What the hell is Ditch the Tiara?

Redefining the word beautiful...one dirty, sweaty, bruised up mile at a time, with a few downward dogs along the way...

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Active Times..Be Fit - Find Adventure - Visit the Wild

If you haven't yet visited The Active Times, do yourself a favor and explore... 

"The Active Times aims to be the world's best source of authoritative, inspiring, enlightening content for living the active, adventurous life. Whatever your passions in outdoor and endurance sports, travel and adventure, The Active Times provides the tools and information you need to do your best—and enjoy the ride. We tell the stories, recruit the experts, and assemble the information you need to get motivated and do it right. We're passionate about great gear, expert technique, interesting people, and amazing venues close to home and around the world. We bring them all together—and connect the community—in a smart, visual, accessible way."
I was recently asked to be a contributing writer to this amazing community, and without hesitation, I said *yes* as a lover of all things adventure and fitness related. Life is meant to be lived and I feel like I am living it pretty damn BIG these days...

Feature Friday: Triathlon Talk with Kristina from Ditch the Tiara

'When times are tough... remember why it is you started this sport in the first place'

Kristina, Ditch The Tiara


Kristina, Ditch The Tiara

Every Friday we chat with one of our blog content network contributors to find out what most inspires them to be fit and find adventure every day.
This week we’re chatting with Kristina from Ditch the Tiara.

Kristina is a 63-time marathoner, a 7-time Ironman finisher and as she puts it, “just an ordinary girl trying to do extraordinary things.” Through her blog she hopes to redefine the word beautiful; one dirty, sweaty, bruised up mile at a time, and with a few downward dogs along the way.

Read more to learn about her passion for competing in Ironman triathlons, her best advice for beginner triathletes and what she does to stay motivated when the going gets tough.

The Active Times: How did you first become involved in Ironman triathlon?

Kristina: I began running marathons in 1998 and then after following the last five stages of the Tour de France in 2005, I fell in love with cycling and started riding centuries. It wasn’t until 2007 that I grew bored of those two individual sports that I decided it was time that I learn how to swim and try my hand at triathlon. I started off with the 70.3 distance because of my love for endurance activities. It only took one triathlon to make me decide that I needed to go all out and take on the Ironman. The following year I completed my first of several 140.6 races. I am now quite happily addicted to the distance.

What are the wisest words you ever heard about Ironman triathlon?

When times are tough, whether in training or during the race and you start to question yourself and abilities, always remember why it is you started this sport in the first place and draw upon those thoughts to get you through that moment.

What is the greatest joy you get from Ironman triathlon?

Knowing that I have the strength, passion and dedication to achieve what so many think of as the impossible. During the race itself, I have visited the deepest, darkest places of my mind and I have come to realize that I have the ability to dig myself out and continue on, never letting self-doubt bring me down.

What advice would you give to someone trying Ironman triathlon for the first time?

Don’t let your fears of the swim start ever get in your way of tackling this distance. It’s the shortest part of your day, and although rough in physical contact, everyone is out working towards the same goal. To finish!

What is the one piece of kit or equipment you’d never be without?

My pink tri bike.

If money were no object, what piece of kit or equipment would you buy?

An AlterG treadmill.

Who do you think is the most inspirational figure in Ironman triathlon?

Dick and Rick Hoyt.

What is your favorite quote, and what do you so like about it?

“Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

What is at the top of your bucket list when it comes to Ironman triathlon?

I want to race at the Superbowl of my sport, the Ironman World Championship in Kona.

What is your least favorite word, and why?

Impossible. I believe that if you want something bad enough, you’ll accomplish it (within your own physical abilities.)

Read more on Kristina’s blog at ditchthetiara.blogspot.com and follow her on Twitter @tiaraditcher.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Iron Tiara: Lots of Love for Lake-to-Lake Tri - Published on 303triathlon.com

My latest post on 303triathlon.com!

