Dreaming big is easy.
It's free, it it's not physically exhausting and anyone can do it, at any age or fitness ability.
Dreaming big is a necessary part of goal setting.
If you can't visualize yourself achieving your goals it's going to be very hard to believe your goal is worth achieving.
And if you can't believe in yourself, you will likely not work hard enough to make your dream turn into a reality.
Eight months ago I started my 2016 season (foundation phase) with one big scary goal.
To be on the podium at the 2016 Ironman Austria for my age group (30-34).
For 8 months, I stayed present for almost every workout.
Sometimes I lost motivation, felt too tired or found myself "too busy" to train but I never lost sight of my goal.
I followed my training plan and took great care of my body to stay consistent with training.
I didn't question the workouts that Karel gave me because we had a game plan for this season.
(and with the help of Matt Dixon with Purplepatch Fitness, who is Karel's coach)
With 10 Ironman races behind me, including 4 Ironman World Championship, Karel knew that I didn't need any more endurance in my body.
Karel knows I can go long all day and will be happy in my comfort zone.
So this season - Karel took me waaaaayyyy outside my comfort zone.
And I loved it.
I swam more frequently than I have ever swam before as a triathlete (4-5 days per week).
I biked more on the trainer than ever before (weekly rides) and rode mostly my long rides outside. My longest peak IM training ride was 5 hours (about 85 miles) and most of my "long" rides were around 3.5-4.5 hours.
I did a lot of brick runs.
I did a lot of strength training, mobility work and hip/glute work.
I ran a lot - not long but frequently. And most of my running was on the treadmill. My longest peak IM training run was 13 miles (at Rev3 Knoxville).
I worked extremely hard when I was told to go hard and I went easy when I was told to go easy. My mind got in my way a lot and I had to learn how to use my mind wisely.
I never became gadget obsessed and didn't focus on metrics. I never trained with the intention of swimming, biking or running x-pace on race day. I simply trained as smart as I could to stay consistent with training. The more consistently I trained, the more anxiously, nervously excited I became that I was going to be able to do something amazing with my body on race day.
I never had to miss a workout because of a sickness or injury.
While I felt like I was doing a lot of "new" things this season, I constantly reminded myself that I've made a lot of mistakes and have overcome a lot of obstacles in the past 10 years as an endurance triathlete.
Thank goodness for those mistakes and setbacks!
Those were simply lessons in my athletic development to get me to where I am today.
Knowing that training consistently (and enjoying my training) would help me move closer to my Ironman Austria goal, Karel knew where I could gain the most with my fitness (swim and bike) and where I could possible lose the most with my fitness (running), depending on how we set up my training plan, workout volume, intensity and frequency and periodization.
This season I needed to get myself into great physical shape (while keeping myself very healthy) but I needed to mentally prepare to suffer like I've never suffered before - in training and on race day.
Karel and I raced Ironman Austria in 2014 and we fell in love with the race venue, the crowd and volunteer support, the course, the atmosphere, the finish line experience and most of all, the high level of competition that brought out a level of racing that we never thought was possible in either of us.
In order to achieve something amazing with my body on race day, I needed to be in great health.
Thank you to my mom and close friends who "get me".
To reach a big scary goal, I needed consistency in training and a lot of ambition.
I am thankful for great triathlon guidance from Tower 26 podcast and Purplepatch Fitness, and our PT friends Chris, Drew and Kent and the amazing Dr. Cassas who always seems to have time for us despite a busy work schedule.
This season, I remained presently focused but not obsessed, with my training as life and happiness can not revolve around one goal.
I had a deep inner fuel to work very hard.
I needed this scary goal to help me stay motivated.
I needed great teamwork and teammates to keep me enjoying this Ironman journey (thank you to my Trimarni coaching athletes and my fun, girl power bike partner Meredith and the awesome Greenville triathlon crew).
You can't expect that everything will come easily when you are training for an Ironman but above all, you have to believe in yourself that you can do whatever it is you want to do if you are smart and patient.
Athletic dreams do not come easily, especially if you set a goal that seems impossibly possible to achieve.
On June 26th 2016 I not only conquered my big dream goal of placing on the podium at the 2016 Ironman Austria but I achieved more than I thought was possible from my body.
