Facing my fears and setting my (real) goals

Having earned his slot to the Ironman World Championships for 2012, John’s obsession with qualifying for Kona has been satisfied. Apparently, obsessions can transfer over. I seem to have caught it, just as I prepare to set specific goals for the 2012 racing season.

This is an odd situation for me. I’ve told myself a variety of lies over the past three years about Kona. Here’s a sampling:

  • “Ironman isn’t about Kona for me. I just want to do the best I can.”
  • “I don’t race ironman to be competitive.”
  • “I race Ironman to find out something about myself.”

Well, do you know what I found out?

Ironman is about Kona for me. I want to do my best and I want that best to be competitive. I want to find out if I can place in the top 10 of my age group.

I want to qualify for Kona someday.

Just writing that sentence sends an electric shock through my body, inducing waves of fear and excitement, while making me feel like I should be on my bike RIGHT NOW instead of writing this post.

I suppose if I had been honest with myself from the beginning, I would have recognized that this triathlon thing has always  been about how fast can I go.

After my first Ironman, I was grateful to finish. It was the best day of my life. But, the day after the race, I started expressing my displeasure with a 13:33 finishing time.

I remember saying to John the next morning, “I wish I finished faster.”

As I crossed the finish line of my second Ironman this past July, I was happy to achieve a faster time – 12:51. But–you know what’s coming–it wasn’t fast enough. I wanted 12 hours. Not almost 13.

Heck, I did a swim fitness test this week, and I swam faster (way faster) than I EVER have. You know what I told my coach?

“I’m disappointed because I wanted to do it faster.”

I almost made myself puke because I swam so hard, but I was disappointed because it was a few seconds off of some arbitrary time I thought I should be able to swim. Yup, that’s a completely normal reaction.

Yeeeaaahhh, I’ve been in complete denial for the past three years. I told myself I didn’t care about qualifying for Kona because I am afraid that I might fail.

Openly declaring my desire to qualify for Kona is scary. The risk of failure is high, as only a small percentage of triathletes ever qualify. And, I’ve got a looonnnngggg way to go. The winner of my age group in Lake Placid this year went 10:32.  That is some scary-ass math people. Knocking off over 2 hours is daunting.

But, avoiding this goal because I’m afraid of failure just makes me a hypocrite. I’ve told many of my friends and family that they should not put off their goals and dreams because they are afraid they might fail.

“Face the fear,” I adamantly exclaimed to my sister-in-law Tracy one night as we talked about her desire to give triathlons a try. “So what if you fail? You’ll try again.”

Yeah, that is really good advice, Self. I should listen to you more often.

So, I’m not going to ignore the big lava-field-in-the-room any more. Here it is, plain and simple: I want to be a qualified entrant for the 2013 Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.


Okay, this is a big goal, and completely overwhelming if I think about all it will take to get there. So like every other goal I’ve ever set for myself, I’m breaking this one into sub-goals that will help me reach the big kahuna. The first step is saying the goal out loud, and writing it down. This holds me accountable.

I’ve also been working with a great coach, Vince Matteo. I strongly believe he has the ability to take this zero to hero. He’s coached himself to Kona twice. Since October, I’ve already seen noticeable gains in my swim and my biking. And, coming off a year of suffering with ITBS, my running is doing pretty good as well.

But, let’s face it, my run isn’t what’s keeping me from qualification. At Lake Placid this summer, my marathon was the 15th fastest in my age group, 53rd fastest female, and 334th overall fastest marathon (men & women) – and that was with an injury and popping Alieve the entire way to stave off the pain. All I have to do is stay healthy this year, and I can rock that run.

But, my bike? Yeah, not so hot. 67th in my division and the 343rd female.  Overall, male & female, I was almost LAST PLACE. The swim numbers are even worse. Let’s not even talk about them.

So, I will work toward my larger goal, by working toward speed, endurance and efficiency improvements in biking and swimming. This will include the purchase of a power meter for racing this season. Brand tips & suggestions are very welcome. (Power meter sponsors are ALSO welcome!)

I will improve my  bike handling and GET IN THOSE F’N AEROBARS (I didn’t sit in my aerobars once at IMLP).

As I move to qualify for 2013, I will trade in my road bike for a tri bike. One more season racing on the road bike (mostly for financial reasons – unless some awesome bike sponsor would like to help me out for this year?!)

I will do whatever Vince puts in my Training Peaks log.

I will relish the suffer in the pursuit of my goal. There are no limits to what I can achieve if I will embrace the goal and believe.

I’ve got two years to make it happen.

I. Will. Do. This.

I. CAN. Do. This.


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  5. Maria!
    I was referred to your blog by online friends-triathlets. And as my family actively involved in Ironman races (Cozumel 2011, Mont-Tremblant 2012), where I was only a supporter, I am second year in my triathlon training, but not racing, due to swim leg fear.
    I would like to thank you for encouraging posts!
    Especially this one!
    I wil speak my goals loud and I will achieve them one day!

    1. Thanks for visiting!

      Don’t let those swim fears keep you from going for it! I learned to swim only when I started doing triathlon. I had only been swimming for a year when I did my first Ironman. YOU CAN DO IT!

      Here are some posts I’ve written here and elsewhere you might find useful:
      Survive (and even enjoy) your first triathlon swim: http://www.nolimitsendurance.com/2012/07/27/your-first-triathlon-swim/

      Learning to swim requires balance: http://www.nolimitsendurance.com/2012/02/17/learning-to-swim-requires-balance/

      Swimming in doubt: https://www.runningalife.com/swimming-in-doubt/, and in general – check out the “swimming” category on this site. And, feel free to email me if you have questions.

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  7. I LOVE this! You are a few years ahead of me in Ironman, but I feel that my progression might be very similar. I am starting myself out with as much of an advantage as possible, and just bought myself a powertap wheel from November Bicycles (they’re in Maryland, but can ship anywhere). They were really helpful in determining what I needed and the price was really reasonable. Good luck!

  8. carole

    You go girl! If I can think of one person right now that can do it . . . . it is you! Follow your dreams and keep stepping out of your box . . . you will get there and I hope to go and watch you do it in person!!! You truly inspire!

  9. awesome!

    I love this

    dont worry about where you think you are today with finish time vs where you need to be. once you do the hard work training and continue racing you will find all sorts of new things that enhance your performance…you will find it.


  10. John

    I think you just took the first steps towards your goal. So proud of you for your persistence. Maria forgot to mention she could hardly swim when we started training for IMLP 2010. Now she is killing it in the pool and on the Velo.
    I have no doubt you will get where you want to be. You always find a way. Enjoying this new lifestyle with you everyday!

  11. You are so inspiring! As hard as you work, I have no doubt you will be lining up at the swim start in Hawaii in about 22 months. Thanks for letting your readers in on your goal – I am excited to follow your big adventure!

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