As of 11:46 p.m. on November 28, 2010, my childhood dream of becoming an Ironman became reality. As I am now 24, I beat my original goal of completing my first Ironman by age 30. You can see the breakdown of my results at the following website along with pictures within the next week (My bib number was 2384):
Since June 1st of 2009 I had begun the serious trek of preparing for this day, not to mention all of the steps I had taken since high school to get ready for the day I would become an Ironwoman. Over the past year I battled various setbacks such as injuries, but I finally made it. In fact, I made it to the race uninjured and not ill. Now that was AMAZING!
Those of you who know me well will be shocked by the following statement: I wanted to give up before I even started the race. All those sacrifices I had made over the past year and all of the long training days seemed to be worth nothing for a short while before the race. Why? Why would I want to give up without even trying? It hit me right at the start of the race the pain I would endure, the suffering I would have to combat mentally. Throughout the past 500 days plus, not once was I particularly concerned about the pain or suffering, not once did I cry or shed a tear (though my friend and former training partner, Dan Sullivan, had faith that the crying tantrum would come… and he was right). But there is something about the day of your first Ironman… something about those 2,000 odd people surrounding you… something special about the real day that makes it feel real… In short, you realize really that you are a crazy fool. All those days I laughed at people who thought my mission was crazy and extreme, but I don’t think it really hit me fully until right before the race. And waiting for the swim made it even worse…
The Swim Start
I had seen videos of Ironman swim starts, and, let me tell you, I was not particularly excited about the swim. Ironically, swimming is my best part while running is my worst; yet I despise the swim and look forward to the run. The swim is not just about completing the 2.4 mile swim. It is also about managing to make it through the underwater boxing fest. Once I hit the water, before we even started, roughly 2,000 triathletes were packed in like sardines waiting to rush the waters. All we were doing was trying to stay afloat by treading water. And that’s all it took for people to get pushed and shoved around. I kept getting kicked in the side and the legs. I ended up kicking other people around as well. In addition, people were trying to move forward or backward depending on their desired starting position. One guy swam up to us and said, “Hey! I swim sub-50… can I get in front.” Well gee, buddy! Don’t swim behind me! I don’t need an extra swimmer trying to crawl over me. My plan was to get out in sub-120 (I made it in 1:18).
You can imagine the pressure I felt once you find out I was basically in the front row except for that guy and a few others. My energy was zapped at that point. To make matters worse, once I hit the water something stung me on my neck. At first I thought it was some sort of metal wire or something, but I didn’t see anything where we got in by the dock. Others later told me they thought I got stung by a jelly fish. Oh great! Whatever it was, it was not pleasant and I can still feel the sting as I write this three days after the event.
I had tried my best to get used to the salt water before the race. I had done a pretty good job, but the water was SUPER salty. A lot of the athletes and tourists kept talking about how the water was saltier than other oceanic places they had been. I had a burning sensation in the back of my throat from the salt after a while. And with boxer Joe and fighter Jane next to me, I ended up losing my stroke a few times and swallowing some of that saltness. I have to say though, the swim was a beautiful one. We had 100% visibility and could see all the fish and underwater divers below us.
I’m so glad my fear of seeing a shark did not become a reality. One of the competitors had completed a practice swim, and they said they had seen a shark. YIKES! That was TMI. I don’t need to know that! But to be honest, I was more worried about shark Johnny Appleseed and sharkette Jan Simpson swimming around me. I finally swam to the outskirts and tried to swim a bit on my own. I think I added on a wee bit of yardage, but it was worth it. Well… until other athletes got the same idea. There was no escape!
The water temperature was 84 degrees Farenheit (well, that was the projected temp, so I don’t know the actual). It actually didn’t bother me that much. I was worried it would be too difficult for me because to adjust since I was used to swimming in cold Lake Michigan with no wetsuit. The last open water swim I did before I left for Mexico was Monday, November 15th, around 6:30 a.m. when the air temperature was roughly 33 degrees. I swam for nearly a mile without a wetsuit (and couldn’t feel my feet for a long time after that). Thanks much to Urs and Mikkel for sticking it out, waiting at Promontory Point for me.