Lots of Love for Lake-to-Lake Tri
By Iron Tiara Kristina Jensen
Loveland Lake to Lake
About a week ago, I got talked into racing the Loveland Lake to Lake Olympic Triathlon (1.5K swim/30 Mike Bike/10K Run) by my very FUN and very FAST friend Joy. And to say her name suits her personality is *quite* an understatement. Being around her makes me smile and laugh, and if she was recommending this race to ME of all people, knowing I like the longer events, then I knew it had to be a top notch event! Although this was going against every fiber of my ultra-endurance being, I really needed to get out of my comfort zone of the one and only distance I DO participate in. I also have actually heard, throughout the years, by so many people, what a spectacular and amazing race this was and so curiosity got the better of me. I am a creature of habit (shocking) and I have only done three Olys; Boulder Peak 2008, 2009 and 2010. It has been FOUR years since I have raced this ouch-my-entire-body-is-going-to-hurt-and-I-just-might-puke distance. What. was. I. thinking?!?

When my alarm went off on Saturday at 4:15am, all I could think about was what in the world do I eat before this *short* of a race. My swim wave was set to go off at 6:34am, and so whatever I decided on, had to digest quickly and easily. Typically, I will wake up 3 hours before Ironman and take in between 700 and 800 calories. I scoured my sister’s fridge and set my eyes upon some (fairly) green-ish grapes and a 100 calorie gluten free bagel. Ok. This should do it and in typical KJ fashion, with transition opening at 5:00am and closing at 6:15am, I got there around 5:35am and putzed about, socializing more than thinking about the fact that my race was starting in an hour. I think I finally started setting up my little transition area around 5:53am and (kind of) made my presence known. I saw lots of friends and ran up to them, hugged them and chatted about how fun this day was going to be. If you’ve ever talked to me, then you also know that I don’t have an inside voice and my laugh emanates from deep down in my belly. I am sure that I was getting eye-rolls behind my back and mumblings of “shut. UP!” and “Why are you so damn perky?” were being uttered. Ha! And so to further reveal my boisterous nature, I turned up the speaker on my iPhone, flipped on Spotify and started dancing to some beat-thumping music. Oh crap! I now have about 11 minutes to get my stuff laid out and wetsuit on before they kick us out. I swear I am going to be late to my own funeral, which is totally cool actually, as I’m in no hurry to go down, er, um, I mean up to my final resting place.

I sneered at the tiny sliver of grass that my fellow neighbors left me, clearly they were all only children, and set up my lil’ messy marvin transition space. I am a “Type A” OCD person’s worst nightmare. I proudly left with 1 minute to spare, my crap thrown down in what I thought was good order, and headed down to the water to hang out with my friends. We were talking about whether or not we should even warm up. I was in my sleeveless wetsuit and was a little nervous that I would freeze my booty off. I tentatively walked in and was pleasantly surprised at how warm it was. Sweet! I knew immediately it was going to be a great swim. I took care of my business before taking a few quick strokes, because let’s face it, we all do “it” as soon as we get in the water. It’s the warm up to the warm up!

At 6:34am, I dove into the refreshing water and started swimming. No panic. No having to stop and catch my breath. Huh? NO NERVES. This was incredible. I got into a rhythm immediately, something which never happens and swam my more than warm booty off. The lake was calm and incredibly peaceful. I couldn’t believe how quickly 1500 meters went by. I popped up at the swim exit to immediately check my time and it was under 32 minutes…Fist pump to the sky. P. flippin’ R. baby! All my drill work in the pool is paying off! The run to T1 is pretty long and about a minute and a half later I was at my bike, grinning ear to ear, getting ready for my favorite part of triathlon!

