Thursday, October 17, 2013

With Thanks, In Advance

October 17 is auspicious to me. Because November 17 is IMAZ.

That’s right folks.

One month from today. My Ironman is one month from today.

I’ve got two solid weeks to keep ramping up hard before I taper. I think I need another two years.

Sometimes I feel nervous or even anxious about my race, but mostly I hope I’m ready.

Not ready in the I’m-totally-prepared way.

Rather, I feel ready in the I-don’t-know-what-to-expect-so-let’s-have-an-adventure way. In the let’s-get-this-over-with way. Even ready in the I’m-actually-a-little-bit-excited-to-see-what-I-can-do-out-there way.

I honestly don’t know how race day will go.

By stating this, I am not giving myself a pre-race excuse to fail. Nor am I trying to humble-brag or be self-deprecating. I’m also not asking for a pep-talk or reassurance or advice.

I simply honestly don’t know how race day will go.

Wait. Did I say that already?

Well I mean it. It’s true.

No one knows how their race will go until it’s over.

I don’t really consider myself a pessimist or an optimist. Rather, I like to think of myself as a realist. A goal-oriented realist with a hint of optimism, especially when I’m about to go over the edge into the unknown.

This year I have both trained and raced. I wish I could say I’ve trained with exactness, but that would be a lie. And possibly also unrealistic, although some people do it.

When I race, we all know I’m pretty slow, and IMAZ has internal cut-offs. So I worry about that. And dialing in my nutrition. And the fact that the race is so long.

There are a lot of things that affect long-distance days: cardio, muscle strength, nutrition, equipment, injuries and weather--not to mention general health and well-being & energy/fatigue levels.

Something as simple as waiting in a long line for a porta-potty can effectively change your race time.

One day can be very different than the next based on myriads of factors.

Whether my race day ends up being perfect, bad, just okay, or mostly good although tiring (I’m hoping for the last as it seems most optimistically realistic), I have so many people to thank for all their support and help along the way.

I feel strongly that I should do this in advance of my race, so here goes!


First, please understand there is no way I can list all the people who have ever lifted me up; there are too many.

If I mentioned here everyone who has ever posted a kind word on Facebook, sent me a text, a call, or a congratulations? Google would run out of server space. So if you've been a part of that, thank you.

Please know now and forever that I appreciate you for your genuine support. In many ways, your individual thoughts & actions have been some of the most influential encouragement I have received and continue to rely on. If I wrote all the goodness, I'd never sleep, and I'm running 15 miles at 6AM, so at some point I'll need to go to bed. 

Despite this, there are a few individuals whose special talents and abilities have been paramount to my journey. I’d be remiss not to mention them specifically.


Keena Schaerrer, head coach
Keena is everything a coach should be: encourager, schedule provider, mentor. Keena has not only competed at the Ironman 70.3 and KONA championships, but she’s kept her composure and sense of humor this year as she’s battled a serious injury, a circumstance that any athlete understands is one of the hardest to bear. As I started to think about hiring a coach, it seemed I heard, “Have you met Keena?” from every corner. She’s a local legend.

We met at the first race I attended, the Ice-Breaker Triathlon in March. I was there to observe, and she was there cheering on her athletes. She greeted me with a smile and never once faltered as I told her about both my inexperience and my goal. Her organized classes and events have surrounded me with elite athletes, the demigods who inspire me weekly.

Keena has helped me with my swim technique, tips in stroke, kick and body position to increase efficiency. She also (bless her little heart) continues to try to help me with my run technique, but when it comes to running, well, we all know I’m a lost cause.

Although I know it must be hard for her to coach without being able to compete, I appreciate having her around to kick my butt.

Lynn & Tara Ethington, Keena Schaerrer

Stan Swallow, spin instructor
Stan is another legend in his own right, qualifying annually for the U.S. national road bike championship and even winning it in 2011. Stan leads my spin class and I couldn’t feel luckier. Not only does he make my quads burn in the best possible way, he learned my name at the first class I attended and has never forgotten it. He’s given me great cycling advice since last winter.

