... my journey from ballerina to triathlete

Monday, November 28, 2016

Ironman Year

Almost four years have passed since I first decided that I was going to pursue my secret desire to complete a triathlon. At the time I made that decision, I didn’t know how to swim, I didn’t own a bike, and I absolutely hated running. In fact, I don’t really know where my gnawing desire to see if I could do it came from. It floated around in the far reaches of my mind, resurfacing occasionally to remind me that even though I didn’t consider myself even remotely athletic, something in me wanted to try. My first event was a sprint distance – 750 yard swim, 16-mile bike, and 3.2-mile run. Six months later was my second outing – a .93-mile swim, 25-mile bike, and 6.2-mile run. This was as far as my initial goal went. I just wanted to complete a triathlon, and I figured a sprint would get me started and the Olympic distance would really be my big accomplishment. Check that goal off the bucket list! I really had no plans to make this an ongoing hobby.

Then I went to Kona.

Watching two thousand people of all shapes, sizes, ages, nationalities, disabilities, and professions cross the finish line of the Ironman World Championships hammered home for me the most valuable lesson that triathlon has taught me: your limitations are only what you allow them to be. True, I’m not a classically built athlete or a naturally fast runner, but certainly if an 84-year-old woman or a man with an amputated limb and a history of cardiac cancer can do it, so can I. Too busy? The head of a surgery department who has 3 kids under age 8 did it, so what’s my excuse? It lit a fire in me, and I remember the moment when Sean and I looked at each other, standing on the sidelines at the finish, and said, “do you want to do this? I want to do this.”

Well, now is the time. I am officially registered for Ironman Coeur D’Alene and on August 27th, 2017 I will (if all goes according to plan!) become an Ironman! This means a year of intense and focused training with little room for laziness or complacency. Since I’ve been mulling this over in my mind for so long I’ve already picked out a training plan and for the past few months have been familiarizing myself with it and its demands. It covers 36 weeks, so I will begin my dedicated training on December 19th, although I plan on doing maintenance training consistently until then to make sure I’m ready once it’s go time. I’m scared and excited and since triathlon has already given me so much, I can’t wait to see what the next year brings.

I am also excited about another project that I’ve been thinking about for a while but finally want to see take shape: I would like really like to share with others the joy, confidence, and sense of strength that endurance sports has given me. Triathlon has completely changed my body image and how I look at myself mentally, emotionally, and physically. Whereas before I felt like I was always in a battle with my body, I now see it as an amazing and beautiful vehicle capable of carrying me through the incredible challenges I’ve given it. I am grateful for it in a way I never was before, and the benefits are not limited to the physical domain: the discipline of learning to feel pain, push yourself, and expand your boundaries spreads into life outside of the sport. Because of this I feel a kind of strength in my body and mind that I never knew I had. I feel happier, more energetic, and less anxious because it has taught me to accept moments of physical and emotional discomfort and anxiety for what they are, quiet my mind, and keep moving forward. I truly believe that endurance exercise is an amazing tool to manage anxiety and depression. 

First sprint triathlon: look at that awkward run!
As I’ve navigated this journey, I’ve had a lot of friends tell me things like, “That always sounded interesting to me, but I don’t know where to start,” or “I’ve always wanted to do a marathon, but I’m not really the athletic type.” Or, the most common, “I’d really like to exercise more, but I’m just so busy.”

So, here is my offer: As I train for my first Ironman over the next year, I would be honored to help anyone who would like to register for a race happening any time between now and August 27th, 2017. If you have ever dreamed of doing a triathlon, considered running a half marathon, or a 5k, or doing a swim or bike race but you don’t know where to start, let me tell you with absolute confidence that you can make it happen and I would love to help get you started and keep your training consistent. I will help you find or create a training plan tailored around your specific race, I’ll help you navigate what type of gear you need, nutrition and fueling for longer races, and I’ll be here to help you stay motivated and on track throughout your training. If you’re a total beginner, even better. I’d be happy to help you with any running, cycling, swimming, or triathlon race up to a marathon or Olympic distance. If you already have experience, I’d be happy to assist with a half-Ironman as well (I’m not comfortable encouraging beginners to do a half-Ironman – better to start with a more manageable distance and go from there!)

First Olympic distance triathlon -- showing some improvement
I don’t want to call this “coaching” because I don’t feel like I’m even close to accomplished enough to provide that for anyone yet, but what I do have is a ton of experience in is starting from scratch, learning all of these sports from square one, researching and learning and finding the right resources to help, finding ways to stay excited and motivated, and figuring out what works for each individual person, and I would really love to help you navigate the logistics of the sport to reach your goal. I am also happy to share what I do know about running form (which has taken me from miserable, tortured, and slow on the run to happy, energized, and average!), swim technique, training strategies, etc. but only with the understanding that my advice in these areas is from personal experience and shouldn’t be taken as cut-and-dry coaching.

First 1/2 Ironman -- practically a real athlete!
So if, like I did, you have that little voice in the back of your head wondering if you can do that certain run, swim, bike, or triathlon that caught your eye, comment below, email me at crystalmbanning@gmail.com, send me a private Facebook message, and let’s figure out how to get you started!

Here’s to a great upcoming year of training, learning, and growth.

1 comment:

  1. Crystal, this is just beautiful! From-the-heart truth. I will share your post ~ and I know how lucky (and smart) anyone who takes you up on this offer is. Right on, Badass Babe!