Why We Missed That Event For A Race

We had to miss TWO big family events this summer for races. Our second was this weekend for Donnie’s Ironman. As I thought of our family all gathered one state away for a wedding, I hoped they all understood the importance of this race of ours. It’s hard to tell sometimes with non-racers, if they get it. In our town there’s a 5K – quite literally – every weekend. And our town is small! I know from experience when people ask us questions about races that a lot of people don’t really separate a 5K from an Ironman, not if they have no experience with either. It’s all something about running or racing or swimming or something and I worry – do they think all races are the same?

We wouldn’t miss a wedding for a 5K, that much I assure you.

But I thought I’d write something about what goes into these type of endurance events, so that maybe others could understand why runners and triathletes miss important events for what might seem to be insignificant obligations.

  • Race registration is early and expensive. Donnie registered for his Ironman exactly 1 year ago and it cost about $700 with registration fees and USAT membership. So, one year ago we made our initial $700 commitment to this event and at that time, there was nothing else on the schedule. More often than not, our races are on the schedule before the event we’re missing, that’s how early registrations open up. And let me tell you, just signing up for a race is a brave thing to do, so that step right there – many months before training even begins – is a huge one.
  • Training costs money. Our other event that we missed this summer was a couples wedding shower for Donnie’s sister. I was very upset about missing it but I had my first Olympic Distance Triathlon that weekend and I had paid the $100 registration fee months earlier as well as paid $350 to join a 16-week coaching program. I had been training for almost 3 months before I learned there would be a conflict. That’s a huge investment of time, and another investment of money. Donnie hired a coach for both of his Ironmans and let’s just say – it was a little bit more than my training class. All of those dollars are worth it, but another part of the investment into these races that we choose over other events. If you don’t pay for coaching plans you pay for gear. Even just running events can cost hundreds of dollars in shoes and gear, but triathlons? Can cost thousands. Donnie had a lot of bike repairs this year. And Donnie’s set up is relatively inexpensive compared to most.
  • Training costs time. Hundreds of hours have been logged to train for some of these events. I was looking at 10 hours per week at least for my Olympic. Donnie did that JUST ON THE WEEKEND training for his Ironman. And for every hour of training we’re missing an hour of something else the rest of the world enjoys. Maybe it’s sleep. Maybe it’s family time. Maybe it’s another event that wasn’t that important but MAN, it would have been nice to attend. We make so many sacrifices for these races that to not do them means all of that was done in vain. And that would be a tough burden to carry.
  • The perfect event is only once a year. While 5Ks are every weekend, these endurance events we choose to do are only once a year. There may be a few similar events nearby but we chose the one we chose because it was perfect. There was another Olympic Distance triathlon 6 weeks after the one I chose, but it was a different kind of swim I didn’t feel confident about. And the one I chose went through my college town. I chose that one for a reason so another race of the same distance wouldn’t really work. There are other Ironmans but none within such an easy driving distance to a city we adore. We choose all of our races based on a series of conditions so – even if you know there’s one of a similar distance close on the calendar to the one we chose – there are bound to be other factors. I chose the 100K I chose because it’s on a greenway type course, and there are none other like that within driving distance of where I live. I chose my 12-hour run for the same reason, it’s local and there’s nothing else like it within a drive from our home. So, for all practical purposes? The races we choose are only once a year, so it’s not easily to switch up training halfway through for a different event. We’d have to stop and start over a year later.
  • A lot can happen in a year. “But this event you’re missing is only once in your LIFETIME.” And yes, it will. Luckily, for really important events (like Donnie’s sister’s wedding), we’re part of the decision process so we know PLENTY far enough in advance to avoid catastrophic scheduling issues. Because something of that level we’d obviously skip the race. But for cousin’s weddings and bridal showers, we’re not part of the process so we only find out a short time out and when we’ve already invested time and money and sacrificed hours of sleep and family time. And we could write off the investment and those sacrifices and just try again next year. But we have learned in our 6 years as a family doing these events, that a lot can happen in a year. Children are born, jobs are changes, families are relocated, injuries occur…many things could pop up to keep us from being able to do it next year. Our kid could join a club soccer team. Or maybe a different event will pop up on the calendar that day for next year, in advance. We many not have the time or the money next year, so throwing out all of the time and money spent this year is not a decision we could make lightly.