It's very hard to describe this Ironman Austria experience.
I've always loved racing a high level of competition but to combine it with this 140.6 mile course, I suppose the best was brought out of my body and mind on race day.
Amazingly, this course brought out the best in Karel too.
When I grow up, I want to be able to suffer like Karel.
Karel's body has been giving him some issues over the past year and every time he feels he is in the "best" shape, something comes up with his body which makes it difficult for him to train like he wants to train. This has been mentally and physically exhausting for both of us. It's been extremely sad at times and also frustrating knowing that he is trying to do all the right things but his body doesn't always cooperate.
Surprisingly, Karel shocked himself with his race performance at Ironman Austria. We say this honestly as Karel was in a tremendous amount of pain in his hip/groin in the 3 weeks leading up to this race after a MRI showed an impingement in his right hip so his training had to be significantly adjusted. Not to mention, he was in some agonizing back pain in the 72 hours leading up to this race but thankfully. Karel and I are against steroid shots and aggressive, quick-fix treatments so thankfully we have a great team of docs and PTs helping us out with good advice.
Most of the time, time just heals those injuries/niggles/issues.
But for Karel, time was running out before Ironman Austria so he came to terms with his body and just stayed optimistic that maybe all will be OK on race day and if not, he came to terms that if he had to pull out of the race, I would have to take one for team Sumbal and race my heart out for both of us.
Although I still feel like this is all a dream, I know it's real.
To be able to share my on-paper, near perfect race day performance with Karel is an absolute dream come true.
(behind the scenes, this race was not so perfect for me so stay tuned for more details coming soon)
I am still so in love with Karel after 10 years of us living a highly active lifestyle together and for those who know me well, I love sharing this crazy, roller coaster of emotions, triathlon lifestyle with Karel.
Karel finished 9th AG (out of 500+ in his 40-44 AG) with a 9-min PR and his fastest Ironman swim (1:03) and fastest ever marathon run (3:06.0 - 5 minute PR).
Sadly, with only 5 Kona slots in his age group, he missed a slot by less than 2 minutes.
But that is ok as he is thrilled with his race and how his body miraculously performed here in Austria and it was never his intention to Kona qualify here as he has IMMT in 8 weeks where he hopes to Kona qualify.
While the real race day performance is best told by the athlete talking about his/her execution and what she/he had to overcome to get to the finish line, and not by race times and places, I am incredibly thankful to my body for what it allowed me to do on race day.
I just finished my 11th Ironman event.
I had a 11-min PR with an overall time of 10:06.
I had the fastest overall female swim (57.04) and finally broke an hour in the Ironman swim (it only took 10 years!)
I had an 11-min PR on the bike with a time of 5:18.00 (with the last 60+ minutes in the pouring rain).
And despite some major GI issues to start the run (which lasted for about 10 miles), after five potty stops (1 in T2 and then 4 on the run course), I overcome what I thought was not possible on the run (to keep running) and somehow I still managed to run a respectable marathon time for myself of 3:42:57.
I finished 10th overall female, 4th amateur female, fastest American amateur female and achieved my season goal/dream of placing on the podium at an international Ironman event (2nd AG).
As for going to Kona for the 2016 Ironman World Championship, I was not chasing the one Kona slot in my age group.
I went into this race to be the best athlete that I could be without any goals for what needed to happen to get me somewhere after this race.
All my focus was on this one day.
I went into this race knowing that I gave everything I could to prepare mentally and physically for this race and took risks like I have never taken before during an Ironman race. I did all of this because I will now take a temporary break from Ironman racing so I can focus on shorter distance triathlon races until I am ready to race another 140.6 mile event. As for how long of a break, my body and mind will let me know when it wants to return to this extreme triathlon event.
My body has allowed me to do a lot over the past 10 years and I don't take my good health, my love for pushing my body and my competitiveness for granted.
I often feel I am taking a lot of risks when I train for an Ironman so for my triathlon longevity and health, I'm giving my body a break from training to race for 10+ hours and I can now get my Ironman endorphins from Karel who is chasing his Ironman dreams.
Thank you for your support and thank you Ironman Austria for making my dream come true in such a spectacular race venue.