The Bike Leg
My bike transition went really well except I didn’t have enough room in my bike shirt snack pockets for all of my snacks (that was for you Donkey). I stuffed everything in, but I lost two bananas at some point on the ride. Usually I’m really, really hungry on the bike and I have no problem eating. But I couldn’t get anything down. I usually ate solid protein bars, but it made me sick even thinking about it. My original plan was to drink just water and charge my batteries off of bananas and protein bars. I was supposed to down eight bars and two bananas, but I could only manage two. So I had to stoop to the level of changing my game plan and started downing Gatorade bottles at each aid station. I knew I needed more calories and electrolytes somehow so that’s what I did. I think I had about four bottles of Gatorade and probably ten or more bottles of water. While the day was bearable, it was still hot: I needed to make sure I stayed hydrated. I’m glad I drank the Gatorade because I had heard somebody else having similar problems with losing their electrolytes, fuel, etc., but they didn’t want to change their race strategy so they got stuck in the medic tent for a couple of hours.
I started off feeling really good at a pace of around 19 or 20 mph. But then a few miles in, the wind conquered me… YIKES! It was so windy going around that island. 90% of the bike leg was near open water without settlements to protect one from the wind. In some ways it was probably good since it probably kept the day feeling cooler. But my 18 to 20 mph was dropped to an average of 15 mph or so since on some very windy parts I dropped down to as low as 12 or 13 and even 10 mph.
About 40 miles into the bike leg, my feet started to ache heavily. About three weeks before the race I bought a new bike and decided to get bike shoes with pedals and clips. While I knew this was going to cause problems changing so much so close to the race, I felt that I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t think I would be able to finish the Ironman with the bike I had, considering how windy Cozumel was going to be. So I decided to get a racing bike that would be better equipped. So either my shoes were too tight to begin with or I didn’t break in my shoes properly. I think it was the latter because I did a 55 mile bike ride once during training and couldn’t understand why my feet hurt so much. I remember a guy talking about his feet hurting while cycling so I figured that maybe you just had to adjust and get used to it.
So long story short, mile 40 hit, and that was the first wall I hit so to speak. (Well actually the first was during the ocean box-a-thon). Unfortunately, the rest of the bike leg was all downhill from there. I kept telling myself, I’m never doing this again. Of course I knew I would change my mind later, but at the moment, I had convinced myself this whole process was so ridiculous that it wasn’t worth a second trip. My mother said during the marathon leg a guy running yelled at the crowd said just that: “Don’t do this. Don’t ever do an Ironman.” It is kind of crazy when you think about it. Sadly, my legs were feeling awesome… I was ready to put the power in motion, but with my feet hurting so it was all I could bear to even stay on the bike. I kept yelling at myself, “Whatever you do, do NOT get off this bike.” I was afraid I wouldn’t get back on. The plan for an Ironman bike leg is to camp out on that bike leg for however long it takes, 6, 7, or 8+ hours (it took me 8:40, but my stretch goal was to do it in 7, with the more realistic goal to do it in 8). That means no getting off the bike even if it means you have to urinate on the bike (I didn’t have to since my body had no desire to release fluids for nearly 9 hours). Kind of crazy huh? Yep… didn’t have to go, so all that drinking was necessary hydration. So after mile 40 I had 72 miles left of pain, let alone whatever would come later. I don’t know when exactly after the pain started, but I had my first crying attack on the bike leg. I realized that as slow as I was biking there might be a chance I wouldn’t make it. I had a real fear for a while that I wouldn’t finish.
After the first lap around the island I came through and rode by all of the locals cheering us on. That made me feel good. I finally saw my mom and my sister and waved and smiled at them. I was waving at almost every local at that point (by lap three I couldn’t wave anymore since all I could do was try to hold back my tears).
During lap two, I somehow pulled or did something to the tendon in my left knee. YIKES! Now that hurt. Great… first the feet, now the knee. How was I supposed to finish roughly another 40 miles on the bike and a full marathon in this kind of shape. So then my second crying attack happened on the bike leg. YIKES! Pull yourself together, Whitfield! MAN UP! as my friend Dan and I always say. I was on my last lap and thought to myself… now, Ruth Anne, are you going to conquer the island or are you going to let the island conquer you.
