Since I began competing in triathlon, the IRONMAN distance was a goal that seemed too lofty after completing my first sprint triathlon at Breezy Point on Naval Station Norfolk. The swim started from a boat launch in the Willoughby Bay, which averages 7-12 feet in depth, and sometimes it was no more than 4 feet deep. I had no idea. All I knew was that it was choppy and windy enough to blow the swim buoys off course, and I knew I was terrified.
The brackish water made it impossible to see farther than my submerged hand on the catch. I made the mistake of starting in the middle of the mass swim start for my first ever triathlon. I was kicked and swum over. It was also only the third open water swim I have ever done and the first OWS in a race. I didn’t have a coach. I didn’t know what to expect. I thought I was going to drown out there and sink to the bottom. I worried about marine life, especially jellyfish. I swam panicked for 800 meters, or more because I swam so wide and off course, and was still in shock for the first three miles on the bike after T1.
So, to think of even completing an IRONMAN race seemed out of the realm of possibility after that swim where I thought I was going to die, after the unrelenting headwinds on the bike, and the sun burning my back on the run. Would I run another marathon? Sure. No problem. But running a marathon AFTER swimming 2.4 miles in open water and cycling 112 miles on my road bike, well that seemed impossible. But, impossible is what I like to do. After all, I ran a marathon a few short years after my first 5K road race.
Three years after that first triathlon in Breezy Point, I finished IRONMAN Maryland, standing up, healthy, and happy. Mike Reilly called my name and said what I had waited to hear all day long, “You are an IRONMAN!” I somehow ran through the finish chute to my family waiting for me on the other side. I was transformed during that race because I not only realized that the impossible is possible, but I also know that anything takes consistency and commitment, the support of family and friends, my daughter riding her bike alongside with me for 20 mile runs at age 10, and the help of a good coach. Mary Kelley coached me through my 70.3 and IMMD, and I couldn’t have done it without her.
Now, I can help other athletes know that the impossible is within reach. I’m looking forward to what we can all accomplish together.