But it sucks. We really do hate it when it happens. It always dampers our race a bit to know the rest of our family is gathered elsewhere celebrating something we’d love to celebrate. Our immediate family has been on this journey enough with us long enough to understand, so we are confident they don’t pass judgement, but you never know about people a little further out from the loop. Are we the ones who “always miss stuff for races” at this point? Do people imagine us missing large gatherings for 5Ks? Do they understand the investment of time and money and the sacrifices we make in our lives to do these races?

I don’t know. I hope so. But if they don’t, maybe some day down the road they’ll make a decision to train for a marathon, or a triathlon, and maybe then they’ll remember how we missed that thing that time. And maybe then they’ll think, “Oh. Okay. Now I get it.”


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IMCHOO 2015 Spectator’s Guide

Hello! So – if you’ll recall – last year I spectated my husband’s first Ironman in Chattanooga so I thought I’d re-compile my wisdom for this Sunday’s race for my friends who have asked! Keep in mind I had 2 kids in tow last year and will again this year so speed is/was a factor in all of my decisions. I could do more if it were just me, but obviously I have two small (and sometimes slow) kids I have to take into consideration.

The Swim

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Theoretically, since the swim is only 2 miles, you can see your athlete get in the water, walk the riverwalk/greenway to the swim out and be there in time to see them get OUT of the water. And we almost did that last year but decided against it due to the fact I wasn’t sure if my kids could handle the 2 miles at the right speed. But – I’m very glad I did NOT do that because the spectator “alley” that formed at the Swim Out was PACKED and nearly IMPOSSIBLE to see your athlete getting out of the water unless you had a Front Row Joe spot. I almost missed Donnie, but luckily my friend saw him. I did NOT want to miss Donnie getting OUT of the water because then I would not know for sure when he started the bike. So, get to the swim OUT spectator alley along the river before anyone else does and stand there at the wall until you see your athlete. They come out fast and in crowds so DO NOT LOOK AWAY for one second. My kids knew not to bother me until I saw him!

The Bike

After we saw Donnie get out of the water we immediately got inline for the shuttle driving people out to Chickamauga. Now, every volunteer told us a different spot to wait for the shuttles (school buses) but it turns out none of them were right. The spectator guide said “Ross’s landing” last year too but the buses actually picked up near the corner of Power Alley (the road that runs by the stadium) and Aquarium Way. I’m not sure if they’ll be in the exact same spot this year, but that will give you an idea. They start pickup at 9am. They told use they weren’t going to be there to drive people back immediately and it was strange for awhile because we were worried we’d be stuck in Chickamauga for several hours…BUT…it all worked out fine last year. We got on the first buses out there, we set up far down the course (away from the crowds) in a nice shady spot, and still caught the first cyclist rolling through. They come in FAST so make sure you don’t look away for too long. We had My Athlete Live tracker last year but we won’t this year so we’ll be depending on the sometimes-flaky Ironman tracker. In theory you could see your athlete TWICE from this spot. Around mile 50 and around mile 100. HOWEVER, we left after the first sighting so we could catch a shuttle back in time to see Donnie start the run.

The Run

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This part is a little different from last year. The run course is turned around on the South side of the river so we’re going to be doing it a little different. We’re going to sit at the RUN OUT until we see Donnie leave on the run. Then we’re going to head down the Riverfront Pkwy until we get to Battery Place and hop on the Riverwalk to try to catch Donnie around MILE 8. Then we will head to Walnut Street Bridge (South Side) to try to catch him at MILE 13. Then we will cross Walnut Street Bridge to the NORTH side of the river, and try to catch him as he crosses Veteran’s Bridge around MILE 21. NOW. If you are FAST, you can stay there and see your athlete come back around MILE 23 but I was afraid we would not make it to the finish line in time so we opted NOT to do that. We might stick around this year, the kids are faster, I’m not sure.

The Finish Line

Unless you get to the finish line early and don’t mind pushing around to get a good spot, you will NOT see your athlete cross the finish line. We opted instead to wait further up Riverfront Pkway. It was still close enough that AS SOON as he passed us (and he was able to see us because it wasn’t crowded and we got a GREAT picture) we sprinted to the Finish Line and still heard them say, “DONNIE HOLMES! YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” They funneled the athletes to the South side of the Finish Line area, but past the Ironman Village and we met up with him there where he was sitting down and fueling up.