Last lap: I had 33.5 miles to go. BUT at that point I was barely managing 10 miles an hour. Beyond that, I was frequently coming to nearly complete stops to try to rest the pain in my feet and my knee (not that it really helped so I’m not sure why I kept doing it). I looked at my bike computer (thank God for that because it really helped me gauge my time) and realized I had 2.5 hours before they would kick me off the course. Suddenly it hit me, if I didn’t MAN UP I was going to get cut off and wouldn’t be allowed to finish the race. Whitfield was not having that. I finally put my act in gear and started yelling anything and everything at myself. I was yelling positive and negative things. I was repeating anything that worked for me from both my past good and bad coaches. I kept repeating Howard Sutherlin’s (Donkey) jokes to myself that would crack me up and put a smile on my face. His silliness always got me through my long bike rides. These sayings shall go unrepeated here, but I’m sure you get the point. So special thanks to that. After all of that I started counting in Spanish, then in English. Then I started making up my own Army chants. Then I started screaming, grunting, and yelling as an outlet for the pain so that I could try to focus on the bike. I cried some more, and some more. I managed to push myself so hard that I cycled harder through those windy parts that I thought ever was possible. Towards the end of the bike leg I was in so much pain I couldn’t manage to keep both of my arms on the aero bars so I had one on the aero bar and the other with the hand under my chin and my elbow on the aero bar like I was lying down playing cards or watching TV. Wish I had a picture of that sad portrait. At that point I realized I was going to make it. Those last 6 miles felt like 300… One of my friends said he clocked the mileage and said it was actually 113.5 instead of 112. That may have been true, but I’m not sure. A mile and a half really isn’t that big of a deal, but after you’re in that kind of pain, any extra is very much unwanted. All I knew was I was glad the bike portion would be over.
So, I’m sure you can now imagine that I was not looking forward to clicking out of my bike clips. If it hurt just pedaling, what was it going to feel like hitting the ground and getting off of the bike after sitting on it for nearly 9 hours? YIKES! I came up to dismount and I clipped ouaaaaaawwhoooooooooouuuu!!! The Cozumel course was designed so the volunteer could take your bike for you and station it elsewhere. Now that is some Mexican hospitality for you. Once he saw me clip out, he could tell the amount of pain I was in. I stepped down and broke out crying really hard then. The pain is unexplainable in words… He said Amiga! Estas Bien? I responded with a sad, sorry, “si” that couldn’t have fooled anybody. I grabbed my run gear and headed to the changing tent. I wasn’t worried about finishing the run, but I needed some time to regroup. I figured I could jog-walk the entire marathon (if I could even walk at all) and still finish on time. At that point my goal for sticking to either a 4:20 or 5 hour marathon pace was long gone. I didn’t care about that anymore. I just wanted the ultimate goal, and that was to FINISH!
The Wounded-Knee Marathon
I’m glad they hadn’t lost my run transition bag. Since the bike transition was not at the run transition we had to leave our run gear with the locals who would transport it to the run transition. Apparently about 10 people had lost their run gear. Some couldn’t finish the race. One guy had to run about 8 miles barefoot to his hotel to get an extra pair of running shoes he had. Run barefoot in the shape my feet were in? Don’t think so… No way I was going anywhere barefoot. A very kind medic massaged the edges of my feet with vaseline and wrapped them with gauze. I was then armed to go. As I left the tent a lady ran in with a massive bee sting on her left thigh, and she was trying to hurry up and get help so she could get to the run… now that was inspiring. So I walked over to the exit and I told somebody this was going to be the worst marathon ever. You know the worst thing about T2 (bike transition to run)? You can hear people coming through the finish line and the sound of “You are an Ironman” coming across the loud speaker. I mean hey, that sounds really cool, but when you still have to run a marathon before you can say that to yourself… that can kind of leave you down in the dumps. The first few miles of the run were really rough. I started half walking-jogging, stopping to stretch out the kink in my left knee every kilometer. People had advised me to run-walk the marathon, but I knew I wouldn’t make it if I started walking. So the plan was to jog-run as far as I could. And this would be my advice to others attempting Ironmans. Don’t walk until you can’t run anymore. You’ll thank yourself for it later.
