Guest Post by Stephanie Allen
There are a million and one reasons why people step into the world of triathlons. Some for the physical challenge, others for the glory, but I’d say for many it is reasons very similar to my own… to find an arena that pushes you past everything you ever dared to dream possible. Four years ago if you would have told the 181 lbs. me I would complete two 140.6 full distance triathlons, myself, and everyone I know would have laughed in your face! Hell, if you would have told me I’d run a 5K I would have assured you no way unless I was being chased! Then something changed… this small little voice inside my head began to whisper to me that I was worthy of being healthy. My day one journey began with me having to stop and walk when trying to run a half-mile… Every day my goal was to just go a little further than the day before. The further I was able to run the louder that little voice of self worth became.
In my late 20’s I entered a new season of life, which put me back in my home-town. My father, desperate to reignite the spark in his seemingly vacant daughter put me in the saddle of a bike. Every morning we would spin our way along the dewy, foggy, tri-county triangle trail. It was there in those early mornings where my father brought me back to life and gave me a passion for a bike. One of these mornings as we were working our way along the trail I expressed to my dad, “ I think I should learn to swim… I mean hell, I run, I bike, why not tri.” Three short months later I entered my first sprint distance triathlon. Fun, yet crossing the finish line did not give me this rewarding moving experience I was hoping for. I felt, incomplete. I decided it was too short, that I need to skip this little stuff and do a full! A year after my first sprint I jumped in the water at the Cedar Point full REV3 on September 8, 2012. 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2 mile run. Lets just say this 140.6 was not the astonishing athletic performance I was hoping for! I came out of the water at 2:18:32, they disqualify you at 2:20:00! The bike was full of low cadence spinning and two flat tires! The run actually was not that lacking until about mile 18 when my knees, and kidneys both said, ENOUGH! I crossed the finish line 15:44:52 after entering the water. Most would have jumped for joy! However, the cloud of “incompletion” once again hovered over my head! . Perhaps it was due to my sub 16-hour finish time, or maybe it was because my friends and family were unable to be there to cheer me on. Either way, I resolved to set out on a mission. I wanted to finish a 140.6 triathlon in less than fourteen hours.
They say insanity is doing the same thing expecting different results, so I knew if I wanted to be better, everything about my training had to be better as well. I began a seek and destroy of all the major mistakes that happened at the Rev3. I was in the water a horrifying 2 hours 19 minutes (they disqualify you at 2:20). I was in desperate need of a swim coach! I found Kevin Ryan, a Lexington local Pro triathlete, who swam competitively at University of Kentucky. Kevin agreed to coach me in all three disciplines, swim, bike, and run, and on February 15, 2013 training for Ironman Louisville commenced!
Kevin had me spending, what most would consider “excessive” time in the water and on the bike, since that proved to be my weaker points. He also informed me that I was on a bike 4 sizes too big! I am 5’2” and I was riding a 56 bike! A visit to pedal power, and a proper fit with John landed me on a 2013 Cannondale Slice size 47. I lovingly named the bike Ricky Bobby, because, lets face it “I like to go fast”. I forced myself out of my toxic comfort zone and joined in on rides with cyclists that are at a performance level I strive to reach. I have learned one hard and true fact about cycling in Kentucky, and that is if you don’t LOVE hills, you better start!
The road to Ironman Louisville would be just 11 short months after the Rev3. Along the way I would stop at 1 marathon, 1 sprint distance tri, 2 Olympic distance tri, and Ironman Muncie 70.3. My times were getting better and better at every race along the way. My endurance proved to be holding up, and my recovery time seemed to be next to nothing. I was right on target with my training plan except for one dark cloud looming over me…”race weight”! I believe if you want to be at the peak of your performance level you must be the definition of health. I also believe that you can condition the body to do anything at any size… however when it comes to speed size really does mater. Louisville was here before I knew it and the extra pounds I picked up after the Rev3 was holding on as well. I decided that I had to mentally forget about race weight and demand my body give it all that I had
August 25, 2013 began with a 4am alarm. Transition opened at 4:45 and fearful of repeating last years swim I wanted to be as close to the front of the line as I could get! The current was strong in the Ohio River that morning. It was a strong pull to the first turn buoy when I was freed to swim with the current of the wonderfully clean Ohio. I broke from the pack and headed to the inside of the river where the current would be the strongest. I came out of the water with a personal record of 1 hour 25 minutes!! I even wiped the water off my watch to make sure I was reading it right. Quick transition to the bike, where I would settle into for the best part of the day. I had biked the IM Louisville bike course five times prior to the race. However, never with so many people, and so much heat and humidity! The pace was mentally set for me on the portion of the bike course known as “the out and back” located in the first 25 miles of the course. As I descended the first hill down I saw the flashing lights of the ambulance on the other side of the road. All cyclists were slowed to an almost stop. I saw blood first, and as I broke free past the ambulance was chilled at the sight of the non-responsive cyclist. The race continued, regardless of my state of mind. Just past Lagrange, I was lucky recipient of a yellow card for drafting, which landed me at the next penalty tent for a moment. A grueling 6 hours and 50 minutes later I was off the bike (my goal was to be off the bike in under 6:30). Free do to what I do best, RUN! And for a long time at that! I took off on the run feeling great, legs felt fine, head was right. Around mile 7 pain in my planter fascia set in, and by mile 13 I felt as if with every stride my left heal was coming down on glass. My boyfriend ran along side of me for a couple miles to distract me from the pain. Distraction in hand, I put my neck up and did my best to run tall as if there was no pain at all. I turned the corner heading in the last 4-mile home stretch and saw my brothers waiting on the sidewalk to run me home. My oldest brother looked at me and said “ hey we are all just out on a fun evening Sunday run with the brothers and sister, You got this!”. He was right! I looked at my watch and saw that my hopes of a sub 14 hour had not escaped me. I just had to hold on and maintain pace 4 more miles! I crossed the finish line at Ironman Louisville 13:52 after I entered the water. I was embraced by my family, and friends… Finely I had completed my incomplete completion. When I did my first triathlon, it was to prove to everyone else that I was able. When I did the Rev3 it was to prove to myself that I was able. Ironman Louisville was about KNOWING I was able and getting to bask in that joy.