The Ironman Journey

It was just 8 months ago when my body raced for 10 hours and 37 minutes and 10 seconds in Kona, Hawaii.
Eight months ago I completed my third Ironman World Championship and my 7th time racing for over 10 hours with my body and mind.

When I started triathlons, I quickly discovered that my body was made for endurance events. I also discovered that with every long-distance journey that I embarked on, that there were a lot of obstacles to overcome in order for me to arrive to the start line healthy and injury-free.

One thing that I have discovered with Ironman training is that every life experience is magnified when you train for a 140.6 mile event. 

Injuries, aches, sickness, memorable events, unexpected travel, planned travel, meetings, deadlines and family obligations are often normal parts of life and may often bring a bit of normal stress to life. However, when life happens during an Ironman training journey, it's very easy to feel overwhelmed and unbalanced.

Just because you register for a race, hire a coach and buy oodles of sport nutrition and expensive gear, this doesn’t mean that you are going to be able to train with a perfectly balanced life. 
For some athletes, it may be difficult to even get in a solid week of training within a 1-month period before life happens.
Yep, sometimes life happens and it isn’t fair.

Every athlete will have to deal with life while training for a race because life doesn't stop just because you are training for a race. 

The past few months have been filled with life changes for me and Karel and her we are, less than 1.5 weeks away from Ironman Austria. 

When life happens to us, we all deal with it differently. Many times, it is relative to our racing schedule and other times it is related to the life change.  There is no such thing as a perfect season or a perfect plan and part of training for a race is being prepared for life changes. 

As you continue on in your journey as an age group athlete, I want to remind you that great performances can still come from unfavorable or unplanned events.

It is important that you never give up on your goals for your longevity and success as an athlete is not limited to a 3-month period or even a year. It is your responsibility to always take care of your health and to always respect your body for an injured, stressed, sick, sleep deprived or fatigued athlete is unable to perform.

As athletes, we have a very strong mindset and often times, that helps us discover new limits. But this can also be a downfall in that we do not always see situations as grey but instead, black or white. To find success in your season and sporting career, accept your life and everything that comes with it and be sure to not take the all or nothing approach. Sometimes we have to have patience and wait for the rain to stop in order to enjoy the bright blue sunny skies that follow. 

Life is always going to happen and many times at the “worst” time possible for you in your training plan. And as mentioned before, perhaps some of the life situations that happen may not be so bad if you didn’t have 10+ hours a week of voluntary working out on your schedule or an upcoming A-race.

As you continue through your season, I want to remind you that just because life happens, it doesn’t mean that you have to give up, feel frustrated, get upset or feel defeated. Life is going to happen whether you are an athlete or not and because you are an athlete, accept that you are always going to feel a bit more pressure to achieve balance in life in order to function well in society and perform well in your sport.

2006 IMFL - Ironman #1

I loved my first Ironman journey. I was young (24), dating Karel, living with my parents after finishing recently finishing graduate school (broke), working as the wellness coordinator of a YMCA and totally obsessed with triathlons. My body was healthy and it accepted every workout in my Ironman training plan. 
I will never forget the many firsts that I had while training for my first Ironman.
My first race while training for an Ironman, my first long swim in my Ironman plan, my first long ride, long brick, long run, etc.
Life allowed me to have a very perfect season of training for my first Ironman and I could not have asked for a better race day.
1st age group (20-24)
Kona qualified.

2007 Ironman World Championship - Ironman #2

Unlike my first Ironman experience, my second ironman was the complete opposite.
I went into my second Ironman with the start of a chronic issue of hip/back issues. I suppose my body was finally breaking down from my first season of flawless Ironman training. The 30 days leading up to Kona were extremely hard for me, mentally and physically. I was running from doctor to massage therapist to PT to anyone I could find who could magically heal me. With no running for the 30 days leading up to Kona, I went into the race with a body and mind that were not a prepared as I would have liked them to be. Nonetheless, I found a deep strength inside me to start the race and with a very painful 26.2 mile run, I finished.....falling across the finish line for NBC footage to catch for the broadcast (yep, I looked that bad.). I learned a lot from that Ironman journey and although looking back, I wish I would have done a lot of things differently, I am very lucky to have had that experience for now I can help other athletes who may be in a similar position in the 4-8 weeks before an Ironman.
12:26:58 finish time 

 2009 Ironman Kentucky - Ironman #3

What seemed like an eternity, I was finally making my return to Ironman racing. I had not 100% healed my body for I was still dealing with hip/back issues and on top of that, I was finishing my dietetic program to be eligible to apply for a dietetic internship.
I was recently married (to Karel) in 2008 and life was starting to affect my ability to freely train for triathlons so I was forced to learn how to train smart in order to keep myself balanced. This was a work in progress throughout the summer for I was completely overwhelmed with school and never imagined that my dietetic education would require so much time, money and effort.
I did the best I could to manage my time and train for the Ironman, which included a lot of time management.
I knew that my run would not be stellar and I was a bit nervous about my first "hilly" bike course but racing in my home state, with Karel and my parents by my side, was very comforting.
I am not sure how it all came together but this race really gave me the excitement that I had when training for my first Ironman. Even though I did not feel my training was perfect like my first Ironman, I surprised myself when I crossed the finish line and realized that I had just broke 11 hours despite dealing with a very stressful life for several months before the Ironman.
10:53:45 (7th age group (25-29)

