I Did It! Reflections on Achieving What Once Seemed Impossible

possible_imageOn Sunday morning I ventured out with two other women, Anita, whom I’m training for a half marathon with, and Julie, whom I know from my 10K training group last winter and who is now in Anita’s half marathon group at the Running Room.

The run was an LSD–short for “long, slow distance”–20K at a leisurely pace with 10-1 run-walk intervals. We committed to a pace that was supremely conversational.

That meant 2.5 hours of chat.  Within the first breezy, chilly 5K of the morning, Julie told us about a friend who completed an Ironman this summer. So impressive!  Hardly imaginable. “But she always knocks herself down by saying she finished near to last,” Julie said.

You know how sometimes you hear a thing and it makes something in your head go “click”?  I heard myself in Julie’s friend.  Not the Ironman part. The part about knocking myself down.

I ran a 10K race!  But I could have done it faster.

I did an Olympic distance triathlon! But I almost came in last.

Even though I tried to be positive whenever I blogged about my races over the past little while, and I always ended on an upnote about how “at least” I did it, I’ve never truly allowed myself to soak in the magnitude of my physical accomplishments over the past little while.

The closest I got was my birthday post, where I talked about how far I’ve come since we started the blog. But I don’t think even there that I fully appreciated what the two Olympic distance triathlons actually mean for me.

It’s not about where I placed. It’s about finishing what I started.

Here’s some perspective:  Sam re-posted my first 5K race report from two years ago (October 2013).  The day I did that 5K, 5K was the longest I’d ever done! I felt nervous as hell–and the race didn’t even have timing chips!  I’d been running less than a year and the very thought of ever doing triathlon was about as remote the possibility that I may one day climb Everest (ZERO–no desire and I don’t understand why people do that).

When I dipped my toe into triathlon with my first Kincardine Women’s Triathlon in the summer of 2013, it lit a fire in me, but Olympic distance?  Impossible.

But that impossible goal supplanted my pre-triathlon fittest by 50 goal of running a half marathon. I re-jigged my training, started swimming with a coach, and even joined a triathlon club.

Before the snow from our polar vortex winter of 2014 melted, the impossible began to come into view.  I told my coach that was the distance I wanted to train for. I made public declarations about my intention.

When I was at my computer, instead of working, or even procrastinating from work on Facebook, I read and re-read websites detailing the summer events within driving distance of London.

By the time the first flowers of spring were in bloom, I’d committed to Bracebridge in August and Lakeside in September. For me, paying the money meant no turning back.

I trained.  And trained. And trained. I hauled myself out of bed for 6 a.m. swims in Sharon’s Creek.  I forced myself to ride the road bike (here is where I would normally add in some kind of complaint about how much I detested it and how little progress I made, but I refuse to go there today). I ran as early as possible to avoid the heat of the day.  Once, I came home from work at noon and did a brick workout to test my capacity to run in the noon heat just in case I ever happened to be doing that on race day (and I did, in Bracebridge).

So that’s triathlon. And I’m feeling awesome that I did it.

About running.  Back in the spring when I did the 10K in the Forest City Road Race, I watched the half marathoners with awe.  It seemed unfathomable to me that anyone would be able to complete 21K.

Then, after a little coaxing from my friend, Anita, the goal just didn’t seem all that out of reach.  She wanted someone to run the Toronto Waterfront Half with her on October 19th. I checked my calendar.  Available. I signed up (remember: once I pay, I’m there!).

With just over a month between the Lakeside Olympic distance and the Toronto half, I had a month to shift my attention to running. I love the long chatty runs. But a couple of weekends in a row I had to do long ones — 18K — by myself. And I did.

Which brings me to last Sunday, on our leisurely 20K, chatting and watching our pace and logging the distance one step at a time.  What once seemed impossible had the character of an unhurried coffee date with friends. Yes. 20K. Like going for coffee.

I’m really liking this thing–this thing of doing the impossible.

What have you done that once seemed impossible?  I’d love to hear about it! If you can’t think of something, how about making a decision to work towards a new, seemingly impossible goal?

You’ll feel kind of pumped once you do it.



17 thoughts on “I Did It! Reflections on Achieving What Once Seemed Impossible

  1. I ran a marathon – my first one at 41years old. I ran my first half at 38yo and couldn’t IMAGINE doubling up the distance. Three years later and there I was, at the start line of my first full marathon. I had an absolute ball – just like over 4 hours of coffee time with friends…. Then I did it again this year and am now planning my third. I am addicted. All of a sudden a half ironman doesn’t seem out of contention. It is amazing what you can do when you set your mind to it. Thanks for sharing!!!

    1. Fantastic! Thank you for sharing. It’s great to hear from other women who are pushing the limits later in life. Congrats on all you’ve done so far and all the best for the fun times ahead.

  2. So far, it’s a sprint tri. I’m a strong swimmer, a decent biker and not a great runner, plus I’m solidly Athena-sized, so it’s no small feat for me to run a 5k after the swim and bike. I’ve done two sprints this year (May and last weekend) — I would have never imagined I’d be able to, much less enjoy triathlons!!

