As a kid, I was not into sports. I read. I studied. I was in the band. My active time was playing and a newspaper route.
Somehow I got into running casually. And then I became a gym rat. After moving to Atlanta, I found Team on Training and did my first marathon. My husband and I bought bikes, cross training for me. For me, training or working out has been a time for me to focus and relax. It’s where I have found amazing people and grown so many friendships.
Augusta 70.3 was my first triathlon, and I did it with Team in Training coached by Mike Gaw and Mary Doyle. During training for Augusta, I met people who had done Ironman races. I realized they were everyday people with families, jobs, hopes, and dreams. It hit me, I could do an Ironman. Mike and Mary were putting together the first ever Team in Training Ironteam at Ironman Arizona (IMAZ). And I was in for Ironteam before I actually raced my first tri!
With no sports background to speak of, I was not a terrific athlete. But I was consistent with my training. And could hang with the front of the pack, or at least the front 10% of the team. I loved it. Consistency and grit.
I think I was driving somewhere with Mike Gaw and Chris Hartley when they started saying (before IMAZ) that I should consider a big goal, like the Ironman World Championship in Kona, big. I said I’d think about it and I did. I reached out to those I trusted within the sport. Matt Cole was honest with me and said it would likely be a 3-7 year goal to work towards. I heard the words, but at the time, I wasn’t sure what would go into those 3-7 years. The journey has been quite an experience.
After 5.5 years I raced and qualified for Kona. 5.5 YEARS. A lot of life happens in that amount of time. Carlos, my husband, and I gave up some things, but gained a whole new lifestyle that, fortunately, I love.
I knew several people that have qualified several times, or quickly. Not me. Again it took 5.5 years. I had to accept that everyone has their own story. This is mine. My body will not be rus hed. Sometimes I wondered if I’d be “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” so to speak. There is, after all, no guarantee that I would succeed because I worked hard.
But I had to shut that part of my brain up and just believe. And trust the process.
With no previous sports experience, I had to learn how to “hurt” or as I say “embrace the suck” that may seem natural to those who participate in sports as a kid. I liken it to learning a new language. It just takes time. I had to build the endurance muscles and my mental strength. You really have to embrace that suck and trust your body can take it. You just need to fuel it and not let your primal brain win.
I saw people faster than me. All of the time. I had to trust my abilities and turn a blind eye to them. For a long time, I considered myself “second tier”. I had to stop that. After riding with some amazing women (and a few stalwart men!), I realized I could ride with them. My run was my achilles heel. I had to change my mindset toward my run – to stop
thinking it was second best. T-runs this past year with my friend and training partner, Rebecca, made me face those fears. She raised the bar when I ran with her and I realized my body responded by running strong – every time. This was a new development in my thought process. This year I started to trust my run to be strong as I was trusting my bike. That came from many, many miles on the pavement.
I have a team of people I have worked with. Some are always there. Some have been there for a part of the journey: coach, massage therapist, nutritionist, physical therapist, chiropractor, run evaluator, Podium Multisport, and a few bike mechanics looking out for me and helping me with questions!
There have been ups and downs. Setbacks (injuries. The most serious being when I hit a dog while riding that led to a series of cascading events and injuries). Highlights. Adventures. I’ve made friends. And lost touch with others as we went on different paths.
It’s not training for a race. It’s a lifestyle. And I embraced it. I realized I couldn’t feel like what I was doing was any less than what others are doing. Comparison is the thief of joy. To reach my goals I had to love what I was doing. If I didn’t, I’d always want to be doing something else. Fortunately, I found many friends that support and enable my lifestyle or live one that is similar and that ads to the fun.
Also, when it comes to training I had to focus on what I was doing. Often I turned blinders to what others were doing. I trusted my coach. Trusted the process.
But in that, it is also facing fears. Almost every day. What if I fail? What if I don’t get this interval? What if I blow up during my LT test? What if you find your threshold? What if people turn from me because I’m a failure? What if….all these nagging fears. Mental games, mostly. Most have no lasting implications, except that mental game.
My coach challenged me so many times. This past summer he gave me the single hardest workout I’ve had in a single day. Rebecca had to talk me up to finish it. I trusted and we succeeded. It was mental strength in the bank for race day. You are always making deposits into that bank during training for race day.
It’s open communication with my coach. And trusting that when he changes workouts, it’s for my best. He had to learn my style too. It’s a lot of teamwork and trust.
It’s also realizing the importance of rest. Recovery within the training block (and turning on blinders to social media posts for me!) and even at the end of your season. It doesn’t mean going crazy and taking months off. But a little unstructured time helps my soul. It was scary…what if I liked it and didn’t want to return? Well…then that should tell me something, right?
Anxiety is a huge factor for me. And I’ve learned to deal with it by flying under the radar. I rarely tell people about what I’m racing. I know when people ask “What’s your next race?” it’s a friendly question, and most people forget 5 minutes after you tell them. But it makes me anxious. And getting cheers before race day…I became scared people were judging me and wouldn’t cheer me again if I failed. I have been accused of stealth racing. It is how I dealt with my anxiety. I never volunteer the information. Never hid it. But never announced it. Also, it’s a lifestyle for me. Yes it’s an event, but it’s also another day in my life. I have treat it that way, a continuation of my lifestyle, to keep calm. So very few people actually knew I was racing Santa Rosa this year. I kept steady and calm….another day in my life.
This race was different in that I felt the cheers were more lifting and supportive versus anxiety provoking. A breakthrough for me! I still probably won’t volunteer race information. But I know word will get out, as it did at IM Santa Rosa. I have friends that won’t let me hide. And I know my friends accept me and want me to do my best for that day. What ever “best” on that day means.
Katie’s Favorite Training and Racing Products
Helmet: Giro Air Attack Helmet – Since going head over tail in a race, I just never felt comfortable with the long tail on the traditional aero helmet. I am sure it is safe, but it was how I felt. I much prefer the round helmet. Love the integrated face shield too