I started feeling pretty good. I had stuck to my game plan the first nine miles or so. I ran without eating or drinking anything. Then I stopped and got water and ice. I wanted to stick to only water and not all of the other jazz they had going on at the aid stations. The fact is your body doesn’t need it. I saw my sister Amy and my mom a short while after that and was feeling pretty amazing. It was like I was on some sort of massive endorphin high… I waved at my family and said I had one more lap, and then they could see me there, then they could get a taxi to the finish line. Amy said, “Good job, keep jogging. Looking good.” I started running faster and felt so great I started throwing boxing punches and waving at the locals and thanking them for their support. Then it hit me about mile 18. Whoaaaaa… that was my third wall or so. I walked for what seemed like a long time, then tried to jog some more. Then I broke down. The pain came back hardcore. The hot-spots on my feet were really loaded with fire now. My knee pain came back with a mad rush. YIKES! Then I questioned it again… was I going to finish? Maybe I was not going to make it. By the time I reached my mom and sister at that point I was really in bad shape. My mom had walked 6 blocks up to find me as they were getting worried. She found me crying and dragging my left leg. Then she started praying for me and shared a scripture with me. Later on I found out that was part of the letter she had written to me on a clipboard. Really, Mom? Seriously? It was hilarious. She had written this long letter and clipped it to a clipboard. Every time I walked by she waved it at me. I didn’t realize until after the race what she was really trying to do. She thought I could read it every time I walked by. Really, Mom? I can’t stop and read a letter every time I walk by. I had a race to finish, one that I nearly didn’t finish. The entire time I thought my mom was just waving a clipboard at me. Hilarious! So then I started walking a bit faster, but I was still crying when I reached Amy. She said, “What happened? You were doing so well.” All I could muster was, “Ironman happened.”
After that I started power walking and talked to myself about anything and everything. Again I yelled out the fake Army chants and the counting backwards and forwards in Spanish, English, and Norwegian. But this time I added food chants. That’s right. I kept repeating my favorite foods over and over again. “Chicken Wings, waffles, lamb, burgers, rice, lamb, chicken wings, etc.” I thought to myself, if you just stick it through just think about all that good eating you can do the rest of your recovery week. My original 10 miles with just water broke down very quickly. Coach Hall suggested that I take anything and everything at every aid station. I took my advice at first while running, then I took his advice after I hit my first running wall around mile 18 or so. I took any and everything. I drank coke, water, and chewed on ice. I ate oranges, pretzels and peanuts. Man oh man. I don’t even like coke and pretzels. But I really enjoyed it after mile 18. It tasted so good!
So I finally told myself I was going to make it. Whatever I had to do… I told my mom and Amy to get a taxi and come cheer me on at the finish line. Amy said, “Are you sure? You’d better pick it up. I’m not sure you’re gonna make it.” I yelled back at them, “GET A TAXI! I’m FINISHING THIS RACE!” Later my friends told me… now that must have been some inspiration. I continued dragging myself on, and then we were about 3.5 miles out and it was 11:10 p.m. I was 16 hours and 10 minutes in to the race. I and another triathlete decided to help each other out. We realized if we were going to make it we were going to have to run the last 3 miles or so. So we started running at a pace we thought we could maintain. We became a support system. If he got tired he’d push me, if I got tired I’d push him. Every now and then we’d wave and yell at the locals supporting us. We realized we were going to make it. It felt so good to know that all the sacrifices I had made over the past year or so was about to pay off once I crossed that finish line. I ran past my mom and Amy lifting up my arms and throwing boxing punches. I pumped my arms in the air and went through the finish line with glee. Amy says I broke down crying there as well. We’ll have to check out the pictures and see.