  • Wear comfy shoes. We walked 17 miles that day. Granted, we made a few runs back to our hotel which was a mile away, but still. TONS OF WALKING.
  • Bring cash. There were food trucks out in Chickamauga but they only took cash.
  • Carry all maps and guides with you. Course Maps are here. Spectator Guide is here.
  • Bring a battery pack. Your phone WILL DIE.
  • Do not trust the Ironman tracker. It crashed several times last year. Know your athlete’s predicted pace.
  • Have a backup plan to meetup. Pick a tent in Ironman Village (like, the Little Debbie tent or something) where you’ll meet up after your athlete crosses the finish line in case you can’t get into the recovery area to get to them. We had friends working as volunteers so they found us, but I’m not sure I would have found Donnie otherwise.
  • CHEER FOR EVERYONE! Don’t just stand around waiting for your person, especially on the run because those athletes are SO TIRED at that point. You can see their names on their bibs, cheer their names while you wait for your athlete!
  • Bring your own food and water. Every eatery is slammed and we almost missed Donnie at one point when we thought we had PLENTY of time to grab something to eat but it turned out we did NOT. Things will take a long time everywhere so don’t depend on fast service to stick to your schedule.

Week 01 of Training

This week has been strange. I’ve discovered that sleeping with my phone out of my room helps me sleep later, but on days I run in the mornings, I try to leave the house for my run at 5:30 and leave the house for work by 7am so I have to have all of my daily work (lunches packed, laundry done, kitty litter changed) before I leave for my run so all I have to do afterwards is clean up for work. So – on the days I know I’m going to run – I kinda have to get up by 3:30.

Due to Donnie’s workout schedule (remember, he gets first priority in summer and I get first priority in winter) I usually only get Mondays and Fridays to run and since sometimes those are my only two days…I have to take them. And this week? Due to his own issues, I was able to get a run in on Tuesday and Thursday too. And while part of me is all GET SOME SLEEP, LADY!, the other part of me is all, You only got to run ONCE last week, you better take advantage when you can!.

So it’s Friday morning and I’ve only been averaging 5-6 hours of sleep per night and thanks to one night of Wes’s leg cramps and another night waiting to hear from E in the ER of his college down (he thought he broke his ankle, only a severe sprain) those hours have been quite uneven. BUT STILL…today is my day to run! I MUST RUN OR I MAY NEVER GET ANOTHER CHANCE!

And while part of me is super-glad that I’m looking at these days as DAYS I CAN RUN! and have been able to resist the pull of my bed for the call of the pavement…part of me is all, “Dude. I just need some sleep.”


But I am determined to do a little better with my mid-week runs this year. Last season I did 2 marathons and 3 50Ks with only weekend long runs with the periodic mid-week run. I just had a hard time motivating myself so I’m kinda wanting to keep this motivation going forward so it will carry me through since – officially – my 100K training started this week.

SHIT. 100K. That’s a lot of miles.

I use my training plan as a guide and I’ve incorporated some speed work into it because I’d love to try for a sub-2hr 13.1 in November but I’m not sure the weight I’ve gained will allow it. I need to really focus on getting these extra pounds off if I want my training to go more smoothly. But I’d love to be able to stick to the general miles-per-week the plan calls for, even if I split it up differently.

(I hate speed work.)

Anyway – that’s where I’m at the first week of training. Tired as shit but rolling out in 45 minutes for another 6-mile run. Let’s hope I can run them happy.


“My kids missed my finish because they were at the Emergency Room.”

Or – “My Renaissance Man Olympic Distance Triathlon Race Report”


To say I was nervous about my first Olympic Distance Triathlon would be an understatement of epic proportions. I had signed up to do the race about 8 months ago because I knew it was 2 days before my 40th birthday, it was in the town I went to college, and it was an Olympic Distance (0.9 mile swim, 25 mile bike, 6.2 mile run) which was my next big goal. Then, one of the former Fleet Feet coaches who taught me how to ride a bike 2 summers ago started his own training program for that specific race. I signed up for that class in late winter/early Spring.

But then two things kinda changed our schedules a bit. 1) Our house was later getting on the market than we thought due to contractor issues and 2) I changed jobs to one requiring I work in an office on the other side of town, adding a commute to my days. These two things meant that I would need to be spending more time cleaning but I would have less time to do it since I would be home less. So my already tight schedule become even tighter right about the time training started.

Luckily I was dedicated and I really stuck to a lot of the training plan, I just did almost all of the bike rides on the trainer in my house and almost all of the swims in the YMCA pool as I could make group rides or Open Water Swim sessions. So, I knew that I was fit enough to do the race, but I was worried about not having enough road or OWS experience.

