I began my journey in endurance sports five years ago. I was going through a tough time in life and decided I needed somewhere to focus my energy, so I signed up for a half marathon with friends. I decided it was a good outlet – maybe I would try a sprint triathlon. Then came an Olympic distance and 70.3. I found the training to be cathartic, though I always said I could never do an iron distance. But as my miles got higher, so did my goals, and at the beginning of 2012 I decided that I could do a 140.6. That summer, I made my first attempt. I missed a run cutoff and was pulled from the course 8 miles short of finishing. I was devastated. But I woke up the next day and told my sister, “I’m doing another one next year, and I WILL get a medal.”
So in January of 2013, I signed up for Louisville. Then I made the decision (very WISE decision) that I needed some help. Coach Marcy was a colleague who had started a coaching business. I knew from my conversations with her and from researching her website and coaching philosophy that she was the coach for me. In our initial session, Coach Marcy asked several questions about my life and planned activities for the summer so she could tailor my workouts to what I had going on throughout my training season. And tailor she did – even fitting my training schedule to my honeymoon! After our initial session, I was so pumped to get started. During my first week of training, I told my friends and family that I felt so much more purposeful this year. I loved the workouts, and I loved the accountability of knowing someone was putting them in and checking them out as I completed them!
I checked in with Coach Marcy once a month. Those conversations were the mental pick-me-ups I needed throughout a difficult summer of training. She had words of wisdom for all of the things an athlete experiences while training for an Ironman – ailments, mental hurdles, lack of motivation, all of it. She was such a positive force all summer, and I felt re-refreshed and armed with the tools I needed to keep going after each check-in.
One thing I battled all summer was my experience last year. Coach Marcy encouraged me to find my mantra and battle those thoughts during training because I would be better equipped to handle them on race day (which I indeed was!) I had things that I told myself during training, but it was actually Coach Marcy’s words from our last check-in that ended up being my mantra on race day. She said, “This is going to be your redemption.”
I was lucky enough to get in a training run with Coach Marcy about a month before the race, then a twist of fate during race week brought me to Philadelphia, and I was SO lucky to get in one last training run with her. It was just what I needed. It helped calm my nerves, and I felt ready to head to Kentucky at the end of the week.
Because of our conversations, I felt prepared for everything I experienced when I got to Louisville, from the practice runs to athlete check-in. Then race day arrived. Of course I was nervous, but I felt a strange sense of calm waiting in line at the swim start. I knew I was ready, and I knew I would be crossing the finish line that night. We had gone through the course. We had gone through my nutrition. We had gone through what to do when certain scenarios occurred. I was ready. Today was going to be my redemption.
Much of the day is actually a blur. But I know I never once felt unprepared as I replayed our conversations in my head when it got tough. And it was tough. It was hot, it was humid, I felt sick at times, I was exhausted, and I was in pain. But I kept picturing crossing that finish line. I spent the last 5K in a state of euphoria because I could taste redemption at that point. 16 hours, 14 minutes and 28 seconds after I entered that water, I crossed the finish line. Elated does not even begin to describe that feeling. I am not a fast athlete. My endurance goals have never been driven by speed but rather by the accomplishment of finishing. And I had finished. A journey born out of a rough time in my life was complete. I will forever be grateful to Coach Marcy for that moment. She helped me get there. She helped me battle physical and mental roadblocks, and it was a phenomenal moment in my life.
I don’t think I stopped grinning for about a week. The next morning as I headed down the elevator to go home, I had a conversation with a man who had a similar experience as myself last year. He was grinning too as he told his story. “It was redemption,” he said. My smile widened, “Yep.”