The After Math
I went through and got my goodies and tried to put a smile on for my picture. I managed to slide over to the massage tent after picking up my finisher T-shirt. The doctor and nurse checked me out and gave me some ice and I received a bit of a massage. It was starting to feel a bit better, but little did I know it really was still quite bad. After I got into the taxi I had to bend my leg to sit down properly. I ripped out the loudest scream of my life both then and after I got to the hotel. My mom said later that it sounded like I was giving birth to a baby. Well… I don’t know what that’s like, but it did hurt pretty bad. We got back to the hotel and I soaked in epsom salt and downed 600 mg of ibuprofen. Man was I out! I slept really well that night. I awoke wildly sore. So much for all of those food chants. I was not interested in eating big if any at all. That Ironman really zapped my appetite. Later that day I had a deep tissue massage that left me feeling a lot better though. Tuesday morning we got ready to leave. I had some last-minute bike problems which we finally managed to figure out. I left on Tuesday and arrived back to sweet, chilly Chicago and snow on Wednesday! YEAH!
To those of you already planning on your first Ironman, the biggest thing I can say is make sure you are mentally prepared. I used to believe that Ironman was 60% physical and 40% mental or maybe 80% physical and 20% mental or maybe even 90/10. Donkey would always say that it was 99% mental and 1% physical. Whatever they say it is, it doesn’t really matter what the actual break down is to me because I don’t believe it anymore. I believe Donkey is right more than anybody else. I saw a guy with a shirt that said Ironman: 100% mental. And that’s what I believe. If you want to finish an Ironman, you need to be mentally prepared. I’m not saying you don’t have to train for it. But what I am saying is the real training isn’t the physical part. You can put your body through an amazing amount of stress. In fact, your body can handle much more stress than what an Ironman can put you through. In fact, the day after the Ironman I felt fine and ready for more beating. I could feel that my body could compress even longer.
The bottom line: be mentally prepared. What are you going to do if you’re physically prepared, and something goes wrong? What do you do when something about the race changes the entire situation? What do you do when your feet start caving out on you not even half way into the race? What to do when they’ve lost your run transition shoes and you have to run 8 or 9 miles to your hotel barefoot? It’s not likely you’ll get shoes from the crowd when it’s hot and everybody is in flip-flops. What do you do when you get a bee sting or you have a crying attack? My sister Amy said that is where it would end. Once the crying starts, the race should be over. What do you do if you run out of your planned race strategy fuel? Do you give up? Do you keep going? There is no such thing as headphones and music on an Ironman. There is no such thing as a TV to keep your mind from wandering for those of you who train on a treadmill and watch TV while training. What is your game plan? What is your game plan for getting mentally prepared?
For me, I tried to put myself through any stress possible to get me mentally prepared. I never trained with music or TV. I mostly did my long runs by myself. I did my training in the most extreme conditions offered for the season. If it rained, I ran. If it was 100 degrees with high humidity, I ran. If the lake was too cold to swim, I still got in without a wetsuit. If I was injured I tried to do an alternative workout. I incorporated intensity into my workouts and not just light endurance training. I did long training sessions without food and water. Most of my long runs I didn’t eat or drink. 15 miles and no water or fuel. I did a half Ironman with nothing but water and a couple of bananas and one or two protein bars. I burned probably around 4,000 calories that day, but only consumed about 1,500. I cycled in the cold, windy Chicago, a couple of times without hat and gloves (now that was PAINFUL, but great for mental toughness). I spent 13 hours on a mountain bike trying to cover 115 miles to my parents’ house in hot July weather (a trip that failed miserably but did a lot for my mental readiness). I trained throughout the cold, Winter months in Chicago. I did various amounts of strength training and cross training to get my body prepared. I continued training through my taper as outlined and suggested through research. So what is your game plan going to be? I did prep races in extreme hot conditions like in Austin, TX (the heat was worse there than Mexico, or at least it felt that way). I was definitely physically fit to do an Ironman faster than 16 hours and 46 minutes, but things happened on that race that made that difficult to accomplish. Back to the bottom line, I was mentally prepared to finish, and that’s what matters. So if you are going to take on this feat, make sure that your mental preparation is your top priority. If you can’t get in the 25 to 30 hours a week of training. Don’t worry, it’s not necessary. Just do what you can manage. What is necessary is that you are mentally ready.
