Wednesday, June 1, 2011


I am a very anxious person, always finding things to worry about.  My imagination plays out the 'what ifs' in my head and I become preoccupied with the potential for disaster.  My feelings toward the upcoming Ironman, 25 days away, are no exception to this tendency for worry.  The race has begun to consume my thoughts.  While this does have the benefits of distracting me from other stress in my life (starting a new job next year, finishing my final three graduate classes this summer), it also makes me very nervous for the big day, June 26th.

My biggest Ironman fears pertain to the looming cut-off times for the race.  I am not an accomplished athlete- all races that I have done in the past have been at slow, comfortable paces with little concern for my finishing time.  While the 17 hour Ironman cut-off time seems generous at first, when looking at the cut-off times for each leg individually, my anxiety grows exponentially.

2.4 Mile Swim: Course closes 2 hours 20 minutes after the official start

A dorky picture I sent to my mom
when I first bought my swim gear in 2009
Due to chronic ear infections as a child, I never learned how to swim.  While I could doggie-paddle for survival purposes, any formal introduction to strokes and technique was abandoned to maintain my health and well-being.  When I decided to attempt triathlons two years ago, I knew I needed to learn how to freestyle swim.  I would watch You Tube swimming videos and lie on the floor of my living room, trying to figure out how to kick, stroke, float, and breath all at the same time.  I later moved into the pool at a local gym, only able to make in a few strokes before holding on to the wall.  Clearly, swimming is my biggest weakness and to this day, I have never taken a lesson.  I am self taught, moving through the water at a snail's pace.

Last weekend, Dave and I went to Grant Ranch Lake to practice open water swimming for the first time this season.  The chilly mid 50's water temperature did not detour us from finally taking our swim training out of the pool.  The Ironman will have a similar water temperature and we need to get used to that initial shock of the cold.  I swam 2.3 miles in 1 hour 45 minutes (although it was probably much longer because I can't swim in a straight line to save my life).  If it were the race, I would have 35 minutes to spare... this does not seem like a lot of time.  With the other swimmers bashing into me during the mass start, I could lose some of those precious minutes.  If I stay too long on the beach waiting for things to clear out, I could lose even more.

112 Mile Bike: Course closes 10 hours 30 minutes after the official start (8 hours 10 minutes for the bike alone)

Today I completed my ride at 16.2 mph.  If I complete the bike portion with an average of 16 mph, the bike will only take me 7 hours and I will be finished in plenty of time.  Even if I average 14 mph, I will successfully make the cut-off time.  While this seems very manageable, this bike also has the most unforeseen variables: an unrelenting headwind, multiple flat tires, a broken chain, a fall.  Ironman Coeur d'Alene is also a very hilly course with two large climbs.  The hills plus any of the other variables could greatly reduce my average mph making a 14 mph ride much tougher than usual.  I hope that my  Elephant Rock Century Ride this weekend (with over 6,000 total vertical feet of gain) will be good practice for what is to come.  If I can finish that ride with an average pace of over 14 mph, my confidence will be restored.

Dave, Karen, and I at the finish of
the Las Vegas Marathon
26.2 Mile Run: Course closes 17 hours after the official start   (6 hours 30 minutes for the run alone)

I think to myself, "Just make it to the run... Just make it to the run."  Running is something I love; I have completed multiple marathons, half-marathons, 10Ks, and 5Ks before.  I know that I can easily do a marathon in under the required 15 minute miles.  I've hit the metaphorical "wall" before and run through it with determination and perseverance.

But then I see videos like this one and think that I might be oversimplifying this marathon just a bit:

Watching two professional athletes fall apart like that at the finish makes me wonder what might happen to me.  While I won't be going nearly as fast as those two amazing women (this is a very extreme case- thank goodness), my worrisome imagination does get the better of me.  I certainly hope I will be able to keep it together until the end.

I predict for the next 26 days these apprehensive thoughts will be floating around in my mind, popping in and out of prominence.  I hope that I have what it takes to complete each leg of this race successfully and in the required cut-off time.  I do not want to disappoint myself or the many people that have supported me along the way.

These unavoidable doubts that have been circling around my anxious brain.  We all have doubts in life when facing an enormous challenge or attempting something new.  Taking risks, allowing ourselves to become vulnerable, feeling nervous and unsure- that is what life is all about.  These butterflies in my stomach and frogs in my throat (yes... already) remind me that I'm stretching my boundaries in new, exciting ways.  If I reach those cut-off times or not, I know that I have become a new person along the way.

To donate to the Burn Center, go online to  In the designation field, choose "Other" and type "Burn Fund (Team Emilie)."

Or you could mail your check to "UCHF- Burn Fund (Team Emilie)" to UCHF 12401 East 17th Ave. Mail Stop F485 Aurora, CO 80045.


  1. Hi Emilie!
    I can't believe I haven't found you sooner!! I too am a Survivor of SJS! I am a runner and former triathlete. I wish i could do what you are tackling!! It is so honorable! I am in Wisconsin, a Survivor since 2008, and am on year two of organizing Team SJS for the Fox Cities Half Marathon! Would love to get in touch with you!!!!!

  2. Kendra,

    I would love to talk to you about the awesome things you are doing around SJS awareness/support. I tried to find an email or enough information to find you on Facebook, but I wasn't able to through your blog. You can just search for me on Facebook and I'm pretty easy to find. I am really excited to talk to you and someday I would love to run that half with you and your SJS group (after this Ironman thing is over). I'll talk to you soon.


  3. That would be FANTASTIC!! Will head over to Facebook now!!!