WTH?

You signed up for WHAT??  This is the title of a friend's blog and it fits perfectly with how I feel when I've hit the “enter” button for a race entry.  Any race entry.

Since my first WTH did I just sign up to do moment - I've trained for and completed 3 Boston Marathons, an OtillO swim-run race, 10 70.3 Ironman races, a 9.5 mile swim, Norseman Xtreme Triathlon in Norway, 5 140.6 Ironman races, and countless other events.  Still to this day - every single time I hit the “enter” button I think "What the Heck did I just do?"!!!  But every time I cross the finish line I marvel at what my body just accomplished.

They say things happen for a reason and I am not sure but I think my journey might've gone differently if I hadn't had a major wreck in my first Ironman.  I was poorly prepared both physically and nutritionally - having hired my coach only 12 weeks prior.  I had a bad bike accident at mile 20 out of the 112 miles and was pulled out of the race with a broken collarbone.   I was so determined to accomplish it I would've suffered through no matter what.

I also realize that if I had completed that race under those conditions I might not have taken the path I am on now.

I think that feeling of wanting to accomplish something No Matter What is what got me up the next morning in a sling and typing with one finger at a time trying to sign back up for the next year.  Unfortunately it sold out in 6 minutes and I didn't get a slot.  I did however see that there were openings through something called the Ironman Foundation.  The price was almost double but the funds went to charities in the communities where Ironman races are held.  As I hit “enter” I stood up and started pacing and saying "WTH have I just done??"  "OMG what have I just done?!"

I went home and had surgery, healed, and talked with my coach.  I was going back and I was going to be prepared correctly.

My coach - Thad Walker from CTS (Carmichael Training Systems) - was a perfect match.  Not only did he take my lifestyle and other commitments into account when putting my training schedule together, but he was realistic with me about what I could hope to accomplish with the amount of fitness I had.  From our frequent conversations he knew how I was feeling and how hard he could push and when to back off.  I was accountable to someone else to get my workouts done.  He made me buy a Garmin so I could upload the data so he could plot my progress and know where to push me to work harder.  We talked bike parts, nutrition, running, power, watts, etc.  I learned to change a tire like a NASCAR Pit Crew athlete and can disassemble and reassemble my own bikes.  Oh and yeah, I said bikes - plural.  

So began the training of swimming M-W-F 2000 yards, then 2700, then 3500.  Get out of the pool and race home to eat an entire dinner .... Chicken Parmesan is fantastic and perfectly acceptable at 10:00. am.  I also learned that napping is actually part of training for Ironman.  So is two workouts a day.  After the nap I would head out on a run or go out for a bike ride.

Other days I climb on the trainer (sometimes more commonly known as a stationary bike) indoors so I could be put through the paces of intervals, one legged spins, climbing hill repeats, etc.

Saturdays are saved for long bike rides usually 3 or more hours and as it gets closer to a race some of those rides can go as long as 5 hours and sometimes followed by a quick run right off the bike.  Sundays are for long runs - usually over 2 hours in duration.  

Blessedly - there are days off.  Not many, but funny enough - when your body is used to working out a day off actually monkeys with your head.  Literally you feel like climbing the walls.  I'm so used to the routine that it completely throws me off.  It's a one day Taper Tantrum.

During that season I received an email from the Ironman Foundation that was a call for athletes.  They were looking for athletes to be Ambassadors and raise awareness of the Ironman Foundation.  I didn't know much about them and I was pretty sure they were looking for "real" athletes so I kept ignoring the emails.  The last day they had the applications open I received a final email letting me know that the process was closing at 4 pm EST.  With 20 minutes to go I threw a quick application together and hit send.  Followed quickly by the WTH did I just do???

The REAL moment came the next month when I received the email from the Ironman Foundation announcing that I had been chosen along with 49 other athletes from North America and Canada to be part of the Ironman Foundation/Newton Running Team.  The tag line for the Foundation is Your Journey - Your Cause.  I was pretty sure I was about to be found out to be a Poser and that everyone else on the team was Legit.  Then I started reading the athlete bios.  Everyone had a story.  Everyone was on a journey. Everyone had a cause.  What The Heck was I doing on this team?  I didn't have a story .... I was just a mom of 4 trying to complete an Ironman.

There were teammates with burns over 80 percent of their bodies, cancer survivors, ex-smokers, people who'd lost an enormous amount of weight etc. etc. But they were all athletes - not professional athletes, but athletes of all sizes and abilities.  It wasn't athletic performance and successes that this team was going to be made up of - it was a team of athletes who believe in things greater than themselves and of giving back.  Now that was something I could relate to.  It was called the Kokua Team - a Hawaiian word meaning "extending loving, sacrificial help to others for their benefit, not for personal gain."

Being chosen for this team was what really shaped my triathlon journey and continues to inspire me to race for a cause whenever possible.  It has also led me to another What The Heck Did I Just Do moment recently when I agreed to raise $40,000 for the Ironman Foundation and race on their team next October at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

I signed up for WHAT???


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Stephanie Middleton

Stephanie Middleton, a stay-at-home mother of four - ranging in age from 13 to 23 has always been active - grew up playing soccer and tennis - and always loved to run. 

 After completing her first Century ride for Best Buddies in 2008, a friend talked her into believing she could learn to swim if she’d just try.  The goal was so they could do an all-women’s sprint triathlon benefitting women cancer survivors.

 Racing for a cause and taking on bigger and bigger challenges each time started to become a theme.  The following year she competed in her first 70.3 race quickly followed by a 9.5 mile swim and a commitment to run the Boston Marathon and do her first Full Ironman in Arizona.

 After a DNF in her first Ironman Arizona - broken collarbone - she registered for the next years race thru the Ironman Foundation.  She also became an Ambassador for the firstIronman Foundation/Newton Running Team.  With a message of My Journey - My Way -  and a commitment to do service projects - it was a perfect fit.

 This past October - she was asked if she could come to Kona to help the Foundation.  That was a no-brainer.  Being there cheering on everyone and especially the Foundation Athletes who had raised over $700,000 was incredibly inspirational.  So much so, that when presented with the opportunity to come back and race in 2017 as a Foundation Athlete, it didn’t take long to say yes.

It was the beginning of a journey that started with the belief that I could at least try.  A message I believe is true for everyone of us!  Just Try!