I also think that you need to set goals. A lot of people say that they just want to finish. And that is fine. That should be the ultimate goal for everybody. But because I set higher goals for myself, I think I trained harder than I would have if I just wanted to finish. I set a goal to complete it in 12:40 excluding transition time. I ended with 16:46. I’m not saying that you won’t finish if you don’t set high goals, but it helps to make yourself reach higher. Don’t limit yourself. The sky is your limit as my instructors Chris George and Kelly Begley once said. Don’t limit yourself to the Half Ironman if you really want to do an Ironman, but you’re afraid. And this goes for the rest of your dreams and goals. I hope that my completing this Ironman has helped to inspire some of you as all of you have inspired me. Go for what you want and don’t look back.
I would also pick a race that’s right for you. I really wanted to do an Ironman so I signed up for the one in Mexico because it was the only one left. I had wanted to do other races, but injuries and financial setbacks had prevented me from doing those. Cozumel is super windy, so doing that for my first Ironman probably wasn’t the best idea as I’m not that strong of a cyclist (as an example).
Be prepared to switch over to whatever the race provides for fuel. Try to find out what they’re offering and try to train with what they’ll be giving. At least that way if you have to change your plan, you won’t be changing much since they’ll be offering what you would normally have.
Come prepared with back-up plans for bike problems and run problems, etc. Never know if you’ll be the one running the marathon barefoot or swimming goggle-less if you don’t have an extra pair of goggles.
Don’t believe the hype that you can eat and drink whatever you want. Try to eliminate at least the junk in your diet if you can’t get rid of anything else.
Try to have a support system go with you to your race. It makes the travel there and back and the entire race so much more bearable.
And look forward to the run… I used to be afraid of the run because I was a bad runner. But I’ve gotten better. The reality is, that the run is really the best part because it’s just you and the run and nothing comes in between. On the swim and the bike, so much can go wrong that you have no control over… but the run is all about you manning up through the pain and fighting it to the end. And recognize that you can walk a bit and still make the cut off, though I would try to jog-run as much as possible so you don’t crash and burn too early.
At the pre-race pasta dinner they streamlined an Ironman video. One of the phrases stated by the founder of this craziness really stuck with me: “You can quit, and they won’t care. But you will always know.” I felt that no other words were more appropriate. I realized that my friends and family would still support me whether I finished or not. They would still stick by my side. But I would be the one beating myself up afterward. And I couldn’t bear that. So ultimately I got it in gear because it was my ultimate dream that I wanted to accomplish. However, it was possible to maintain my own fire and discipline because of all of your help and support… So THANK YOU to…
God for instilling me with faith and providing me with the massive support network that follows:
My Family, especially to my Dad who helped me with the initial preparations, and also to my Mom and sister Amy who burdened themselves to help me out in Mexico for my first Ironman. Thanks to Benita and Donta for all of the laughter and food, and Benita for the driving at odd hours to get us to the airport. To Rajanah and Micah and Shaun for you stupid mission and suicide mission jokes. Yes, Micah and DeShaun… I made it back alive, so you can now contribute to my Ironman fund as well as your own X-box dream… Mozes for making me smile every time you jump in my arms. We can watch Iron Man whenever you want. And to Joy for all of your curious interest and support. Also to Kristine and Tom Philbin for hosting me during the Cap-Tex-Tri and for your continued interest and support.
My Play Aunt and Uncle Dee and Jon Lubell for all that you’ve done for me.
My Surrogate Mother Billy Adams for keeping my spirits up.
Dan Sullivan for your friendship and moral support, for pushing me on some of the long runs we did together, and for training with me throughout those hot summer days in Chicago and those daily, early morning training sessions at 5:00 a.m.
Howard Sutherlin (Donkey) for feeding Shrek well. You know I love to eat! Thanks for your support and for being someone who would sometimes say things I didn’t want to hear. And of course for all of your silly jokes… those long bike rides were so much easier when I could repeat the craziness you always share with me that keeps me laughing ever crank of the pedal.
Jess Aw for your friendship, support, and food, and doing weird, fun run races with me.
John Horner for your continued support and advice.
George Vassilev for more than you can imagine… your support and friendship meant a lot beyond the bike rides.
Voltaire Davis for helping me keep life in perspective.
Jason Evans for your genuine moral support.
