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Friday FITspiration: Lessons from a First Ironman Experience

October 24, 2014

Here at runladylike.com, Fridays are all about sharing the inspiring stories of fit people who motivate all of us to be better tomorrow than we were yesterday. My Friday FITspiration series profiles runners, triathletes and casual exercisers who are making choices every day to be as healthy as they can be – in both huge ways and through simple, small victories. Their stories are about the journey of transforming from ordinary to extraordinary each and every day.

“Ironman gave me the clarity to really understand myself more than ever before. To stop trying to define myself by my surroundings or fit into the prescribed box I should belong in. It gave me the freedom to freely explore who I want to be, what I want in my life and what I want to pass along to my children.” ~Amy Lauth

When I spectated at IRONMAN Chattanooga last month, I was moved deeply in ways I wasn’t expecting. One of the many friends I was there to support was my friend Amy Lauth. We met through this blog in 2012 and trained together for IRONMAN Augusta 70.3. We quickly bonded during 3-hour training rides and long runs.

After Augusta, Amy completed her first marathon, which she shared with all of us. After finishing her first Ironman in September, she wrote some reflections from the race and shared them with me. I immediately asked her if I could share them here, and I’m glad she said yes.

Find out the lessons Amy learned from training for and completing her first IRONMAN in her own words.

“Ironman is a transformative journey that takes most of us a year to complete. It culminates in a grueling day and crossing the finish line to hear the famous, coveted line, “You are an Ironman.” There is so much emotion at that finish line – for every participant and spectator and for people back home tracking and watching. Deep down, we all know that something amazing has happened … but it’s the story leading up to that moment that captures the real magic of Ironman.

“For me, my journey began 4 years ago when I participated in my first sprint triathlon with a good friend celebrating the milestone of turning 40. The feeling of success and accomplishment that day had me hooked, and I quickly progressed to increase my distance and became a bit of an endurance junkie. During that time, I ran a handful of half marathons, tackled several sprint and Olympic distance races, two half Ironman races and my first marathon … and I joined a great team and coach through Dynamo Multisports. All the while I knew, deep down, that Ironman was calling me. But I was unsure of when, where or how it would happen.

“I remember the day clearly – a beautiful fall day in September last year on my way to meet a triathlete friend for lunch when the news posted on Facebook, came in my email and suddenly in texts and calls from friends – they were opening a new Ironman in Chattanooga. I’ve always loved Tennessee – having lived there as a small child, attended Vanderbilt University and raced in Chattanooga several times. I knew this was my race, and when I managed to get a spot to race in the inaugural Ironman Chattanooga – which sold out 3 minutes after opening – it seemed more meant to be than I could have imagined.

“And then the work began.

“I love to train. I was never daunted by the schedule that I knew I would work toward. I enthusiastically attacked my training schedule, embraced the aches and pains and fatigue that came later in training – the juggling of my schedule as a working mom and an Ironman-in-training and the work of maintaining balance. Toward the end, I let Ironman take over my brain as I meticulously planned race day strategy, nutrition, equipment, hotels and schedules. I fought off a cold at the end of my taper that left me paranoid and worrying that a simple cold was going to ruin my year of dedication.

“What happened along the way – as I tackled those long rides, labored through long runs and walked around in a chlorine-induced haze – is that I reached a new clarity on who I am at my core. And I found my people. Let’s face it, people who race endurance are an odd breed, and I am no exception. The great gift of Ironman for me, was finding the people who finally understood me with very little explanation needed. The triathlon community is a unique and diverse place. No two of us are exactly alike. We come from all over the world. We are men and women. We have different kinds of jobs. Some of us are married, some have kids, some are single. But there is something indescribable at our core that bonds us. Finding a community of people who accept you for all your strengths and all your weaknesses, which they surely get to know on 100 mile rides, is an amazing gift.

“For me, this gave me the clarity to really understand myself more than ever before. To stop trying to define myself by my surroundings or fit into the prescribed box I should belong in. It gave me the freedom to freely explore who I want to be, what I want in my life and what I want to pass along to my children. I found pride in what is different about me and a belonging, unlike I’d ever know before. And I came to realize, in a real and practical way, that it is when people embrace your faults that you find the confidence to let your strengths soar and grow.

“It was with this foundation of friendship and support, built during the year and many miles of training, that I arrived in Chattanooga to successfully race 144.6 miles. It was two weeks (or more) of supportive listening and encouragement from dear triathlete friends promising me I could do this when doubts began to creep in. It was the smiles and cheers of encouragement from teammates and a tightly clasped hand of a friend as I anxiously began to cry before the swim start. It was the encouraging smiles and words from training partners as I flustered with a flat tire just out of transition. It was riding side by side with a teammate up a hill – and another teammate standing there all day, by himself, to cheer us on. It was seeing one of my training partners at the end of the race on our way to the finish line and her encouragement and deep understanding of where I was at. And it was the triathlete community and our supporters – quite literally willing me through a brutal run.

Amy with her training partners (From left to right: Teesha, Reiko, Andrea, Maria, Amy)
Amy with her training partners (From left to right: Teesha, Reiko, Andrea, Maria, Amy)

This is the magic of Ironman. While that day alone changes you with its amazing highs and its deep and painfully dark lows, it is really the journey that leads up to that moment and the people surrounding it that define Ironman for me. I was speaking to a friend the other day who became an Ironman many years ago. She said whether you go on to do more Ironman races or you only do one, it is always a part of who you are. I definitely think that is true. There is something about knowing how deep down you can go – how far you can push and come back – that prepares you in a unique way to face life’s challenges. For me, I will return to Ironman. I’m not sure when or where or how just yet, but I will return. I suspect many times. And whether or not I am out on an Ironman course in 2015, I know that the friends I have made on this journey will now be riding alongside me for many years to come as we support each other on and off the road. This is the one of the most precious and lasting gifts of Ironman.”

This is the picture I took of Amy after she finished IM Chattanooga.
This is the picture I took of Amy after she finished IM Chattanooga.

If you or someone you know would be a great candidate for Friday FITspiration, email me at runladylike@gmail.com.

What are the most important lessons you have learned from your racing experiences?

On the Trail to Marathon Recovery + LÄRABAR Giveaway

October 23, 2014

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