I learned that morning that the first 14 miles or so were a nice, slow and grinding climb to Horsetooth Reservoir. Ok – I love to climb, this is going to be a blast. I don’t think I’ve ever ridden in this area before and my breath was taken away, it was just so pretty. The descent out of Horsetooth was crazy fast. I’m a thrill seeker and have no fear when it comes to tucking into a tight aero position to coast downhill. Once out of that area, we hit some rollers, which are my nemesis, as it’s tough for me to get into any kind of rhythm on them. I saw this opportunity as great training for IM Boulder as there are several sections of those little bastards in the second half of the course. 30 miles later (gosh, this race is going by SO fast), I was back into T2, wondering what in the world my legs would feel like. With my injury, I haven’t really been doing a lot of bricks, and I had just run the Estes Park Marathon seven days before, so this could be a really great experience or an absolute s&%t show. All I had was 10k to go. I tell you what, 6.2 miles is endless when you have it in your head that you absolutely MUST run each one as fast as you possibly can. I hate that feeling of my heart beating all the way up in my throat. And that burning in your legs, as if they’ve been set on fire? gah! I never feel that during Ironman. I’m simply not a sprinter. I exited transition on wobbly legs and it felt like I was running through sand, filled with honey on feet that had 10lb dumbells strapped to them. I thought my pace might be in the neighborhood of about 11 minutes per mile but since I didn’t wear any kind of GPS watch, I believed it was actually probably closer to 12.

The run was a nice little out and back, through some quaint neighborhoods that flanked the lake, lined with really sweet spectators. Just past the one mile mark, there were these 2 High School boys yelling and shouting all sorts of encouraging words, and definitely had the athletes giggling and smiling. I high fived all my speedy friends as they were heading back in, miles ahead of me. I don’t think I have EVER been so happy to see a mile marker three, as it was the turn around. Gosh, I am such a wuss. I tried to pick up my pace a bit and bring it home as fast as I could. When I crossed the finish line, all I could think about was how much I LOVED this race course and how much I LOATHED this distance. I’ve got to get over that though because I am definitely doing this race again next year. And if you haven’t done so, you need to get in on it. It’s incredibly well organized, stacked with really great staff and support, gorgeous views of the foothills and a challenging course that keeps you busy and engaged. There are various events apart from the Olympic, including a Sprint, Aquabike and a Relay. Peggy Shockley really knows what she is doing, organizing and directing this race year after year!

OH YEAH. So my run time? You know, that near walking minute per mile? Not even close. I BROKE ONE HOUR!!!! My average pace was 9:32 per mile. Baby steps I tell you… baby steps. This girl is on the mend…and finally off the market. I’m certain you’re all wondering can he even come close to keeping up with the likes of lil ol’ crazy, insane me? Well, as a 9:32 minute per mile 10k runner, I am fairly confident that he can.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

pssst. Want to know a secret?

Somehow, I kept a secret. (my family is completely shaking their heads in disbelief right now, I know.) Not so much of an "Oh my god, did you know that she did...???" kind of secret, but more of an, "I'm not at all surprised she decided to do that..." kind of one. A few weeks ago, I felt like I needed something in my life.  Like a great, big, fat physical SOMETHING. It was eating at me. I had no idea what *it* entailed.  and then I remembered that the Estes Park marathon was quickly approaching.  By far, it's the biggest nemesis out of all of my 26.2s, albeit the most beautiful. It is still my hardest, highest elevation and most harrowing race.  It's the only marathon that I have ever DNF'd.  Mile 19.  It was raining. It was cold.  and I was naive enough to think I could beat out hypothermia. Ironically, it was hypothermia that beat me out at Ironman too.  Fuck that.  If it was going to be a cold, rainy day, I would be better equipped with gear.  I was going for it.  I wanted number 63.  BAD.  

I told myself that if I could run 16 miles, just a mere six days before the marathon, that I was in. ALL. IN. Unfortunately, I am still struggling with my injury recovery. still going to physical therapy every week. BUT... still hopeful that someday that this will all be behind me. And so, after work on Monday, June 16th, I set out to "run" 16 miles.  I may or may have not walked a bit of that run, but when I was done I knew exactly what my decision was.  ALL. IN. I was so excited I could scream...and I may have! Who could I tell?!  and then it hit me, I have a 'person' that I can share these things with.  I finally have a 'person!'  I also hinted to a couple of friends about my decision.  I don't know why I felt like I needed to keep this so quiet and to myself, but I did.  Who had I become?!