Chris George and Kelly Begley for believing in me and all of your other students, and being awesome at what you do. And thanks to all of the other sisters in the class who supported my love for this craziness and shared some interest in my endeavors as well as inspired me to do what I wanted to do by setting the example for seeking to reach your own goals.
Louise LeBourgeois and Steve Carrelli for your awesome support through swimming and bike advice.
The Point Swimmers who faithfully swam throughout the summer in Chicago without wetsuits (and you as well Elizabeth Brackett, you’re still intense in my book and you prove it to the world each year). Special shout out to Deirdre, Dan, Chuck, Evan, Urs, Marjorie, Jennifer, Elizabeth Lockwood, Elizabeth Brackett, Dory, Pam, Ted Erickson, Thomas, Grace, and Amanda (though I met you at another random time). You all helped provide me with a consistent open water training schedule that helped me meet my goal time in the water, with a big shout out to Louise for those long 2 mile swims by my side.
Martin and Mikkel for doing cold water swim workouts with me.
The Tuesday morning track practice group who helped me get through sprint workouts.
Susanne, my RCNUWC roommate who first taught me the specifics about swimming and flip turns in the water while living in Norway.
Ellie Price, who first got me interested in swimming in open, cold water.
Aileen who paddled a kayak next to me during a cold water fjord swim in Norway as well as accompanying me on a long 60 mile bike ride and some long runs in the early days of my interest in the sport.
Sheila O’Connor who was the first U of C varsity swim coach I had who pushed me like nobody’s business, making a real swimmer out of me. And Sue, the assistant coach for her extra support.
Jason Weber, the second U of C varsity swim coach who continued to push me further along with former assistant coach Doug.
Alicia Bushman for helping me with my swim stroke.
Adriana and the other U of C Master’s Swimming Coaches for helping me improve my stroke.
Coach Zebulon Sion for all that I learned from you and Coach Chris Hall for your continued interest and support.
The Najemy family, especially Phil, whom I learned much from. Phil, you not only taught me much about lifting and nutrition, but you also supported me through and through as I first entered into the triathlon sport.
Phil Skorokhodov and Vyacheslav (Slava) Kungurtsev, my Russian Lifting partners for all the lifting excitement.
Alan Zablocki for all of your efforts to help me complete this mission, from first introducing me to the tri-club to coaching and training me here and there. I appreciate all I’ve learned from you.
Frank Wilson for your moral support and interest and inspiration.
Valerie Tyler and co. for your interest in me and support. And beyond all of this for your inspiration. I hope to be in as good of shape as all of you when I get to be your variant ages.
Symon and Sarah Ogeto for all that you have done and continue to do.
John and Lara Felkner for your excited interest in my training.
The U of C tri-club with a special shout out to the coach Mark. Thanks much for everything.
Stephanie Melkonian for your advice and inspiration on the iron distance race, and being the awesome trailblazer you are!
Khadija Ismail for your faith in me and your friendship.
Mox Multisport (Amy, Troy, and Jacob) for all of my last-minute cycling questions, concerns, and needs.
David Ford for your advice on bikes and triathlons and much much more.
Katie Callow-Wright for your interest and support and orchestrating a pep rally for me before my race. Very awesome.
Nicole Eggleston for your continued support and interest.
Everyone in I-House who has supported my efforts whether it be swimming with me in the lake, running with me, checking in on me on my race, or even just telling me I’m crazy. Special shout-outs to those who came to cheer me on at the hot chocolate race (Bill, Danny Rosa, Anthony, Eleanor, Ryan Stelzer-the “Assistant Coach”-, and Elizabeth Mata). Also to the following:Aekloveya, Varun, Adam Ahmad, the Javi, Andrea, Javi, Jonathan, and co crew, Maria Acosta, Brian Davis, Mary Beth and Denise and Luke, Bill Miller, and Bill McCartney, and all the ladies at the front desk for their support, Lee, Vicky, Susie, Jessica, Penny, Barbara, Cassandra.
And to all those people in the small towns I lived in growing up. You all had a great impact on the development of my will and strength. There are too many people to include them all here, but a big thanks to the people of Reserve, NM, Martin, SD, Walhalla, ND, Pender, NE, and Flekke, Norway.