Friday, October 19, 2018

My Ironman

It's really something special, and rare, to coach your husband through the IRONMAN World Championship. But I had the honor to do just that and it was the greatest experience!
Matt is all smiles coming into the finish line at the
IRONMAN World Championship 2018. So exciting!

For those that know my husband, Matt, they know him as a strong athlete. He is a triathlon (now an IRONMAN), a marathon runner & is dedicated to his sport. He doesn't train to be competitive (only for fun) but he has a natural gift for speed & power that so many of us don't have. 

He also has a personality that dictates everything he does he gives his all. Never does he say "I can't" or go into a training session halfheartedly. This is just his natural way with everything. But that doesn't mean he has always believed he could become an IRONMAN.

So many times when we see an IRONMAN, or marathon runner or a triathlete in general we assume they "came that way." They seem larger than life, in a place we could never achieve. That's simply not the case. Read on for one example.

What you might not know is that Matt hasn't always been a triathlete, or a marathoner or even a runner. He started just like everyone does. He never thought becoming a runner or triathlete was attainable. 
At mile 111 of 112 on the bike

The first three years of our marriage he designated himself as photographer only in my races. We went to countless triathlons, half marathons & 5k's together. I did the event, he watched in amazement. We have a LOT of pictures of me because that's what he did! 

For three years I asked him to join me and for three years he said he couldn't even imagine being able to do any of what I was doing. After all, he hadn't ran since school, hadn't ridden a bike since a teen and had never swam except for in the pool during summers - certainly not for exercise! And a 5k? No way. Too far.

I didn't give up. I saw in him something he didn't see. So instead of bugging, I started talking about how much FUN these events were. This strategy worked and after what seemed like forever in my mind, he was ready to try his hand at a 5k. We trained with 2 miles of running for his 3.1 mile race because 3 miles in training was too daunting. That was ok with me as long as he was doing it.

He really enjoyed and excelled at this and after several years of 5k's (including off road races) he was interested in trying to do a sprint triathlon. Mind you, he was extremely unsure he could finish one. So we borrowed a bike & started getting in the pool together. His first triathlon I beat him, which I enjoyed greatly because I knew it was the only time I would EVER beat him. I was right. :) 

He knew nothing about triathlon so we started from the very basic. He liked it and so we just kept doing them, kept slowly learning and getting the three disciplines down. We spent years working on technique, being consistent with training, learning & racing.  Year after year after year of this, all the while he just couldn't imagine doing any kind of long distance. Really we were having fun doing sprints and not thinking of longer races. Sprints & 5k's only. He was enjoying gaining knowledge and getting fast, but long course? No way, not even something that was on the radar.

There's often a natural progress with things, and I remember the day he thought maybe, just maybe one of these days he could try doing a longer distance. We started working on increasing his bike (which he loves & took to), his swim was challenging & his running was a challenge because frankly he just wanted it over so he went as fast as he could. Pacing yourself was not something he understood yet.

But we kept at it. We worked on his pacing, technique and fueling. Then his first half marathon - and the first thing he said to me when he crossed the finish line is "this is not for me." Turns out he paced too hard. But it was a blessing in disguise because it finally sunk in that strategy for a long race vs short race needs to be different. 

A few years later (yes years) & lots of training & learning, he conquered his first IRONMAN 70.3! There's one paragraph here but between his first half marathon & that 70.3 was a lot of learning, pacing, training & dedication. It took discipline to become strong both physically and mentally. 

Well that was three years ago and three 70.3's. Last week Matt completed the hardest single day athletic event in the world to earn the title of IRONMAN. And I'm here as a witness that he earned that title. All of those years of training, the discipline, pushing through those mental and physical barriers and reaching goals he thought were honestly out of reach. I am so proud of him!

One thing I was especially proud of is how well Matt paced himself & fueled himself. Honestly, he paced & fueled perfectly. This didn't happen by accident. This was wisdom earned and applied. His race was wholeheartedly enjoyable because of this, his body felt great, he smiled the entire way & crossed the finish line strong & healthy. I'll tell you what else, his body was only sore for about one half of a day. Well done, IRONMatt!
Nothing but smiles all day for

You may be feeling your goal is out of reach, whether it's an IRONMAN or a 5k. It's not. This is your brain lying to you. Your body will do what you ask it. Your body is willing to push itself past it's own limits if you ask it. It's your brain that gets in the way. It may take a while, it may take the discipline of working on technique or getting a baseline of fitness, or learning to SLOW down so you can keep going, or fueling - or whatever it is that you need to work on. But each time you get out there, you are taking one more step toward your goal. You are earning that title you want, becoming mentally tough and I'm here to tell you that you will not regret it. You will absolutely not regret the work that goes into getting that goal that right now seems so far away. Go for it, keep going & don't stop until you succeed.