So on Sunday, in typical KJ fashion, I got to Estes Park at 5:52am.  The race began at 6am, and I still had to go to the bathroom, pick up my bib and get to the start line.  I started about five minutes after everyone else, and pretty much *strolled* my way through the first 1/4 mile, chatting with a local photographer, Walt Hester.  I was in no rush.  This was going to be a long ass 26.2 miles and I had already prepared myself mentally for a six hour race.  Estes Park is 8,000+ feet above sea level, hilly as hell and I am still making my way back to being a "runner" again. Thankfully, over the course of the past year, I have been blessed with the very hard-earned gifts of patience, positivity and humility.  Thank you IMCdA.  and so with a happy heart and healthy attitude, I picked up the pace and started to run, ticking off one mile at a time, chasing down yet another dream... 

...and somewhere around five hours and 40 minutes, I put my hand over my heart, looked up to the sky with gratitude, tears streaming down my cheeks, and crossed the finish line to find that my "something" was more than just a finisher's medal...it was simply the reminder that I am so much stronger than I think. I understand that most people don't need to go out and run 26.2 miles to remind themselves of that.  But let's face it, I am not like most people... 

I'm now a 63 time marathoner but still an ordinary girl trying to do extraordinary things...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Iron Tiara: Spectator Extraordinaire - The Other Side - Published on 303triathlon.com

My latest post on 303triathlon.com!

Spectator Extraordinaire - The Other Side
By Kristina Jensen, The Iron Tiara
This past Sunday, I had the extreme pleasure of spectating one of my favorite races, the Boulder 70.3. Back in the day, it was called the “Long Course”, and it was my very first triathlon, having learned how to swim just weeks prior. I live and breathe the expression, “Go big or go home.” I have only competed in that distance five times, with four of them being on that course…which I absolutely LOVE.

A few weeks ago, I read over the bib list and I knew immediately that there was no way I was going to miss being out there. I imagine I knew somewhere in the ballpark of 75-100 people participating, and in my typical mind’s fashion, I had already started planning out my, er…um…*sparkly spectating attire* and signage. I often refer to myself as an attention “courtesan,” and I am fairly confident that I achieved my goal of being just that.

I have spectated exactly five triathlons in the entire time I have been involved in the sport – Ironman Coeur d’Alene, Ironman Texas, Escape from Alcatraz, Rattlesnake and the Superbowl of our sport, the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. Any other time I have been at a triathlon, I myself was racing. However, in the past, I never took it upon myself to go all out and be someone that would stand out to the athletes.

Well, I wanted this time to be different. I know for myself, when I am out on the course, feeling tired, hot and hungry, trying to find my support crew is so draining. When choosing my wardrobe, I wanted to be certain that when my friends were struggling, both mentally and physically, they could simply come out of their daze for a split second and immediately know I was there on the sidelines rootin’ them on. I’d say my mission was accomplished.

It’s true when you hear that spectating is a tough sport, especially in those longer distances. Geeeeeez! You feel a certain responsibility to have your own game face on the entire day so that you A)never miss the opportunity to see your loved one(s) out on the course and B)be fully armed with encouraging words for every level of “emotion” you’re going to see them experiencing as the day goes on. Your enthusiasm has to be on full volume the entire day, because if they see you draggin’ ass, it won’t bode well on their mental state of being.

I did my research and found some of the best (and funniest) spectating signs. Ever. I was up well past midnight on Saturday making them, as they had to be perfect! And when set out on the run course, anyone who knew me would know that I was the one who made them. I also hit up the Party Store and raided the section that would best represent the look I was trying to achieve. My alarm went off at 4:15am on Sunday morning so that I could be at the rez before the pros went off, and wish all of my friends good luck. Again, this spectating thing is tiring too. My respect for all of you that do this on a regular basis has grown exponentially after this past weekend!

