“Are you watching the women’s Kona race right now?” – my sister texted me yesterday afternoon.
I had completely forgotten it was Ironman Kona – which is basically the Super Bowl of triathlon!
I watched religiously for years, tracking the athletes and secretly wanting to find myself on the Queen K someday…
But this second Saturday in October, we were watching the Michigan vs. Indiana football game, not triathletes duking it out for the World Championship titles.
After the text, I flipped my attention to the live stream race in Hawaii… and for the first time, I didn’t feel the need to be there.
Ever since I’ve started to heal, the one question I keep getting asked is…
Will I ever compete in another Ironman?
The straightforward answer? No.
But as with all things, I never want to say NEVER!
I Loved The Ironman Identity
For a while, it was magical. The combination of swimming, cycling, and running with this amazing triathlon community provided me *almost* everything I thought I needed.
I loved the grit, the grind, and the challenge this sport provided me.
To this day, some of my dearest friends are those I’ve shared the road with for hours on end. And let me say, you know who your REAL friends are when you’re on the struggle bus together.
Sh*t gets real…
Being a triathlete became who I was and everything I wanted to become…. I wore this label with pride (as every annoying triathlete does sporting all their IM gear, right?)
And for the next three years, not only could I no longer swim, bike or run… but I was too sick to have any kind of a life.
Burning the candle at both ends, my body, mind, and spirit paid the price.
So, will you see me at an Ironman finish line again anytime soon?
Here are 3 reasons why not.
1. Endurance Training Is Hard, Especially On The Female Body
Endurance pursuits, while empowering, aren’t gentle on us. Particularly for women, it’s a dance on the razor’s edge. Extended training sessions have been shown to disrupt our hormonal harmony, leading to challenges like amenorrhea, anemia, and malnutrition. (I suffered them all…)
And, I lost my period for almost 10 years. Read that again.
Yep, I hadn’t had a real cycle until earlier, about eight months ago – my body is trying to heal and find some balance – but I sure confused the hell out of it for a LONG time.
And I don’t have to remind you that these hormonal imbalances are deeply linked to our fertility.
For example, 24% of women athletes in endurance sports battled amenorrhea (losing your cycle) which is a stark contrast to the 12% in other sports.
I wasn’t alone in this, about one-quarter of my fellow lady triathletes were in the same boat….
2. Missing out on Family, Friends, and Important Life Milestones
I remember a tri-friend telling me she had a family meeting about her training for Ironman Louisville. Basically, training would be a team effort, with everyone in the house pitching in to help over the next six months.
I recall being taken back and thinking…”I mean, it’s cool that her family’s involved, but shouldn’t a mom be free to chase her dreams without asking permission?”
Turns out, she was onto something.
Ironman is not just a test of physical endurance but also a challenge of emotional and relational balance.
When I look back on the countless hours dedicated to training, I realize how many important events and memories I missed out on.
I declined invites to anything that got in the way of my training (or my recovery!) I ditched out on baby showers, happy hours, family trips, and constantly postponed get-togethers with friends.
Now, there is a time and place to prioritize triathlon, but I did this for YEARS, not just a season.
I’ve learned it’s not just about the next medal or next finish line but the people around us who stand by us that count the most.
While chronic illness was a forced break, I now proactively have decided to take a step back from such rigorous athletic commitments and prioritize those who loved and supported me along the way…
3. Lack of Energy (For Anything) Made Me Selfish
When I was training, I protected my energy like Fort Knox. And I found myself making reasons and excuses for things I wouldn’t usually do. Let me explain.
In an effort to optimize my training, I would treat myself to organic, perfectly portioned dinners every night – with no room for eating out with my hubs or happy hours with friends.
Plus, I would hit the sack early, often by 8 PM, leaving everything else in my wake, such as laundry, chores, grocery shopping, etc.
I’m not saying husbands can’t tackle the laundry or that we shouldn’t enjoy a cocktail now and then, but for me, I had no balance.
Not to mention, I started to overlook many important tasks like scheduling doctors’ appointments, answering family calls, or replying to time-sensitive emails…. Simply because I just ran out of steam…
I was selfish – and not for a season – but for most of my 30’s.
It was ‘all-about-Jules’ and that’s the way I liked it. I was working hard, and I justified it all because ‘I deserved it’
Yes, training is intense, but it’s straightforward (and dare I see easy?) compared to the real world of relationships, work, and marriage… and I think I got lost in my own little world.
While I wouldn’t admit it at the time, those long hours of training also became a convenient escape from tough chats or dreaded chores.
And yeah, I let the hubs deal with pretty much EVERYTHING because I didn’t have the headspace or mental capacity for ‘one more thing’
He’s the strongest man I know.
Would I do it again?
Maybe. If I got a $50,000 Whole Foods gift card, had someone cleaning my place everyday, got regular massages and chiropractic sessions, and could spend weeks just training, eating, and sleeping like the big-league athletes (preferably in an awesome spot like Hawaii or Colorado), and didn’t have to worry about my work! 🙂
All jokes aside…. I think my Ironman days are behind me.
Where I Am Now
Don’t get me wrong, I still love endurance sports, but things are a bit different. Now that I’ve started running again, I do have a coach – not to push me to another race PR, but to make sure I don’t overdo it.
Basically, Coach Jason is helping me from turning my passion into becoming an obsession. (Again)
I loved my Ironman experience, and it shaped me into the super-determined, dedicated, and gritty person I’ve become.
Now, as I look ahead, I’m excited for whatever life throws my way next – I’m taking one step at a time and simply cherishing this healthy body – which I’ll never take for granted again.
And who knows? Maybe I’ll surprise myself and be able to dive into another Ironman someday.
After all, never say never, right?