Geoff Larson, personal trainer
Geoff was my personal trainer at Gold’s until I got too busy to schedule with him anymore. He started me on strength training long before I could handle endurance. His workouts were tailored not just to my end goal, but also around my many injuries. Always attentive to what I needed most.

John Lewis, personal trainer
Also at Gold’s, I didn’t work much with John, but he got me hooked up with Geoff and was also instrumental in my current desire to succeed by regularly shaking his head and calling me crazy. On day one, he taught me how to stretch and roll out my IT bands (which is crazy painful). In the end, that may the single most helpful thing anyone could have ever done for me.

Nichole Burke, personal trainer
I never got the chance to train with Nichole at Gold’s, but she runs with Keena’s gang, so sometimes we work side-by-side… or rather, I’m usually a ways behind her. Nichole gets special thanks for telling me that I had to go to Arizona a year early to volunteer if I wanted to get into IMAZ. Without Nichole, I would not be doing this race. After the volunteers’ priority registration, the “remaining” race spaces filled up online in 40 seconds. 40 SECONDS! Thanks for the tip, Nichole!


Everyone at American Fork Physical Therapy gets a HUGE shout-out from me! They are the best!

After repeat quad injuries and strained Achilles tendons, Keena suggested I have myself checked out at PT. Ends up, I’m not really designed with everything properly intact. Not only did they help me work out the kinks I had then, but they’ve continued to help me one to two times weekly. I go in with my chronic aches and pains, and they work me over prophylactically. We’re actually trying to PREVENT serious injury. I’ve read about this, and it’s suggested for anyone doing heavy training.

The folks at AFPT are helpful, professional and upbeat. A big thank you to Seth, Kelsey, McKell, Leann, Stephen, Jake, Colin, Ariel, Kate, and anyone (and everyone) else there who has assisted me along the way.

Jeremy Branch, physical therapist
Jeremy gets his own special section because he’s given my bike a special invitation to come to therapy too. He's helped me with specific bike fittings, adjusting pedals, stems, aero bars and seats to the millimeter. An avid and impressive cyclist in his own right, he was also the one to help me find good deals on cold weather cycling gear and an indoor trainer. He has an excellent knowledge of what body parts hurt most in triathlons and how to fix them. I truly appreciate his assistance.


These are the stores where I do most of my shopping. As a member of Keena’s team, I also get a discount at both stores, something for which I’m sincerely grateful. Trying to accumulate all the equipment I need in less than one year has been painfully pricy.

Rus Southwick, manager Elite TriSport
Rus is my advice guru when it comes to gear and products: tri suits, sports drinks, goggles, race belts, shoes, etc. He also gives me race rundowns for all the local triathlons: what to expect, course comparisons, competition levels, etc. He’s low-key but really friendly. He’s always willing to special order stuff for next day delivery and then hold it for me, no matter how long it takes me to get back to the store to pick it up.

Wes, Timp Cyclery
Several of their guys have spent lots of time helping me. But Wes gets extra love for teaching me how to change a flat and then letting me try it myself. (I wasn’t very good.) On another occasion he was extra patient, letting me test iteration after iteration after iteration of a component I was considering until I finally settled on what I wanted. That’s service, people.


Lisa Stubbs, nurse practitioner
You know when you finally find that doctor who listens to you? And is also well-versed in the latest medical and natural practices? Lisa is the greatest ever. And I’m so glad I have her. Without going into details about the various reasons I’ve gone to see her, I can say that she has been exceptionally supportive of my goals and always says the right thing and tries to save me money, too. It’s nice to be able to leave a phone message and have her call back with, “Sure! We can do that.” No appointment needed. Not always, but seriously? Who does that anymore? She’s fabulous.

Dr. Pratt, IHC Instacare
Dr. Pratt saw me after my bad ride. He gets a gold star because he was about to go home but slipped me in as his last appointment. Ends up, not only is he a sports medicine doctor, but he is also an Ironman AND an Ironman physician AND has volunteered in medical at IMAZ. What’s the chance? He gave me some IMAZ specific tips. Cool.