I woke up at 4am to do some work I have to do for a website every Sunday morning. It only takes about 10 minutes but it has to be done. I was sitting in the hall of our hotel room trying not to wake everyone. Donnie woke up for the day and came up to me and whispered, “Good morning!” and I looked up at him, started crying and said, “I AM SO SCARED.”

So. That tells you where I was that morning before the race.

The thing about triathlons is there’s just so much you have to worry about. Stickers on helmets and bikes and swim caps, body marking, chips, transition set up, you have to get out on your bike once before the race to make sure everything is working properly, you need to do a warm-up swim. With a foot race you just show up and run, but not with a triathlon. And for someone with high anxiety, this DOES NOT HELP WITH PRE-RACE STRESS.

I also had a series of unfortunate events the 24-hours prior. I found out my A Goal of 4 hours was the cutoff time, my bike computer died (it keeps me from going too slow), I forgot my tri shorts at home so we had to turn back after being on the road 45 minutes. I was just SUPER STRESSED.

But the amazing thing about training with groups and being active in your community is that you show up to a “local” race (this one was close enough to be considered local) and you see familiar faces at every turn and they all know you’re terrified (many of them are terrified too) and it becomes a giant group therapy session which is like taking a Xanax for your nerves. Everywhere I turned friends offered smiles or words of encouragement, some expressed their own nervousness which made me feel SO MUCH BETTER because there’s something about being reassured that you’re not the ONLY one panicking that can calm you. I got hugs and advice and all of those faces and smiles and pats on the back were – HONEST TO GOD – what got me in the water that day. I live a very blessed life, much more of one than I feel like I could ever deserve, and the majority of those blessings are demonstrated in all of those beautiful faces who talked to me before that race yesterday. I wish I could knock on all of their doors today and thank them personally because I would have never toed the line yesterday without each of them.

And my husband – captain of Team Zoot – helped me so much. He coached me through my warm-up swim when I decided I couldn’t calm down enough to start with a freestyle. “I think I’ll do a sidestroke until that first buoy so I can get my breathing steady.” “Great idea!” he confirmed, knowing that my calm breathing would be a major requirement for me to survive that swim.

I started out with the sidestroke and…well…long story short? I basically swam the entire almost-mile with the sidestroke. I just could not get my breathing calm enough to do a freestyle. With the sidestroke, I could sight on the buoys to make sure I was going in the right direction (I’m not the best at sighting with the freestyle) and I could watch for other swimmers (I still get freaked by bodies near me) and I could make sure I was making forward progress (I fear not being strong enough to swim faster than a current) so I just settled into the sidestroke. We made a turn down a channel, probably about 400m into our 1600m swim and I could feel myself slow down so then I kinda started to really panic more than before. I looked around for a kayak to hold on to. You can take a break with a kayak, you just can’t make forward progress. There were none around that I could see. Then I started to panic more because stopping to look had me drifting backwards and I thought, “If I find a kayak, I’m quitting, I’m not strong enough to beat this current.” (FYI – most people said there was NO current. I’m just a weak swimmer.)

But there were no kayaks that I could see (I was swimming into the sun) so I just kept going and watching my slow progress along the shoreline. I started singing the ABCs with my strokes, trying to guess how many ABCs would get me to the turn bouoy which signified halfway. I could tell I was passing some swimmers, not because I was faster, but because I was swimming a very straight line since I was doing the sidestroke and could see where I was going better. That was reassuring to me a little bit, that even though I was doing the unprofessional sidestroke, I was gaining ground on some so I wouldn’t be last out of the water. Since I’m slow on the bike, I didn’t want to be last out of the water.

I finally made it around the turn bouoy and life was so much better. I was swimming with the “current” then, and I did not have the sun in my eyes, and I had looked at my watch and I made it to the halfway point about 8 minutes or so faster than I expected! This was GREAT news! (Not so great that my sidestroke was faster than my freestyle, but still!) So the swim back was much better. I still stuck to the sidestroke, doing a little bit of freestyle here and there, but since I’m crappy at sighting, I found myself going off course so I just stuck with what was working, the sidestroke. When I got to the shore I screamed at Donnie, “TELL FACEBOOK I DIDN’T DROWN!”



I was smiling a million dollar smile the whole way into transition – I was so proud. I just kept telling everyone, “I DID IT! I DID IT!” Even though I don’t love the bike at all, I was just happy to be done with the swim. I was even dancing in transition, I was just having fun! I got started on the bike and was just smiling the whole way.

