From an overweight corporate executive and mother of two small children to Boston Qualifier and 2X Ironman Finisher in less than 3 years…. I have learned how to balance life with motivation and training to achieve results and prove that ANYTHING is possible! I’ve worked with and motivated many different kinds of people, from runners who wanted to see what triathlon was about to, Mom’s who just wanted to get in shape, to middle of the pack age groupers trying to get to the front and can help you reach your goals.
I grew up playing multiple sports and as a graduate of the US Air Force Academy – I was accustomed to a fairly active lifestyle (although to me running equated to a form of punishment and could not fathom anyone willingly subjecting themselves to it!) However, when I got pregnant with my second child, I was an active duty Air Force Officer with a hectic job and and hadn’t learned how to make time for taking care of myself. I gained too much weight (like 50 pounds too much) and could not get it off. Once I left the AF I decided I needed to change that and started losing weight through diet and exercise, but still looked at running as absurd. In Dec 2008, a friend encouraged me to start running by choosing to keep an open mind and look at the positives of it. In January, I went to the gym, got on a treadmill with the pace dialed in at about 10 min/mile or a little slower, put in my headphones, looked up at the TV, and before I knew it I ran 4 miles. The most I had ever run before was a 5K. I Could not believe it! “That wasn’t so bad… no really – that was great!!!” The next week I did 4.5 miles and signed up for a 10K the next month. My goal was to run the 10K in under 10min/mile pace…. I did it (though just barely). As soon as I crossed the finish line I was like – wow – I need to do that again – I bet I with a little more training I could drop a couple of minutes! That same friend (being a long time marathoner and triathlete) recommended a sprint triathlon in May – just 3 months away. It was a 250M pool swim, 12mi bike, and 5K run. I convinced another friend of mine who was a long time cyclist to give it a try too and off we went to start training. I went to the pool, and although I could swim 250M – it wasn’t pretty and that was about as far as I could swim without taking a break. I borrowed a road bike and bought shoes for the clipless pedals and learned how to ride that (after a few skinned knees thanks to learning how NOT to try and clip in on a hill), and continued to run. Soon we were doing “bricks” and before I knew it, May was here. The night before the race, our two families went to dinner to “carbo load.” And then went home to give our bikes one last lookover and try to get some sleep. The morning of the race, my friend picked me up at some ridiculously early hour and we drove out to Centerville VA. We parked and walked our bikes toward transition and the body markers. As I stood there patiently while the volunteer wrote my number in black ink on my arms it hit me – “holy crap what the heck am I doing???” Then all too soon we were lined up on the pool deck listening to the National Anthem and then it was time to swim, bike and run. I ended up finishing mid-pack and stood there at the finish line looking at my medal as proof that I was a “triathlete.” And Started to smile. I looked at my friend and all we could say was – what’s next?????
Three weeks later I bought a Triathlon Bike, and started training hard for the next of what would be 4 more sprint triathlons that year. In between these sprints, my friend convinced me (as payback) to do the Livestrong Challenge Century Ride in Philly – that was AMAZINGLY difficult and satisfying at the same time. Shortly after that I met with my first success – I took 1st place in my AG at a sprint tri in Utah with my brother. Although a fairly small and local event, it was the spark I needed to really push myself. My new goal became to podium at an upcoming fairly large sprint tri in VA Beach, where I ended up taking 3rd, and to finish my season off by completing my first Olympic Distance event, which I also did. Next thing you know the season was over and I was bummed… so what else to do – but sign up for a Spring Marathon??? With my goal insight – the Shamrock Marathon in under 4 hours, I started running again 4-5 times a week. It was an unusually snowy winter for DC, but did NOT let that stop my training, and even ran several long runs the day after blizzards involving jumping over snow piles, and not even seeing pavement for 20+ miles… But it all paid off in March when I clocked a 3:58 marathon (only 14 months after I started running).
2010 was a big year – My husband at this point was just as heavy into it as I was, and even our kids were getting interested. While we wanted to have some fun at sprints, we had some big name Olympic Distance races on the calendar – like the New York City Tri and Chicago, and we planned to cap off the season with our first Half Ironman in Miami. It was a great year – I improved tremendously – nabbing several AG podiums at the sprint distance, and actually finishing top 10% AG at Chicago. Miami was a great day – not the time I was hoping for, but a solid finish in the top third of my AG for my first Half was awesome!
A week after Miami, I ran a local 5K with a 30+ second PR and decided it was time to try for Boston…. So I signed up for Shamrock again and kept on training hard. Dropped 16 minutes off my first time for a 3:42 and some change – a BQ with 2+ minutes to spare!
Of course 2011 didn’t end there. After the first Half – I decided what the heck – lets do the full, so signed up for another Half in May as training, and then Ironman Louisville in August. That’s when I finally ran into problems. With a more than full time corporate executive job, 2 kids with activities of their own and a husband who was also training… I was finding time to train – but not recover and I started breaking down, but I was not giving up! Right about that time I got an e-mail from Ironman’s Executive Challenge Program Director, asking me if I was interested in racing Louisville as part of their program. XC is a GREAT program and opportunity designed for folks like me who were corporate executives with crazy work schedules and responsibilities who still found time to balance family life and train for Ironman. They provide extra support and allow the athlete to just worry about training and racing – they do the rest, make your hotel reservations, provide your race kit, take care of your bike, get you everywhere you need to go AND they have their own KONA slots… I was sold – not even about the increased chance of getting to Kona, but just the ability to not worry about all the extras. So off to Louisville I went as part of XC. My pie in the sky goal was 12:30 – but did NOT really think I’d get close to that – I was thinking 13:30 was more realistic (and not bad for my first FULL!) . But I should have had more faith – I ended the day with a 12:38 (and a faster marathon pace than what I ran my first half in!) And that was even with holding back on the run – by the time I started the run, my support crew told me I was an hour ahead of my competition at that point which meant that the unthinkable was going to happen in just my third season of triathlon – I was going to Kona in just 6 weeks…. KONA – the Ironman World Championships – where legends are made, and dreams are crushed….
It was shortly after Louisville that I realized how much I had learned and overcome in such a relatively short amount of time. In about 32 months – I went from never having run more than a 5K and barely able to run a 10K in under 10 min/mile to a soon to be 2X Ironman Finisher, Boston Qualifier, and Kona Finisher. How did this happen??? Was I genetically gifted with a special talent??? NO! I set goals, believed in myself and worked my butt off. I had a lot of help from coaches, friends, and even personal advice from pros, but for some reason I was able to apply that knowledge to my plans, and draw inspiration to push my individual workouts. I was always looking for the smarter way to train – whether it was my stride or cadence or swim stroke. There was always something I was working on to get better. As I started placing regularly in local running and tri events, people, both newbies, middle of the packers and long time athletes that just never excelled started asking me for advice or support and I realized that I enjoyed this almost as much as competing. I’m a firm believer that anything is possible, and if someone has a goal and the determination to reach that goal, I can provide the focus, direction and support to help them get there!