How does someone go from infertility appointments to Ironman training in the course of a year?
For me, it started with a question. What does life look like after infertility? Like most people in the throws of fertility treatments, I pictured rocking a newborn in a freshly decorated nursery as the final stop on my fertility journey, but this was not in the cards for me. After several rounds of IVF and a severely depleted bank account, there was no baby, and I was left wondering; what’s next?
I had spent years going to appointments several times a week, administering endless injections, temping, charting, and taking my medication at the exact minute my doctors instructed in order to optimize our chances. Fertility treatments had become a full-time job, in addition to my actual full-time job, and raising my daughter (I was blessed with a gorgeous little girl through fertility treatments years before).
Suddenly, I had no more appointments, my bum was starting to heal from the thousands of shots, and I felt lost. I remember crying on the bathroom floor after getting the call that the latest round of IVF was unsuccessful. I called my sister and asked her, what I was going to do now? What was life after infertility going to look like for me? I was sad, deeply sad, and angry. Angry that my body had not done what I felt it was meant to do. It seemed like everyone else could get pregnant whenever they wanted, why couldn’t I? I felt alone. I also felt really gross from the 15 pounds I had gained due to all the hormones I had pumped into my body for so many years.
I mourned the loss of the idea of a new baby, a sibling for my daughter, a little girl or boy that I was sure would complete our family. I had dark days when friends would announce a pregnancy and I would want to cry in the sho wer for hours. I would be brought to tears when a well-meaning family member, friend, or even stranger would ask when we were going to have another baby.
One day I dragged myself out of bed, pulled on my big girl undies, and told myself it was time to start living again. I cleared out my linen closet of all the leftover fertility meds, ovulation tests, pregnancy tests, sharps containers, and unused syringes. I finally got around to painting the spare bedroom that I had left unpainted for years because every month I was SURE I would be getting the call that it had worked and I could start planning the nursery.
The most impactful thing that I did came a few weeks after our last attempt. I dug out my running shoes and struggled into workout clothes that were now much too small, thanks IVF meds!! I decided I would run to the end of my road, it was one mile. I ran at a snail’s pace and had to walk a lot, but I ran a mile down the road, and a mile back. I felt amazing. I had been a runner in high school and on and off during my adult life. I even trained for and completed, a marathon in 2009. Running was familiar; it felt a bit like visiting with an old friend. They say running is cheaper than therapy, and for me, it was exactly what I needed, every mile was balm on my wounds (I would in no way discount the importance of professional therapy as everyone needs to find what works best for them).
After a few weeks of my slow slogs to the end of the road and back, I finally made the two-mile trip without a single walk break. When I got home, I signed up for the Lake Placid Half Marathon. Lake Placid is my hometown, and the idea of going home to race seemed like the perfect comeback for me. As a fun challenge during my half marathon training, I signed up for a local duathlon, and after very little training, I managed to place in my age group. It was my first ever multi-sport event and I was hooked! That duathlon had awoken a long forgotten dream of doing the Lake Placid Ironman.
I started picturing myself at the start line of the race I had grown up watching. The idea scared me, REALLY scared me, I mean 140.6 miles seems impossible, even crazy! But I had survived so much already and I started hearing a whisper in my mind saying, “I can do this.” The more I thought about it, the more excited I got. I found myself dreaming about the race every night, and before I had ever done a triathlon, I signed up for an Ironman and took off on a new adventure, Ironman training. I signed up for a small sprint triathlon and a half Ironman, hired my amazing coach, and haven’t looked back.
I’m grateful for the strength I was able to find in myself as a result of my infertility journey. Even the hardest workouts in the worst conditions are a blessing. Hours on the bike trainer in my basement can be downright boring, mile repeats hurt and can leave me near tears, but it sure is better than a progesterone shot in the butt! My experience with infertility and my Ironman journey have made me appreciate that I am healthy and I am strong. My body isn’t broken after all! I GET to swim, bike, and run because I am blessed with a body that is strong and able. Infertility lead me to triathlon, and triathlon saved me.
Written by McKenzie Trotter, Siren Luminary
Follow McKenzie on Instagram @kenztrot