 2010 Ironman Wisconsin - Ironman #4

With a recent discovery that hills were a strength of mine, Karel came up with a fun idea for me to race Ironman Wisconsin.
Despite a dietetic internship that was super expensive, stressful and time-consuming, I invested as much time as I could to my training so that I could adapt to the least amount of training stress with the most performance gains. This was the first time that Karel started to "coach" me and he really focused on intensity over volume. I questioned a lot of his workouts but I trusted him for he believed in me.
I started to become a stronger and more skilled cyclist and found myself learning how to deal with my hip/back issues in a much smarter way. I learned to listen to my body and to focus on my own journey to the Ironman start line. 
I went into this race with a goal of qualifying for the Ironman World Championship (2011) and with my best IM race day performance to that date, I finished in 4th and one spot (and less than a minute) away from qualifying to Kona.
Luckily, I didn't give up and my place was good enough for a roll down spot.
Who would have thought that I would be going back to Kona to finish some unfinished business on the big island. 
10:57:53 (4th age group)

2011 Ironman World Championship - Ironman #5

This Ironman journey was not without obstacles to overcome but this time around I had a great support system. Alongside a PT, massage therapist, my parents and Karel, I met Gloria via the internet and we started a great friendship and relationship. Gloria taught me how to become mentally strong and this really helped me in my training, especially since I had battled so many ongoing issues over the past few years.
With a job as a PRN clinical dietitian as well as a small business owner, I was feeling much more busy in life. I had a lot to balance in life but I was prepared to make the time to train for this race for I felt healthy and strong and I wanted to commit as much time as I could to racing to my full potential.
Although I went into this race in the best shape that I thought I could be by race day, I had some tummy issues on the run (swallowing salt water) and I was not prepared mentally to overcome this type of a setback on race day. I had focused so much on my hips and creating a perfect pacing strategy for race day to put my training to the test, that I found myself struggling to know what to do with my first ever tummy upset in a race.
This was a bitter sweet race for me for I felt like I was in great shape to have a great race but my body was not cooperating. However, I did not give up and I am so proud of myself for moving forward and earning my finisher medal.

2013 Ironman Lake Placid - Ironman #6

If I were a race horse in the Derby, all bets would be against me.
No running for 90 days (Feb - May) due to hip/back/glute issues.
Traveling to Czech for two weeks in early May (no structured training).
My dad being diagnosed with stage IV cancer in June and receiving major spinal surgery in early July with little chance to walk again.

Yep, life was happening and it was not fun, easy or fair. 
How in the heck did my body and mind let me race on my most ever challenging (yet beautiful) race course?
I really needed Gloria throughout this Ironman journey.
One thing I really took away from this journey was how incredibly grateful I am to my body for what it allows me to do. I never take a workout for granted and I try to be as respectful to my body a possible with my training.
This Ironman journey was a gift. I tried to be as smart as possible with my return to running, with my bike/swim prep to get as strong as possible and to go into this race with determination and passion. 

I will never forget this race. My first Ironman with Karel on the same course as me (and not on the sidelines). I don't know how I did it but I gathered as much strength as I could going into this race and well, just went out there and raced as if the odds were in my favor (which I clearly knew they were not).
I crossed the finish line with a PR time, placed 5th age group and received a roll down spot to my third World Championship.
(Karel finished in 10:03)

2013 Ironman World Championship - Ironman #7

Could this be possible? Another Ironman just 14 weeks after I just raced an Ironman? Never would have thought this would have been possible back in 2007!
Throughout every Ironman journey, I have learned something important for the next journey. I have gained experiences and have learned from my mistakes. I have tried to be proactive instead of reactive.
Above all, I have always thanked my body.
With just a bit more Ironman stress in my body, I stayed balanced with our "train smart" approach to training (Quality over Quantity) and went into this Ironman hungry to race.
This race experience was unlike others because I did not have more normal team with me. My parents were unable to come and so was Karel.
Thankfully, I had the best Sherpa ever - Gloria!

This race was all about being grateful for my health and for the experience. Could I have asked any more of my body at this race after all that I have had to overcome in the past 8 years of Ironman racing?
I could not have asked for a better race day. I raced with my heart and cared only about myself on race day. I had done the work to earn my ticket to Kona and I was just incredibly grateful for my good health. A healthy body and mind to use for 140.6 miles.
I couldn't wait to call Karel and my parents when I crossed the finish line.
Another PR!!!

2014 Ironman Austria - Ironman #8

So here I am again. About to race in my 8th Ironman and wouldn't you know, there have been so many life changes lately.
5.5 weeks ago we moved to Greenville SC to grow Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition.

3 weeks ago I said good bye to my dad - my friend, mentor, role model, supporter and go-to man - as he lost his incredibly strong 10-month fight with an incurable case of cancer. 

And on top of it all, we are off to Europe to celebrate our love for racing and traveling with our good health.

 Appreciate the gift that you have to use your amazing body to train for races and no matter what happens in your life now, next month, later this year or in the future, always find a way to keep yourself motivated to not give up on your dreams and goals.

Believe it or not, it is the athlete within you that helps you get through life. 
Crossing finish lines is just an added bonus of making the best of your days on Earth.