of you who don't know, IMNC is a 140.6 mile triathlon consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 miles on a bike and ends with a 26.2 mile run.  Ironman is often synonymous with the distance, but that is  just the brand/company that puts on the race.  There are a few other companies that stage 140.6 mile events, but Ironman is the largest and most recognized.  Unfortunately, because of that it's also the most expensive.  From what I hear they do put on a good event and bring out all the bells and whistles.  As a first-timer I thought I'd go with a well-known company who knows how to run a good event.  There will be plenty to stress about getting ready for IMNC and wondering if it will be run well isn't something I want to think about.

This is an enormous task for me.  I am not a natural athlete and I am quite terrified, but I have been building up to this for a couple of years and am excited for the journey to start.  Time flies though!  It feels like just yesterday I still had over a year to think about this and now the time has come to start training.  I can't believe it.  Technically, the journey isn't officially starting now, but the final stretch is beginning tomorrow.  I have always admired my friends that participated in endurance events, such as marathons, and triathlons and for many years always thought it was something I could never do. I even envied those doing 5ks.  I couldn't even run a mile so 3.1 miles seemed like a long way to me.  However, right before I turned 28 I decided to give running a try and did a 10k.  It was a game-changer.  Before I knew it I was running a marathon and have now done 8!  It's crazy and I still don't believe I've done them sometimes.  

My decision to do an Ironman came 4 years ago.  I was in an online running group and many of the members were very active and frequently posted and I did as well.  One day one of our members was participating in her first Ironman.  I had never personally met her, but other members of the group had been posting a lot about her race and her progress.  It was hard not to get caught up in the excitement of it all.  So many people were following her and showing support.  Someone mentioned you could watch the live feed of the finish line so I decided to tune in and see her finish.  I watched the feed for at least a half an hour and was amazed.  Each time a participant came through the finisher chute, the announcer would personally say, "(their name) you are an Ironman."  That sentence was given a lot of emphasis and I felt so happy for each one of the finishers.  I knew that had worked so hard to get to that point.  Some of them literally gave it all they had and collapsed at the finish line.  It was so inspiring to see so many people cross the line after completing 140.6 miles, in one day!  When our group member came through I was officially inspired.  In that moment I had an overwhelming desire to complete an Ironman one day.  It was more than a goal.  It felt almost like a need.  The only problem was I had never done a triathlon and I didn't know how to swim, well at least not freestyle swim.  I also didn't own a bike.  I knew it would take some time to get to that.

My first step of this journey started with me borrowing my sister/s road bike. Road and triathlon bikes are very expensive and I didn't want to spend the money unless I knew it's something I was going to commit to and enjoy.  My sister wasn't using her bike so it was a logical start.  I highly suggest borrowing a bike if you're considering tris, but don't know if you'd like it.  Anyway, the summer of 2013 I signed up for my first triathlon, the Life is a Beach tri.  It included a 200 yard swim, a 5 mile bike ride and a 2 mile run.  It was short and I knew if I did that and hated it then triathlons weren't for me and I would just admire my friends who tri from a distance.  I didn't really train for the race and didn't really need to because it was so short.  I did the breast stroke through the swim and made it through the race with no issues.  It was incredibly fun and I knew I wanted to try a more serious event.

In 2014 I signed up for two sprint triathlons and an olympic triathlon.  I paid for a few swimming lessons to learn the proper technique for freestyle swimming, hired a triathlon coach (Nicole, she's awesome) and trained for them.  It was a major shift from marathon training and wore me out!  I successfully completed those races and still loved the sport.  At that point I decided to take on a half Ironman (70.3) the following summer in 2015.  For that race I knew I had to get my own bike.  As much as I appreciated my sister's bike, we aren't the same height or build and it just wouldn't work for the longer rides.  I saved some cash, bought a tri bike and lots of other tri essentials (this is a money sucking sport) and started training.  I had a Coach Nicole help me along the way again and I completed Ironman Muncie 70.3 last summer.  It was so hard, but it felt so good to finish.  I distinctly remember saying to my uncle that day that I didn't want to do a full Ironman and he said he didn't either.  Both of us had just finished the race and we're both signed up for Ironmans in the fall! Never trust a runner/triathlete who says they will never do a particular race.  That's almost a guarantee that they'll end up doing it.

Four years later I am taking the final step.  Training starts tomorrow.  Yikes!  I'm terrified to take on this challenge, but I'm looking forward to it too.  I have invested a lot to get to this point and tomorrow the journey begins.  I won't post specific workouts (I paid good money for those), but will post my mileage, progress and thoughts along the way.  I know there will be many highs and lows and I am sure it will be life-changing too.  I can't wait to hear Mike Reilly say, "Amy, you are an Ironman!"  It will be one of the best cherries on top I've ever had.  Oh yeah, and the entire time I'm training I'll also be working on my PhD dissertation so there might be some graduate school things worked into the updates too.  Wish me luck!

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