Jeff Johnson, husband
I’m guessing the second-hardest thing to doing an Ironman is being the spouse of someone doing an Ironman. I’m not sure Jeff has ever understood why I’ve made the choice to race. Despite that, he very often gets Bridgette ready for school by himself or tucks her in at night alone because I’m gone for a swim or a run. He is probably the hardest working man I know and graciously earns the mullah that is paying my race fees and my equipment costs. He offers to massage my sore neck and cramped legs when we sit to watch a show at night. And you know what? We’ve done our separate things for a while now, but upon occasion he surprises me by walking in, taking one look at me and saying, “What’s wrong?” He still catches my cues better than anyone else when I’ve had a bad day. Many, many thanks for the support I’ve received from you, Jeff.

Jeff, Kel, Bridge
October Crater Swim Weekend Getaway

Bridgette Johnson, daughter
My two favorite races were the ones when my family came to watch. And although Bridgette doesn’t really understand lending support in the typical sense, she does it inadvertently by being cute and loving me! Bridgette says stuff like, “I’m a runner, Mom, like you!” Or, “Mom, we both love to swim.” She asks about my gear. She gives me hugs every time I walk in the door! And when I have to leave and won’t be there to tuck her in, she says, “Mom, I just miss you!” The other day I was driving her to school and I pointed up to the mountains where I had run early that morning. The next day I told her I was going running, and she exclaimed, “Mom! I just worry about you! Running on the mountain!”

She’s a darling, and I hope someday she understands that I’m doing this, in large part, for her. I want her to have a strong role-model. I want her to know she can make goals and reach them. I hope she’ll understand she can do hard things, no matter what she may feel are her physical or mental limitations.

Gary and Lauryl Hoose, parents
My parents don’t live nearby and aren’t involved in the day-to-day happenings around me. But they are always there. We talk often by phone, and although, like Jeff, I’m not sure they understand why exactly I’m racing, they are willing to let me be. And they listen as I tell them what I’m up to and every droll detail of my training. Everyone needs someone to listen to every detail, don’t you think? They’re invested in the details I can only presume because they love me. And as their daughter, I still tell them about all my little training related owies. (Oh! Except, for this one. I’m not sure I've ever mentioned "Peaches" before. I didn’t think it was chipped, but, well, yeah. Now I’m pretty sure it was. Is.)

In addition, my parents created and raised me, and I am half of each of them. So in a sense, anything I accomplish is really from them. I’m not displeased by that in the least, so thanks Mom and Dad. They're the ones who gave me swim lessons as a kid, encouraged me through years of sports, and taught me early to try new things and go on adventures. You’re both very special to me.

Lynne Nielsen, neighbor
Lynne is a Godsend. If you haven’t heard lately, I loathe running. Or rather, I *used* to. Lynne, a neighbor and an avid runner for well over thirty years, was getting back onto her beloved trails after a total knee replacement about the same time I was looking for some way to force myself out the door. We were running about the same speed at the time and have both improved since we partnered up last March. Lynne has already completed two full marathons this year. It’s because of her that trail-running is becoming a new love of mine. It’s beautiful and serene in the mountains, always something new in every season. Since you have to keep your focus or risk tripping, both the time and the miles seem to go by faster. Lynne is one of the most dedicated runners I know. She sticks to routine and is beyond dependable. She’s fun and interesting to talk to for hours on end, so I’ve gained not just an appreciation for running but also a new friend. We run together two to four times every week. Lynne runs almost every day.

Russ Barnett
I signed up for IMAZ last November. In December I went to Jeff’s company Christmas party and ran into our mutual friend Russ. I told Russ about my new venture, and he said, “I have a bike you can use.”

Just let that sink in.

Russ is a racer, and he had an extra bike and he let me have it. Astounding. Beneficent. It’s what I’ve been riding all year, adding and changing components along the way. Up until last week, I was still considering purchasing a tri-specific bike, but I think I’m gonna let that go. No reason to change now. Russ has also done several long rides with me, helping me to gain confidence and introducing me to new local routes. He’s a good friend, and I’m grateful for his eleemosynary gesture.

