It Takes a Village to Raise an Ironman

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Lately I have been reading a lot about Scott Jurek’s thru hike on the Appalachian Trail. He recently broke the record for the fastest known time to thru hike the entire 2,189 mile trail, hiking from Georgia to Maine in forty-six days, eight hours and seven minutes. I can’t stop reading about it because it combines two things I’m passionate about, endurance sports and outdoor adventures. There are a lot of interesting articles chronicling all the adversity Jurek overcame and other articles explaining how an endeavor like this makes an athlete go deeper than they ever dreamed they could. However, one of my favorite things I read, was this portion of an article from Runner’s World,

“Jurek credited the record to his support crew, many of them ultramarathoners who came to help him push the pace. There was Walter Edwards, Jurek’s friend and fellow ultrarunner. There was adventure athlete Aron Ralston, famous for cutting off his own arm during a canyoneering accident in 2003—inspiring the movie 127 Hours.
For two weeks in June, there was elite endurance athlete Karl Meltzer. He joined Jurek to gain extra miles through the rocky trails in Pennsylvania. Meltzer is planning his own thru-hike record attempt next summer, after two failed attempts in the past eight years. He used his time crewing Jurek, both to help his friend and strategize his own trek.
Meltzer was not at Katahdin’s summit, but Jurek had a message for him from the top of the mountain: “Batter up, it’s your turn.” Jurek promised to return the favor and crew Meltzer during a section of the trail next year.
Then, of course, there was Jurek’s wife, Jenny. She served as his cook, his doctor, his driver, and his psychologist. For much of the trail she crewed him alone. It was her birthday Sunday. Jurek led the crowd in a rendition of “Happy Birthday” minutes after reaching the summit.
“This was a team effort,” Jurek said. “We got this record.””

I have read this over and over; endurance sports and triathlons are considered individual sports, where the participants compete as an individual. This, however, does not mean that there isn’t a team.  Even one of the best of the best (Jurek), has a team that rallied behind him, helping him reach his goal. The support crews don’t get the praise and accolades that an athlete receives once they achieve their goal, but that doesn’t matter, their reward is seeing their teammate, friend or family member succeed. It is truly humbling.
I am fortunate to be part of an amazing team and I know I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish my goals without them. Starting with my husband Ryan, he’s not out there just on race day, he is there all throughout the training. He is riding with me at a pace much below his ability, dropping me off at swim practice at 6 AM, even cleaning and cooking so I can attempt to get recovery in between workouts. And on race day, his support rises to a whole new level. When I do have the chance to see him for a few seconds during a race his excitement and joy is palpable. And it’s that energy that gives me the boost I need to get out of a dark place and keep moving.
Then there’s my family. They are supportive and encouraging all throughout the training and they have come to support me at not one but two Ironman races, flying across the country to do so. And I am not fast, so it is a LONG day for them.  But they are there without complaint, and I am humbled again when I see them sharing my accomplishments with their own friends and coworkeres.
Finally, my racelab coaches and teammates, these are the people that push me to new limits. They show me what I am capable of, not only that but they give me an outpouring of support and encouragement when race day arrives. I was absolutely floored by all the good luck and congratulations posts I received on facebook from my teammates and friends. At Coeur D’Alene this year I didn’t have the racelab cheer squad out there in full force, and sometimes that made it hard. Luckily, my friend Ashley had posted the picture of her and I above on my facebook wall days before the race, reminding me that she was going to be there in spirit cheering me on and pushing me when I needed it so I could have a strong race. SHE IS AMAZING. In dark moments during the race when I had trouble fighting off the negative thoughts on my own, there were two other things that kept me moving.  Knowing that I would see Ryan and my family soon, and remembering that picture that Ashley posted, it helped me to imagine my teammates there screaming their faces off to cheer me on.
The best part of the Jurek article is when he told Metzler “Batter up, it’s your turn.” Metzler will be attempting to break Jurek’s record next year, and guess who is going to be there helping him chase his dream…Jurek. That is why I love this sport.  Yes, you are pushing your individual limits and competing as an individual, but if you are lucky enough, you are never alone.

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