I want to be an Ironman (woman…)

I completed my first triathlon in 2004. Since then I have had many ups and downs in life, many failures and many victories – which includes several more triathlons, a marathon and a century (100 mile) bike ride. The one constant through all of this is a dimly lit desire to attempt an ironman triathlon some day. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the magnitude of that goal, an Ironman consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run, all within a 16-17 time limit. It is not an easy feat for anyone but for me it seems downright impossible. And that thought has kept me from really pursuing it in the past.  I recently did a short triathlon (first one in several years) and it has rekindled that desire.  It became a desire hard to ignore after watching my good friend complete her first Ironman last month in Tennessee.  I really want to do this.  When I assess what has stopped me in the past, in an effort to push through that boundary, I recognize that there are 2 main fears I had about this goal that have limited me before.
The first is that doing an ironman is impossible. Certainly when you look at the odds, it seems to be at least highly improbable. I am still about 30-40 pounds overweight. I have had 8 orthopedic surgeries. I have chronic foot and ankle problems that limit how I can run. I have arthritis in me knees that is advanced enough that my orthopedic surgeon told me to never run again after my left knee scope a few years ago. I recently had some genetic testing done which suggests that I am more prone than most for developing soft tissue injury due to a mutation in the genes for collagen production. I work in a high stress, time demanding job that I will have to navigate to even have time to train. The list goes on. The old me looked at these and quit before I ever started. The new me looks at these as challenges to overcome. I am preparing my body for the toll training will take by doing rehab work (stretching, strengthening, etc) that will limit my risk of injury. I am committing myself to a clean anti-inflammatory and anti oxidant diet which will help reduce inflammation and risk of injury as well as support weight loss efforts.  I am preparing my financial life to get to a place where I can cut back on work hours to have time to train. I am mentally focusing on the reasons why it is possible instead of the reasons why it isn’t. All of these things – these solutions – are ENTIRELY POSSIBLE; and entirely within my control. Does this guarantee success? No. But it certainly makes doing an ironman feel more possible than ever because I am empowered to find a way rather than listen to the excuse.
The second fear attached to this goal is that of failure. For years I have ruminated in my head the what ifs… What if I train and I don’t finish the race? What if I get really close and then get swept off the course because I’m too slow? What if I train and I get injured and never even get to the starting line? I would tell myself that I don’t want to spend 9 months of my life sacrificing and then fail. It was an all or nothing proposition. I wasn’t viewing it in terms of the journey – it was simply finish an ironman or fail. And given my beliefs that it’s fairly impossible, my fear of failure was even more heightened (even well trained athletes sometimes don’t finish these). The fear of failure stopped me dead in my tracks from pursuing a goal that I have wanted to pursue for a long time. Something has changed though and I am now all in on this goal because I have realized (after a couple of years of self reflection and growth) that this goal isn’t really even about the race. It’s about the journey. And when I think about what this journey will teach me about myself I smile. I am not naive to what this is going to take.  That is what makes it so exciting. It will require much dedication and sacrifice – and it will require it over a long period of time. This is something I have never been very good at – long term commitment. Heck, the training for this race will be longer than just about all of my relationships have lasted….. Point is, the challenge here is to commit myself to a goal and stick with it though thick and thin. There will be times when I have to push myself harder and farther than I thought I could go. There will be moments – probably lots of them – with physical pain. There will be times when mentally its tough. There will be plenty of moments when I will want to quit. I can pretty much guarantee it. However, the idea of rising to the challenges and pushing on is also exciting to me.  The idea of not quitting when I want to is the goal.  The character I stand to develop though this journey is unlimited and I cannot wait to see the growth. The goal here is the CHALLENGE, not the race. The race is the anchor point to steer the challenge, but all along this has been about testing myself. Ultimately, it would be great to line up at the swim start on race day 2 years from now and cross the finish line 16-17 hours later as an ironman. But what I have realized is that even if I don’t finish – or even if I fail to make it to the starting line (due to circumstance beyond my control – i.e. injury,) , as long as I accept the challenge and do my absolute best then I have won. The personal growth will not vanish if I don’t finish – in fact it might even add a notch to the character belt. When I look at it this way, the fear of failing to finish the race disappears and it becomes merely a personal challenge to rise up and do everything with in my power to work towards a goal. If I can do that, I will be forever changed for the better regardless of the outcome of any one race. And that, my friends is ENTIRELY POSSIBLE.

2 thoughts on “I want to be an Ironman (woman…)

  1. Go Kim!!! You can do it! I love your attitude. The journey will be worth the work you dedicate yourself to pursue. You can positively do it!!! Go Kim go!


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