I've always had a "go big or go home" personality, and that is exactly how I've approached my journey in the sport of triathlon. After a handful of sprints and a successful bike finish as a part of a relay last summer at AC 70.3, I was ready to take on the whole thing myself! I started training in February for Ironman Maine 70.3, focusing mainly on the swim which was definitely my weakness. I worked with a swim coach who is the best of the best, and built my endurance in the pool. I continued to focus on biking and running, using The Ironfit Secrets training plan. Everything was going smoothly.
In early July, my family was thrown a huge curveball. My ex-husband (and father of my two children) passed away unexpectedly of a pulmonary embolism. I have never experienced such a devastating loss and was now faced with the overwhelming job of helping my children deal with the loss of their father.
What does that mean now for my goal of doing a 70.3 this summer? It only took a short conversation with my husband Brian (also registered to race) for me to decide that I would have to soldier on. I couldn’t let my kids see their mom quit when times were tough. My husband told me his training would take a back seat if need be and he would race with me instead of going for a PR of his own. What a gift! Training also provided much-needed stress relief during this extremely difficult time. Before I knew it, we were in the car with all four of our kids heading to Maine. After a 6+ hour drive, we arrived in Old Orchard Beach, an adorable town just outside of Portland. My parents caravanned behind us to cheer us on and hang with the kids while we raced. We had a great time exploring the area and checking out Ironman village the day before. I received so many compliments on my “Tri Now, Wine Later” tank!
Race day was finally here!
Despite my history of complete panic in the open water, I had an amazing swim! Thanks to a rolling self-seeded start that allowed me to swim with Brian and an athlete coordinated practice swim the day before, I was mentally calm and ready. The water was cold, but once we got moving it felt refreshing. The sun was rising over the calm water and I was actually having fun! It felt like a gift to have the opportunity to do this. We finished the swim and saw our family as we climbed out of the water onto the sand. After the quarter mile trek to transition, our swim time was 50 minutes.
After a quick T1, we were off on the bike. The bike course was hillier than I had expected, but I am used to climbing so it wasn’t a big deal. Most of the bigger climbs were in the first half and we had some nice downhill stretches on the way back. I was planning on a 15 mph average and we came into to T2 after 3:39 on the bike. Right on the money!
I felt the least prepared for the run because that is where my training took the biggest hit during the last few weeks of the summer. I planned on using a run/walk strategy and it paid off. The run course was a beautiful out and back on the Eastern Trail. The temperature was cool and the trail was shady, we couldn’t have asked for more perfect conditions. My “run a mile, walk a minute” turned into walking through the well-stocked aid stations. Making our way back into town towards the finish line was surreal and exciting, even though I had hit a bit of a mental wall around mile 10. Brian encouraged me to tell my legs to “shut the heck up” and keep going, so I did! Before I knew it we were running down the chute with our kids and my parents cheering us in! We did it! My run time was 2:47, pretty much exactly what I had expected.
My only real goal was to finish this race under the cutoff, make my family proud, inspire them to always do their best no matter what life throws at them. I finished in 7:37 and am thrilled with the outcome. I can’t wait to do it again!
Written by Kelly Keller Crouthamel
Follow Kelly on Instagram! @kkc1927
Have you ever had to overcome personal challenges to follow through with a race? Tell us about it in the comments below!