Need help reaching your goal? It might not be an Ironman & that's ok, whatever your fitness goal is - I'm here to help! 

Contact me via email directly here. 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Triathlon, marathon & never giving up

I'm going to share some extremely personal, difficult memories. I hope that it helps whoever needs an encouraging word during a tough time right now.  

During the first year or two of dealing with my illness, after suffering extreme fatigue day in & day out with no answers as to why, I hit a crucial point in my life. 
It was a long road but well worth the fight

I remember vividly. I was sitting at the gas station by my house waiting on traffic so I could pull onto the road to go to a training session. I just couldn’t do this. I couldn’t live like this, so very very fatigued every moment of every day. Pain everywhere, illness often. Weight piling on. “I cannot do this anymore. I can't fight this. I’m going to quit trying to find answers & give in to this illness” I said this to myself with tears in my eyes, too tired to actually cry.

When the words came out, they slapped me - the old me - awake. “You aren’t giving up. That’s not you. You are a fighter and you’re going to be alive one way or the other. Do you want to get deeper into this illness, let it take over everything, or do you want to do what you can in each moment to try and get your health back?

In that moment everything changed, and it has been different ever since. I was still sick. But I AM a fighter. I do not want my illness to define every piece of me. It’s taken too much already & tries to take more every day. So I made the decision that I wasn’t going to give up. I was not going to allow it to make me someone I wasn't.

Let me give you a little perspective about some things, and I'll do it through race history.

I did my first triathlon in 2000. Then in the middle of training for my next one, I got ill. I wasn't able to do my second tri. 

It was six years before I was healthy enough to do that second triathlon. Did you get that? I spent six entire years working on my health before I could reach that second race.

There were a lot of tears during those years. They were dark years with a lot of physical suffering. And, each season realizing my body wasn't strong enough, yet again there was disappointment. But I never forgot that day at the gas station and kept doing what I needed to do to gain back at least some of my health. That goal helped keep me going. Maybe that's why these races are important...
The struggle is real, folks!
But the celebration is great.

During that time I never lost my sights on my goal. I talked about it, had photos hanging I’d printed on local races & kept in my head that I will be healthy enough to do this again. 

Today those times are a distant memory. I've done countless triathlons since including sprints, Olympics & even 70.3 relay! I am not back to my original health but I got well enough to race. The experience is not something I would wish for but it has given me a grateful heart.

It took me at least three attempts over several years to cross the marathon finish line. 

My first try was when we lived in Indiana. I'd chosen my race, the Space Coast Marathon in Florida. Attempt one was a big giant no go. My body wasn’t strong enough to endure so many miles. 

When we moved to Arizona in 2013, I started feeling much healthier so I picked up my marathon goal again pretty quickly after the move. I hit only mile 8 in training before my body said no way. Attempt two was gone. 

The following year I tried it again. My mileage got higher but yet again, I couldn’t stay healthy long enough to train.

I took a couple more years to gain strength before trying again.   

We had since moved to Hawaii and since it was my first year there I decided to run to get to know my new city. I was going to keep going until my body said no or I crossed the finish line of a marathon.

After at least five years and three solid tries I finally crossed the finish line of my first marathon! I'm here to tell you that was a good day.
My happy face after my 1st marathon

The entire training season through race day was one of the greatest experience of my life, definitely the best training season. I felt healthier than I had in as long as I could remember, my body responded wonderfully to the miles & race day was a celebration of the many years of struggle. It was a wonderful gift from God.

I'm a lot better now than those first years. But I still have my chronic illness. It comes & goes as it pleases, and I could have months of feeling bad. There are still tears sometimes. But I always go back to that day at the gas station & keep going. Every race I see as a gift & blessing because even though I don't perform as well as I would like to, I'm able do it! That means so much.

You may be in the tough years right now. I encourage you to take care of yourself FULLY. Get healthy, get things right for yourself and never give up. Your dreams can be goals, something that IS going to happen. Believe that they can happen even if you don't really see how right now. Choose to be the person that fights & struggles & cries & gets help & if the person you ask for help doesn't follow through find someone else. Fight for yourself, trust in the fact that things get bad, really bad, but they get BETTER TOO. 

Keep your vision in front of you & let it be one of the reasons you keep going through the hard times. You may feel things won’t get better. They won’t get better if you give up. They can, and will, if you keep going. So keep going! - coach Emily Collins