"That's bad. There used to be a road here."

Mindy Canova
Again with the amazing runner friends, Mindy, a long-time running hero of mine, got me into the sport early in the season with invitations to run several races with her. We did my first ever race, the Hale Freezes Over 10K in February, followed by the Phoenix Half-Marathon in March. We did the American Fork Half-Marathon in June, followed by the Grand Teton Relay in August. Not only that, but she sent me a text today asking me how I’m doing because she knows what it feels like to prepare for a big race. And it’s not just today. I can really feel how much she cares, and I'm thankful to her for it.

Ann-Marie Bott
Just like Anne of Green Gables and Diana Barry, Ann-Marie and I are bosom friends and kindred spirits. We’ve known each other now for 16 years. We lead very different lives yet have similarities only we will ever understand. She has been my greatest supporter in some of my hardest times. As in the best of friendships, Ann-Marie doesn’t have to be present to make me feel her presence. She was also the first to buy a ticket to fly down to Arizona to watch me race. Ann-Marie, I’ll love you forever.

Eli McCann, Daniel Sowards
The original motivators. I cannot emphasize enough how influential they have been to me. If they had not inspired me in their own journeys, I would never have started mine. That’s true. And I’m so glad. These journeys are truly that, complete with unexpected beginnings, unexpected endings and a million life-lessons along the way. Since watching them train last year, they’ve both continued to influence and inspire me in their own separate ways, and I’m grateful to know them.

Leann Brinton
She doesn’t know this, but I want to be like her. I met her training with Keena and… she’s so freaking fast! And strong! And she’s a great example to me that no matter what is going on your life, you can always try to reach out of your comfort zone, step up to the starting line, and do something new.

Rich Miller
Rich and I went to grad school together, and we spent last year working on a company called Health Movement. Rich has always inspired me to be a healthier version of myself, from nutrition to exercise to sleep. He’s also a good friend and encouraged me early on in my numerous goals.

MaryAnn, Sam Jolley, Kelley
Three gym rats who I see almost daily working toward their best selves despite sincere physical challenges. Meeting people like them is beyond inspirational. They are the reason I don’t give up.

Mike Arabia
I may be an aspiring Ironman, but Mike’s already made it. We met last year volunteering at IMAZ and he’s continued to be a sounding board and support to me throughout the whole year. He knows the countdown to IMAZ better than I do, and checks up on me regularly.


No doubt the minute I post this, I’ll think of far more people I want to thank. So if I’ve forgotten you, don’t despair, I’ll be back with addendums and post-scripts. And even if it’s never done publically, if you have ever supported, are currently supporting, or are planning to support me later, thank you.

Thank you. 


Lore said...

You are welcome, again! We wish you well in your last month of preparation, and we'll be seeing you there in AZ to cheer for you in person!

Tammy and Alvin said...

No. Thank YOU!!!
This post is a beautiful reminder that we are not meant to go through this life alone. What a strength it is to be surrounded by people who touch our lives in often unseen ways as we strive to reach new goals and become our best selves.
Thank you for documenting your race journey, and the lessons you've learned along the way, here on your blog. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has been inspired!

Good luck, Kel! Wish I could be there on Nov. 17 to hang out with Ann-Marie and cheer you on!

Jeff Johnson said...

You're welcome mama bird. Keep up the good work!

Ann-Marie said...

Aw, Kel! I'll love you forever, too! You penned a description of our friendship nicely, if words could even describe it! You are an inspiration to me in countless ways, as you already know. I'm so happy I get to see you race and cheer my loudest. Regardless of your race time, what others are doing, or anything else, you'll always be the best of the best in my book!

And Tammy, I wish you could be there too! We have lots to catch up on! I'll cheer extra loud for you too!

Kel said...

I know you'd be there if you could, Tam! Thanks for all the blog comments and encouragement! I love you!