To say I had an absolute blast being on the *other side* of the start line would be a grave understatement to my true emotions. I am so grateful to have been such a positive impact at such a fantastic event. From the moment the National Anthem was sung, to seeing my last friend make her way out onto her second run lap, I felt that I was a member of the most paramount “family” in the world. The triathlon community itself is amazing, but to be a part of it in the most beautiful state in the country (to be clear, this is MY opinion, not Forbes Magazine), is beyond words. I am blessed, truly blessed. And I’ve decided that if my current job doesn’t work out, that I may have found a new one in spectating. I could seriously do that full time!


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

time to climb.

30 days post Ironman and I am in the thick of it. Like all in. Full swing. Kickin' ass and takin' names. ok, not really.  Most days it's my ass that's getting kicked.  BUT still. To say that I am so ready for Ironman Boulder would be doing a disservice to how I really feel. I love, Love, LOVE racing for 140.6 miles, but by now I am fairly certain that I don't need to tell you that. Right? I don't compete in any other distances and so I start to get really antsy when my friends start talking about their upcoming sprints, olys and 70.3s, because they seem to be doing so many more races than I am. However, recovery is only a few days (if that) and the cost is next to nothing for the "short" stuff. I start to bleed cash during triathlon season.  If only I had planted that money tree in the spring. gah!

With that being said, my focus right now is on the bike. Running is coming along and I actually ran 16 miles last night, albeit crazy slow with some walking. I'll take it!  A large part of my glute pain these past few weeks was attributed to the saddle I was riding on. Thankully, after doing hours of research, (mmmm, ok not really...I may have pulled up one OR two saddle reviews on google at most) I bought a new one that seems to be doing all the right things. My ass now happily perches upon a Specialized Sitero. It's amazing how different riding is when you're actually comfortable E.V.E.R.Y.W.H.E.R.E!
And my dedication to weekly intervals up Deer Creek Canyon has carried over since last season.  I've come to realize that on the day I'm doing them, I need to eat completely differently, and at very specific times. Learned that the HARD way. There is no worse feeling on the planet than that of wanting to throw up two minutes into the hardest 30 minutes of your entire week. UGH. Lunch is now plain jane and simple.  A sweet potato, an avocado heavily salted, maybe throw in a piece of fruit. Or white rice heavily salted with some simple veggies drizzled with olive oil.  And it's eaten about 90 minutes earlier than usual.  So far, so good.  I'll know more later if this really is a good combination, or just a fluke thing from last week, as I'm headed up to the hurt locker this afternoon. 

By busting my ass twice a week in that canyon, which includes 3,000+ feet of climbing in just 14 miles, my century ride times are getting faster, and staying consisent.  I've ridden 100 miles the past three weekends, all being on different courses that have increased in difficulty each week.  5:33:37, 5:33:18, 5:32:21 .... what?!  Since when did I become an 18mph cyclist for 100 miles? and consistently at that!  Um.  this year. and I am hoping to continue to see those kinds of numbers as IM Boulder quickly approaches.  By August 3rd, I will know that bike course inside and out as I ride a majority of it every weekend.  This weekend will be no different.  47 days and couting...

Iron Tiara: Ditch the Gadgets - Published on 303triathlon.com

My most recent post on 303triathlon!
Iron Tiara: Ditch the Gadgets!
By Kristina Jensen
How often do you find yourself staring down at your wrist during a run to monitor your speed or heart rate, completely unaware of your surroundings? Are you in the right zone, or do you need to pick up the pace, maybe slow it down a little? Do you live and die by the data that emanates from your watch, amidst its cold and calculating neon glow? Do those numbers at the end of a workout make or break your day? DOES DOING ALL THAT REALLY MAKE YOU HAPPY?