    Now, in the off season, I’m focusing on weight loss and running. My weight loss is driven almost entirely by the desire to be faster on the bike and run — who is this person I’ve become?! And now I’m signing up for a 10k in February (I’m in Virginia, so it won’t be too terribly cold) — who’d-a-thunk-it?!

    My next big goal is open water swimming. I’ve only done races with pools so far — and will do one again in April 2015 — but next summer I’ll make the literal plunge into the James River with a local OWS coaching group and do a late summer sprint tri with an OWS. Then, in 2016: Olympic distance here I come!!

    This is an amazing (im)POSSIBLE journey for me! Thanks for writing a post that got me thinking about it. I’m downright proud of myself.

    1. So exciting! I hope you come to enjoy open water swimming as much as I do. I recommend a good wetsuit for comfortable open water swimming. Proud indeed! Best of luck next season.

  3. Love it! This made me grin from ear to ear. My new thing…never thought it impossible but it surprised me…is my new found ability to do things after a hard bike ride. I’ve been shocked that I can do the advanced aikido class after a tough bike ride. Active cool down? But it’s tough too. Anyway, yes it’s a delight. And so happy that you see your progress this way.

    1. That combo of hard bike ride followed by aikido fills me with awe! And you’re right, it’s an achievement in itself and shows your good conditioning. Ive only just leaned about active recovery this year and I like the concept. But an advanced aikido class is probably a bit more active then ‘they’ have in mind.

  4. In 2006, I had a really bad bicycle accident that required knee surgery (tibial plateau fracture). I was none weight-bearing for almost 6 months. I’d been a casual runner before, doing the occasional 5 or 10K race. When I finally got my leg brace off and got the go-ahead from the surgeon to starting weight-bearing, I asked him if would still be able to run. He used the most derisive tone to say, “Well you’ll never run a marathon.” Getting my muscles back took a really long time. I joined a walking group at the Running Room first and then progressed back to running. I worked up to longer races. It didn’t seem very possible, but even though I didn’t admit it anyone at the time, I really wanted to complete a marathon. (I’d actually wanted to before my accident, but thought I’d have a lifetime to do it, so never prioritized it.)

    In 2008, my best friend and I rented a car and drove to Kelowna for the weekend, and I managed to complete my first (and only) marathon. It might have made not enjoy running as much. I’ve cut down on it a lot. I don’t intend on ever running more than a half-marathon distance in the future. But I’m super glad I got to do it once, and that my surgeon (who was pretty rude most of the time) was proven wrong.

    1. I find that having someone else say ‘you’ll never do X’ is a great motivator for us defiant types! It has a totally different effect than ‘I could never do X.’ Congrats on running a marathon and on recovering beyond expectations!

  5. Hey Tracy!

    congratulations on your blog and on achieving your goals! This post reminded me of my first adventure with what seems impossible.

    in about 1985 a friend from the gym i attended (in those days i was a typical 80’s cardio-Barbie) persuaded me to enter a two day bike tour; “Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour” from Ottawa to Kingston, returning the following day. About 165 km each way.

    “Okay! Why not?” says I.

    I told my husband what i was doing and he said “you don’t own a bike”

    Me: “so, I’ll rent one”

    He: ” you are going to ride a bike to Kingston..from Ottawa. How are you going to get back?”

    Me: “we ride back the next day”.

    He: “i guess i better come with you”

    So, i rented a hybrid. regular pedals, not even toe straps. I wore an old cotton tshirt, gym tights and running shoes. Thank goodness for the gel saddle!

    Husband bought a brand new road bike and assorted kit. He was a runner but not yet a cyclist.

    Needless to say, i had no idea what i was getting into. Ranked right up there with childbirth on the “i had no idea what i was getting into” scale.

    Long hills, head winds, traffic…endless miles!

    Head down, just keep watching that wheel go around. Trying to stay on husband’s wheel, otherwise i think i would have given up. Husband kept looking around and saying “you’re still here!” Never was sure if he was surprised or disappointed, LOL!

    I was in tears when we arrived. Part exhaustion, part amazement.
    Soooo sore the next day, but too stubborn to quit. Rode home on
    Advil and a really sore butt!

    Was i crazy to do this with no cycling training? Of course; and naive. But i survived and i have a great story to tell. And after that, nothing seems impossible!

    I became a cyclist. Got a great road bike, padded shorts, clipless pedals, the whole shebang. Did Rideau Lakes several more times. But that first time; when i had no idea and no expectations…that was the best!

  6. Ahhhh this post is so great. I feel so fortunate to have gotten to witness a lot of this, even though it’s been through the internet. You have so much to be proud of.

    As for your question? I often feel like all of it – everything from the first time I ran a mile up to the half-Ironman and the ultras – is like some kind of conquest over the impossible. I often remember where I was when I started out and how all of this seemed so impossible in the beginning, and yet, here I am. I try really hard not to take that for granted.

    1. Thank you, Caitlin. Feeling pretty good about it all. And I can see from your post tonight that you are (justifiably) feeling good about your evolution as an athlete too. Lots of awesomeness to go around!

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