ironman goals

Tri-ing to reach Ironman goals

Reaching your Ironman Goals

ironman goals

Ironman Goals: Up to four years ago, the term Ironman meant nothing more to me than a fictional superhero character. Actually, if you asked me what an Ironman was I’m sure I would have assumed it was a race to see who could eat the most in an iron stomach type event.

Over the past few years my eyes have been opened to the world of triathlon. More so in the past few months through my work with triathlon bike transportation experts Ship my Tri Bike.

In 2012, I won a competition to do a Try-a-Tri; with most people saying if that was the prize, they would hate to see what the loser got. Up to that point I had completed a 10km and half marathon, so the fleeting fancy with racing had begun; but I was not prepared for what was next.

The evening I was notified that I won the competition from TriAthy to complete a six week training programme which ended in a 400meter swim, 16km bike and 5km run was an exciting one. I was in my mothers house not having yet told her I had entered. It was my final year of college and the training clashed with my exams; she was not thrilled with the idea of distraction. How and ever, I won the spot along with six others, and thus began my own triathlon journey.

tri-athy-happy-finishers

The next six weeks were nothing short of incredible as I embarked in what may as well have been an Ironman. To me this Try-a-Tri was the biggest thing I had ever taken part in and involved mustering strength and determination from somewhere I never knew existed.

A little bit of background here might help make things clearer. I was never the sporty type, never took part in sports teams, even struggling with PE. In 2009, aged 21 I was diagnosed with an underactive thyroid. At size 18 in some clothes I was the biggest I have ever been; with zero energy or know-how to get better. When diagnosed I was told a normal person’s TSH levels are between 3-5, mine were at 162; very severe especially for someone my age. I was pretty devastated considering my weight. Having heard of and known people with this condition I thought I would never lose weight.

As treatment began I felt slightly better, and over time decided to walk the Flora Women’s Mini-

Ironman goals

My 21st

Marathon. The more I trained the more I began to run a little bit, and was delighted to run the race in the respectable time of 1:09. This spurred me on to go even further, signing up to the Longford Half Marathon 2011.

It was a few weeks after this I entered my final year of college. My classmates and lecturers had not seen me in three months and all commented on how well I looked. I went through a bad breakup at this time which is not worth mentioning other than with the stress of this combined with endless assignments I could have easily broken but kept up slight training in the gym.

The following April is when I won the spot on the Tri-A-Try and the rest is history. Everyone who has done a triathlon knows the exhilarating feeling of crossing the finish line. It’s an addiction, as pure elation envelopes your every being, before you run to get sick in a corner. The comrade and support that comes with it is just as good. Let’s face it, triathletes are happy people; competitive, a little crazy, but happy.TriAthy

While those six weeks to tri were only tiny on the grand scale, they still stand out to me as a pivotal moment in my life. That summer I also did my first Sprint Triathlon in Lough Key Forrest Park. The following year I competed in a duathlon, three triathlons and four aqualthons in the midlands aqualthlon series.

Training after that is patchy, I moved to Galway, the land of drink and parties, to complete my Masters. Working two jobs to support my studies, there was little energy for training; of course the argument being that training would have given me more energy. However, I lost it and for over a year and a half I did nothing; until I signed up to Dublin Ironman 70.3.

That was November 2013, I lived in Germany and got a slot with my German address. During this time I was also diagnosed with Haemochromatosis which combined with an underachieve thyroid accounted for my sheer chronic exhaustion all of the time. However, training began and was going pretty on point. Slow, but progress was being made. I returned to Ireland in March 2014 to do a half marathon, to my delight beating my dad who always kicks my ass at running.

Returning to Germany for a few more weeks, training was going ok, very little bike bar spinning class but my run was constantly improving and swim was fine. I moved home to Ireland in April 2014; with about three months to the big race.

Me coming in after a 100km charity cycle

Me coming in after a 100km charity cycle

Four weeks after I was home, I was back in Athy where it all began to take part in my first Olympic Distance. It was here I realised how utterly unprepared I was for what I was trying to do. Finishing the race in respectable enough time, a little over three hours from what I can recall, my head started to fill with doubt. While you can fluff and Olympic and get through it, an Ironman be it half or otherwise, is a totally different kettle of fish.

I was going through some other personal stuff at this time, and with everything combined I got sick, really sick. I ached everywhere all of the time, struggled to walk, or even breath. I still wonder if I had an undiagnosed infection as a friend of mine who did the same race had the same symptoms and had a viral infection. However, endless doctors visits showed up nothing in my system.

What was worse was feeling in hell as I was letting myself and my trainer down, but I knew in my heart that was it for me. Never mind the €250 down the swanny, my self-respect was also gone. I went along to Dublin 70.3 to support my family taking part, but it was without a doubt one of the lowest moments of my life.

Sitting at the finish line I was miserable. Overjoyed for my wonderful family who kicked ass, some of who were doing their first half Ironman, but disappointed that I let external nonsense and self-doubt dictate how I conducted my actions.

The recovery was long in many ways, as it was a mental recovery over a physical one. The physical symptoms still persisting to this day. Over the next few months I had to battle with my mind to overcome how I was feeling inside and out. It involved a lot of soul searching, long walks – including 116km of the Camino de Santiago, giving myself a good talking to numerous times, counselling, a change of diet and ultimately an entire change of perception. Those few months were the closest I came to giving up on everything but I developed an Iron mind and worked hard on recovery.

Almost a year on, and while I’m heavier than I’d like to be, and not in any way Ironman, my mental wellbeing is flying fit and ready for action. While I want to rush out and sign up for the nearest 70.3, my inner voice, and my mother, keep saying “baby steps”.

I’ve recently set up my own business, and I’ve moved house five times in the past year, so there’s a lot of change. Stability is key for embarking on any great ambition, and stability is one thing I do not have an abundance of. The will is there, but it’s fragile.

The more I interact with triathletes and Iromen and women, the more I admire their strength both

Ironman Goals

My 27th, heavier than I am when training but looking better than at 21

mentally and physically. I admire their persistence, determination, will and self-belief; they know they can do anything and nothing will stop them. It’s a sport which is becoming more and more recognised, and it really is a sport of wills. There’s no support team, as no matter who you train with, when you’re out on that gruelling 44km run, having already completed a 3.6km swim and 180km cycle, you’re very much alone.

Is it something I would like to do one day? Absolutely! A 70.3, not a full distance. Am I ready yet? I think not. This year I turned 27, and I wrote it down as one of my bucket list before I’m 30. Gerry Duffy had on Facebook this week, that we need to take the word “hopefully” out of our dictionaries. I will do a 70.3 in the next three years, if not the next year, and I know when I do I’ll have the most amazing support team behind me.

There’s a lot more ins and outs to what I’ve been through these past few years, but for the purpose of this post, they’re irrelevant. What does matter is this one thing that has slipped my grasp, and writing this post is me finally being honest with myself that it’s my own self-doubt holding me back and nothing else. Time to work on that. Time to Tri. Anything is possible.

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