If anyone would have asked me if I was interested in doing an Ironman triathlon in my lifetime, I would have laughed and told them they were crazy! After all, you must have a few screws loose to entertain that idea, right?! Well….. that’s what I used to say 🙂
It all started in 2002, when one of my best friends from college, Paola, asked me if I would be interested in doing a triathlon in honor of her grandmother who had passed away from Leukemia. The organization we would be training and fundraising with was called Team in Training, an organization that raises funds and awareness for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I had no idea what a triathlon was, but I am a sucker for sentimental and heartwarming causes and I signed up after attending an Informational Session and hearing stories of those who had been affected by blood cancers such as Leukemia, Lymphoma, or Hodgkin’s disease.
Initially I had signed up for the shortest distance, the Pacific Grove Sprint Triathlon in Monterey. Along the course of training 4 days a week, I met incredible people who inspired me everyday to get up and be a part of a larger cause. My head coach, Tim, whom I am still friends with today, said to me, “Anthea, you’ve already trained well past your distance, why don’t you sign up for the Olympic Distance?” I thought about what he said, and made the decision to do the longer Olympic Distance Triathlon: .9 mile swim, 25 mile bike, and 6.1 mile run. And this race was the beginning of my journey with triathlons and Team in Training (TNT).
I came back year after year and season after season and volunteered to be on staff as a Mentor, Community Captain, Training Captain, and finally Assistant Coach. Some of my nearest and dearest friends are those I met over a decade ago as we trained and raced together for years. I love being outdoors and meeting wonderful people so it was natural for me to become involved in the triathlon community. I was comfortable with the Olympic Distance and challenged myself to train and race in my first Half Ironman, The Big Kahuna triathlon in Santa Cruz in 2007. The distances were: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run. The Half Ironman distance pushed me physically and mentally. That was as far as I was interested and willing to go…..so I thought.
The idea of doing an Ironman started to enter my mind in 2009 when I went to watch and support one of my best friends and also one of my first coaches, Tom Davies, race Ironman Couer D’Alene in Idaho. I had an incredible time spectating and watching him complete this ultimate endurance event, but wasn’t entirely convinced that I wanted to dedicate all my time to training and by ALL my time, I literally mean ALL my time. The following year, Tom’s name was selected to participate in Ironman Kona, the World Championships. I was so excited for him and wanted to go and support him so I went to Kona and cheered for him amongst the thousands of people there to see the best of the best!! Watching my friend Tom and so many others that day sealed the deal for me. I was completely awe-struck and wanted to be a part of this elite group.
I wanted to know if I could physically and mentally complete the IRONMAN distance: 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run…the ultimate 140.6 mile endurance race.
So, my Iron(WO)man journey began with signing up for Ironman Canada in 2011.
I trained and put in time, energy, a lot of sweat and definitely some tears for 8 months beginning in January 2011. Thankfully, I had an incredible group of about 30 friends training with me who had participated in TNT triathlons with me in the past. It was during my training season in March where I met my fiance, Kyle, at a triathlon training camp for the Wildflower Triathlons. Coincidentally, my best friend, Tom, was Kyle’s head coach, and we during this weekend of camping, training, and riding the course. :0) See, I told you that I met really wonderful people!!
So 5-6 days a week, I swam, biked, and ran all over the bay area, and towards the end, doing two workouts a day to prepare myself for the biggest endurance event I had signed up for. I was tired, grouchy, and ALWAYS hungry….and not the most pleasant person to be around towards the end. Thank you Kyle for putting up with me!! But before I knew it, I was packed and ready to fly to Penticton, Canada for IRONMAN CANADA. Tom, Kyle, and my parents flew to Penticton to support and cheer me on.
Words can’t describe the morning of race day: waking up at 3:45am for a quick shower and breakfast just to start it all. The day began before sunrise and ended late into the night. My nerves calmed down as I stared into the sea of swim caps and the calm lake ahead of me. It started with an awesome swim start (I did lots of legal drafting..YAY!), coming out of the water and getting my wetsuit stripped off, doing a complete wardrobe change, and hearing the announcer call my name as I was hopping onto my bike (seeing mom, stepdad, Kyle and Tommy) before a pretty humbling and HOT (97-100 degree) 8 hour ride, where yes, there were tears streaming down my face as I was climbing up my final hill at Yellow Lake worried that I wouldn’t make the bike cutoff, getting off my bike and yes, doing another wardrobe change before I started my run..thank GOD!!! It was so relieving to know that all I had was the marathon…yes, I know…I’m CRAZY for being relieved at the thought of starting a marathon at 5pm after swimming 2.4 miles and riding 112 miles, but all of you know by now that I am a little off my rocker already :0)
The run was my favorite…I was able to start it during daylight, watch an incredibly beautiful sunset as I was running along Skaha Lake, see and greet all of my friends as they were also running and making some new friends along the way, and admire the stars as it became dark and all I could see were bouncing glow necklaces. Seeing Kyle and Tom at the turnaround was amazing and I couldn’t believe that I was almost done. Chicken soup at aid stations saved me. I broke the last half marathon into segments, 10K and then 5K. It helped me mentally and before I knew it, I saw the bright lights and heard all the screaming, yelling, and words of encouragement. Coming to the finish line chute, I spotted mom cheering as she was hanging off the edge of the wall and I went to her and all I had were tears of joy and surprise that I made it. I really made it and this was it!!! I gave high fives to anyone and everyone along the wall and took it all in before I crossed that IRONMAN FINISH line. UNFORGETTABLE and SURREAL! I will never forget that moment for as long as I live. And yes, I believe I still have another Ironman race in my future.