A year ago I signed up to do the craziest thing I've ever even considered doing in my whole life. I signed up to do an Ironman. Me! An Ironman. The craziest thing about that is when I was younger I was always a sprinter, whether that was in swimming or running, I could only sprint for a short distance, and then I was done. I had no endurance in me. In fact, my senior year of high school I decided to do cross country at the same time as swimming because I wanted it to help me train for track. I was a joke as far as cross country went. I would always come in near the end of the pack. I think the longest training run I did was 5 miles, and I really thought I would die. (It did take 2 seconds off my 50 free time in swimming, though!) I was NOT a distance athlete. I had no endurance in me. I had no mental toughness to keep going when the going got tough.
Fast forward 20 years, 3 kids and LOTS of pounds later, I'm not in any shape (but round), and I'm even LESS of an endurance athlete than ever. After my 3rd baby I decide I'm sick of being fat and I start going to the gym. I work out (a lot) for a year, and I lose maybe 20 pounds. Then I am diagnosed with T1 Diabetes. Wha?? I put some weight back on when I start on insulin. :( Grrrr. My sister proposes a triathlon, and I am in. Training for that triathlon does something to me. I get hooked. I get completely crazy about training and racing and feeling good about myself and meeting new and amazing people and losing weight and being "an athlete." (I realize, I'm not really an athlete...I'm pretty much a wolf in sheep's clothing, but it feels exciting to be part of "that crowd").
One year after beginning real training I've lost about 40 pounds, and I've completed my first marathon. Oh yes I did! Still...I'm NOT an endurance athlete. I still don't really consider myself an athlete. But I'm continuing on this journey. I find this group of other diabetic athletes, and I feel like I'm really "one of them!" Except secretly in my head I still think I'm fooling everyone. They all sound like "real athletes" that know what they're doing and have done lots of racing. Me? Not so much. But I like talking with them about how to deal with the 'betes and training, and I continue to train. And craziest of all...Peter Nerothin (founder of Insulindependence) calls me up and asks me if I want to be a Triabetes team captain. Me. A team captain. As in, compete in a FULL IRONMAN in a year. WHA??? But I've only ever done a couple of sprint tris (and not that spectacularly either), and again...I'm NOT an endurance athlete. I'm not really an athlete, remember?
For whatever reason (insanity?) I said: "Yes." Holy shnikes, what a difference in my life that ONE word made. It changed everything. In one year I have:
1) Met 8 other inspirational diabetic team captains who are now friends for life
2) Met DOZENS of other diabetic athletes that have helped me and supported me along the way
3) Worked with diabetic kids who have taught me a lot about dealing with the 'betes
4) Worked my butt (quite literally) OFF
5) Gone from being able to ride 12 miles on my bike to 100
6) Gone from being able to run 10 - 11 minute miles to running 8 - 9 minute miles
7) Trained from 2 - 4 hours a day when all I wanted to do was stay at home
8) Conquered hills in both riding and running that I NEVER thought I would
9) Been contacted by random diabetics who have looked to me for help and guidance and have told me I inspired them. (Me? Wow).
10) Lost now a total of 52 pounds and (and have not much to wear because of it! :)
11) And I have realized that even though I will NEVER be a podium finisher, and I will NEVER be super fast...I am an athlete. I am an ENDURANCE athlete. And I WILL finish this Ironman in St. George in 2 weeks. Me. An Ironman finisher.
I completed a 96 mile ride that had 7000 feet of climbing. I rode 92 miles by myself. I ran 18 miles by myself. I spent hour after hour after hour (by myself) at the gym riding, running, and swimming. I have trained with an amazing friend (who is training for IMAZ), and been so grateful for her support (Hey Sharon!), I have met a great tri group in Mesa that has helped me immenselfy (Hey IronGear!), and I have fought my brain and WON on multiple occasions where it yelled at me to quit, to give up, to stop trying to do something I'm not capable of, and I yelled back to my brain NO! And I finished every single thing I set out to do.
Except one thing. My 20 mile run. I went to run and just couldn't do it. I was in so much pain. The same pain I felt in October when I DNFed the St. George marathon. It was freaking me out because it hurt so bad, and I thought for sure I would never be able to do the Ironman when I couldn't even run my training run. Then 2 weeks later I competed in the Marquee triathlon (which was turned into a duathlon), and my first 2 legs I did great (ran 3.1 miles in 25:19, rode 25 miles in 1:25 (about 17.6 mph), and then the third leg was a 6.2 mile run. I basically run/walked it because of that BLASTED pain! My time? 1:10, which was like an almost 12 min/mile pace.) I was DYING. I couldn't breathe. I felt all this pressure under my ribs, and it HURT. I was almost in tears the whole time, and it just got worse and worse the longer I ran. I finally went to the doctor and he diagnosed me with allergy induced asthma. ASTHMA!! Weird! But since being on Singulair and having a puff on an inhaler before each big workout, NO PROBLEMS! So....now I feel better about the run portion of the race, but it is still my biggest fear.
So...one year later I am ready for this race to be here. I am ready to face my demons and just do it. I'm ready to have my life back. And I'm ready to truly be able to say: Jenny Crandell...You ARE an Ironman! Which is the penultimate of endurance athletes. And then there's no way my brain can tell me I'm a faker. I will have earned the title...and it's one I will keep FOREVER.
2 weeks people. 2 weeks...
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