November 6, 2014. One of the worst days and best days of my life. Funny how that happens. I was on top of the world. I was the strongest and fastest I have ever been. I had just completed my second Boston qualifier at the Chicago marathon. As a runner, the last thing you want to hear is a doctor telling you you are being sidelined for the next 12 weeks. A tibial stress fracture was the diagnosis. A diagnosis that forced me to find other ways besides running to keep my cardio fitness in check. But, on the same note when I look back on this date, I would never have become a triathlete unless I got injured, forced to rest, and take a break from running.
At first I started pool running. As I watched women in the pool swimming, I thought I’d give it a whirl… how hard could it be, right? I was in shape. I was a marathon runner after all. Ha! By the end of one lap I was gasping for air. ‘What the heck’, I thought. But, I kept at it and I didn’t quit. I returned each and every morning at 5am with my swim cap and goggles and got in that pool.
Once the swimming thing became something I enjoyed and became easier, I couldn’t help but start to think about triathlons. Since, in my head swimming was always the hardest part. The discipline that scared me the most.
I am also a lover of all things endurance… marathons, ultras, triathlons, etc. They have always held my interest. So, there was always an inner desire, a spark within me that only needed to be lit. A little push or a little confidence was all I needed to start believing “maybe I could do that?”
The social media world can sometimes be tricky. But one of the positives, especially Instagram, is the inspiration you find in following some awesome, tough, rockstar athletes. The Mermaid Club was one such group of female triathletes who did just that. There is nothing more inspiring than a group of women who empower one another. By joining their group and becoming a club ambassador, I was able to learn from them and ultimately believe in myself. Their motto “Live Life Make Waves” was how I wanted to live my daily life. I loved what they represented and I was excited to have the opportunity to influence others.
Fast forward about a year later. I was training for my first ultra marathon. 2 weeks before race day… I became injured. Again. I had to back out of the race. Mentally I was crushed. During this time, a badass triathlete and friend of mine contacted me about signing up for IM Mont Tremblant 70.3 for the following summer. I had never even ridden a road bike before. But regardless, it really didn’t take much convincing. I was ready for a change. I was ready for a new challenge. I was ready to not think and just jump… to “live life and make waves.”
I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I knew it would take a lot of commitment. But, with my friend’s guidance and leadership I knew I had it in me to complete. After discussing my plans with my family and getting the green light (after all, they are my first priority), I signed up for my first triathlon. An Ironman 70.3.
The lead-up time to this race was about 6 months for me. My challenge came when I had to combine marathon training for Boston and also start base training for Mont Tremblant. I knew my focus had to be running those first few months, but I also knew I needed to build a pretty big base in cycling and swimming without getting injured. 6 months is a long time and it most definitely didn’t pass without incident. There were scheduling conflicts, minor injuries, nutrition issues, unpredicted weather reports, and family illnesses to name a few. But, what do we know about the most determined and best athletes? They know how to take these experiences in stride; they know setbacks are just the name of the game- it’s part of training; they learn that one training day that doesn’t go as planned is not a failure– they get up, wipe themselves off and keep going. This is the way I tried to look at the training ahead of me and I ultimately got it done.
My goodness, I am so unbelievably happy I took that first step. That first jump into the water (literally) that brought me to this new sport of triathlon. I am extremely grateful for the support from my friends and family throughout this journey. Behind every great athlete is a great support system and I couldn’t have had a better support system through this and for that I am graciously thankful.
It’s been a couple of weeks since crossing the finish line in Mont Tremblant and I’m still having a hard time finding the words to describe my experience. It was epic. I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face for days. I still get emotional looking back crossing that finish line hand-in-hand with my buddy. It’s a finish line and a day I will never forget.
I am a firm believer that our bodies are capable of much more physically than we give credit for. For those contemplating on taking that first step. Whether it’s your first run ever, your first 5K, your first sprint tri, your first marathon, your first ultra, or your first half Ironman….
I would say: JUST DO IT. DON’T THINK, JUST JUMP. You only have one life, so take chances. Dream big, really freaking big… take those dreams and make them into a reality. Rock on and be limitless my friends!
Love Jen xo