Over the course of the last few years, I have gained a sense of freedom and overall happiness breaking away from this technology crazed generation of triathletes. I generally don’t even wear a watch. ever. (Hm. Perhaps that’s why I am so dang late to just about everything, and I mean everything.) Am I in love with my iPhone though? H.E.L.L. Y.E.S! No shame here people. And I do run with it, as it blasts melodious tunes into my ear, covering up the sound of my horse-like clopping and heavy breathing. I live at 5,900 feet and there’s nothing quiet or graceful about my running gait. What can I say?
I also have an app on my phone that tracks my time and mileage. Everything I “do” throughout my workout though, is on a perceived effort. Do I “perceive” this run is going to suck because my legs feel like they weigh 100lbs each and decide to slow it down, maybe even walk? Or is my “perception” one in which my legs feel weightless and I am able to fly across the open road like the angel I am? (Right Mom? back me up here.)
If my legs have it in me, this challenge is going to be *my version* of fun. If they don’t, then I adjust quickly to the idea of taking up residence in the pain cave and forge ahead. Swearing and crying. [READ: *MY VERSION* OF FUN] Either way, I rely on my body and my mind to tell me what to do. The same thing happens on the bike. I have a pretty little pink computer that tells me time and distance. There’s no cadence or power being measured. It’s just me and my wheels, rolling through miles and miles of the beautiful 303.
Despite my more, um, relaxed mental approach to data-driven training days, I am a huge glutton for punishment. I welcome it. Please don’t misconceive my lack of training gadgetry as an excuse not to work hard. I work hard. damn hard. But I also know how to shut it all down and just go out and enjoy the elements. Sometimes, I
“stop to smell the roses” a bit too much and my 8 mile run turns into two hours of improving my Ansel Adams-like photography skills because I just have to admire the mountains, or that sunset. All kidding aside, I find it incredibly important to honor the beauty in which I am blessed to live. Being able to swim, bike and run in this gorgeous place makes me…happy.
I am often inspired to get up and run at 4:30am so that I can be the first to greet the sunrise, even if that is done on only five hours of sleep. (FYI, five hours is actually above-average for me...I have been an insomniac since I was a teenager.) Or I’ll purposely head out for an early evening bike ride so that I can bear witness to the power of our infamous late afternoon storms. Sometimes the lightning gets a little too close, and it’s suddenly time for some spontaneous speed work. Last summer while training for IMKY, I got caught in one of the most treacherous thunderstorms on the High Line Canal. At one point, the lightning was so close that I honestly thought I was going to die, as it blasted sideways, barely above the tree line. I quickly assessed my situation, determining that loitering under a clump of very tall trees, or assuming the fetal position under a metal bench would only add to the already increasing chances of my imminent death. I decided that my best option was to run. Fast. Needless to say, when I finished and looked at my splits, (ok, ok…the ONE time I wore my Garmin) I knew the exact moment that Mother Nature opted to test my physical limits. Never in my life have I intentionally been able to run a 6:45 pace for an ENTIRE mile. And I am sure I will never be able to do THAT again, barring all natural disasters of course. THAT is the power in which our surroundings can have over us.
My hope for you as you read over my random musings, is that while you’re out there chasing down your dream, one mile at a time, you are giving yourself the opportunity to experience the power and joy that the 303 has to offer. If Forbes Magazine recognizes Colorado as one of the Top Ten Happiest States in the nation, shouldn’t you know why? I’m not telling you NOT to fixate on your wrist, and maniacally calculate your splits, go for it! Maybe just lift your head up every now and again, and recognize that a PR isn’t the only thing that can make you…happy.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Iron Tiara: The Secret Ironman Handshake - Published on 303triathlon.com

Check out my most recent post on 303triathlon here!

In case you haven't heard, I now have my own column, called The Iron Tiara, on 303triathlon.com.  If you haven't visited that website, PLEASE DO, as it has so many relateable stories and is loaded full of useful information related to triathlon.  It doesn't all just apply to the 303! I've had some time to let IMTX sink in and wanted to write about the most special feeling in the world and the one "feature" of my body that I am absolutely in love with! Taken directly from their website (DON'T FORGET TO VISIT IT), I introduce to you my pearly whites and the power they give me!
Iron Tiara: The Secret Ironman Handshake
By Kristina Jensen
With Ironman Texas over a week behind me, I find myself asking the dreaded question, ”Now what?” And then I remember, Ironman Boulder is in nine weeks. Oh right. There’s that, along with the Redman Full Distance triathlon in Oklahoma City, seven weeks later. PHEW. There will be no shortage of summer training and guiltless consumption of mass calories for this girl, and the dreaded post-Ironman depression won’t set in for at least another five months. Yay! I imagine I represent a tiny percentage of the ultra-endurance triathlon community with my resolute and relentless enthusiasm, otherwise referred to by most as addiction, towards this self-sacrificing sport. I love it. LOVE IT!
Why? Gah! That’s easy to answer. It is primarily based on the marathon. Not because of the physical challenges of trying to make my deadened legs work, or digging deep and recognizing that I am strong enough to go 26.2 more miles. Let’s face it, if you can do anything for 114.4 miles, what’s another 26.2? [ENTER: MILD SARCASM] It goes way beyond that, and is actually quite simple in nature. It’s because I get to spend just a few more hours…smiling. Directly. at. people. That’s it…not exactly easy to do while swimming OR going 18mph on a bike, right? Are you disappointed that it’s less than the typical *sparkly* Iron Tiara response? To say that smiling is my favorite thing in the world to do would be absurd. There are plenty of things that I enjoy doing more, but it’s those things that I love to do that result IN smiling. And lots of it! I do things that make me happy and in my efforts to make the world a better place.
(PLEASE don’t mistake me for Mother Theresa…I fear a lightning strike so I need to be clear.) I have found that smiling is one of the most contagious actions on earth. It denotes joy and let’s face it, we could always benefit from a little more of it in our lives.
Deep down, I believe that everyone wants to be happy and feel joy, even during an Ironman, but sometimes there are those little “life hang-ups” that get in the way. I know this sounds crazy, but for those 26.2 miles, when I KNOW my fellow athletes are suffering, pained facial expressions clearly giving way, I find myself making eye contact that lasts a moment longer than comfortable…and smiling. And for that brief moment, I can see the joyful transformation on their faces, as they feel that we are suddenly part of some secret club, longed to be in by so many that stand loyally on the sidelines, cheering us home. Admittedly, it’s a damn cool club to be in, as membership is incredibly tough to gain.
And apart from the “secret handshake” exchanged to those members of this elite club, I also feel that I owe it to their beloved iron crews, offering gratitude and appreciation to their continuous sacrifices as we chase down our dreams.
The course support does not, and should not ever go unrecognized, as these dutiful family members and friends suffer in their own way, while we not only spend hours away training from them for months on end, but during a long ass day under the burning sun and in the stifling heat, just to make us feel a little more “secure.” Their wild enthusiasm, as they scream out praise to ALL of us, helps push each of us one step closer to accomplishing our goals. They deserve that same smile, letting them know I’m ok, even when I’m walking. That we’re all OK, even though some of us have an easier time showing it than others. I guess I feel a little obligated at times to represent us all.
Last week, I recall hearing things like, “I can’t believe that she is STILL smiling,” and “she absolutely has the best smile out here,” as I made my way onto the third loop of the run course. And all that did was make me smile harder. I swear my cheeks hurt so bad when I finished that I couldn’t even feel my battle scars, aka wicked sunburn and chaffing. I may not have had the speed that day that so many of my peers had, but I had S.P.I.R.I.T. [INSERT KATIE MACARELLI JAZZ HANDS] In my opinion, that will be far more remembered than my 13:56 finish or 10 minute bike PR. So if you are STILL wondering why I love Ironman so much, I ask that you look at the person next to you, make eye contact and just smile. You never know what kind of impact you could be making by that simple little gesture. But I assure you, it’s far more than you can ever imagine, as we all know that a sparkly little smile can actually go a very long way.