The bike was uneventful. Because I don’t do much riding on the road my gearing on hills isn’t great and I had some issues with needing to pass someone who slowed down more than I did on a hill, but over all it was fine. I managed to drink a full bottle of water AND take a Cliff Gel all while riding. DID YOU HEAR THAT? I TOOK A GEL! I had never done that before. I had given myself permission to stop and get off the bike when I had single-digit miles to go so I could get some water if I hadn’t gotten enough and get my gel in, BUT I DIDN’T NEED TO! I did start to worry about getting a flat the last 5 miles as I passed two guys changing flats on the side of the road. After mile 20 I convinced myself I could walk my bike if I needed to and still at least finish under 5 hours.

Once I was done with the bike I was smiling bigger than when I was done with the swim! But something weird happened. I got to transition and my family was no where to be seen. I looked at my watch and I was 10 minutes faster than I told them I’d be so maybe they missed me? I got all of my running stuff on and sent Donnie a text, “Starting my run, don’t want you to worry about me!” Just in case he just missed me since I was faster than I expected.

I started the run and it was VERY hot and there was NO shade. I walked a bit getting my phone tracker started, texting Donnie, and getting my camelback on and my second Gel taken. Right as the uphill started I started jogging and MAN my legs were tired. I felt like I was moving SO SLOW. My phone told me my first mile was at 12:xx though and that’s not bad considering how slow I felt like I was going and how I walked a good portion of that first mile getting stuff situated. So, I pushed forward. Once we made it closer to UNA campus I started being really happy because that was my home for SO LONG. So many streets hold memories for me there. The park that used to have the Ren Faire every year, the building I met my husband, my old professor’s house etc. I basically spent the whole 6 hot miles smiling. I even stopped at two places and made volunteers take my picture along the course. I AM A PROFESSIONAL.


I made it to the finish line and was so VERY PROUD of myself. My time was 3:33 which was almost 20 minutes faster than I expected! I made my A-Goal! I got my medal thanked people cheering me on, looked around and said, “Where is my family?”

My friend said, “Oh, so you don’t know?”

“Know what?”
“Everyone is fine, but they’re at the emergency room. There was an incident on the slide.”


Turns out Donnie had updated some friends so they would tell me, and he had updated Facebook, but I had no idea that my kids were at the hospital (which I ran by, funnily enough) getting checked out after some head injuries. I called Donnie to get the update and I said, “Actually, I don’t even know who is hurt. Who is hurt?”

“Both of them.”


Turns out someone put water on the large inflatable slide which made the kids go SO MUCH FASTER. And then some bigger kids thought it would be fun to push smaller kids down and it was chaos and Nikki went FLYING and out of control and crashed her head at the bottom. She was crying when someone pushed Wesley down and HE went flying and crashed his face into the other side of her head and then they were BOTH screaming. Donnie took them to the on-sight EMT (a handy thing at a race) and they looked at both of them and said, “You really should take them to the ER. We can drive them in the ambulance if you’d like.”


Donnie drove them to the ER where he watched my run from his tracking app from his phone. Since the kids had been on the wet slide they were frozen and cold BUT – since we had TWO AT ONCE – we got a discount on our bill because they used the same room. GO US!


Nikki ended up with a mild concussion so we had instructions to treat her with care etc and Wes might have had a small orbital fracture and Donnie was sent with care and instructions for both and what to look for the rest of the day and when to bring them back. Nikki was really nauseated at first but that faded and they both started acting normal after a good lunch and some time out of the sun.

Donnie felt REALLY bad but it all was fine, of course. I was glad that they kids were fine and was happy that he had been there to take care of them. A lot of us families leave our kids in the watch of other spectators, we have a nice community like that, but I’m glad the day there was an incident it was one of us in charge of our own kids. I’m very lucky to have such an amazing and supportive husband and I felt his love and pride in me even if he wasn’t there in body.

Photo taken by my friend David who also was the one who reassured me, "The kids are fine..." BEFORE telling me they were at the ER which is the BEST WAY to deliver information to a parent about their hurt kids. SO GRATEFUL for him AND this photo.

Photo taken by my friend David who also was the one who reassured me, “The kids are fine…” BEFORE telling me they were at the ER which is the BEST WAY to deliver information to a parent about their hurt kids. SO GRATEFUL for him AND this photo.

An amazing day where I was held up by my triathlon community. I would have never in a million years thought I would do an Olympic Distance Triathlon 3 years ago – and I couldn’t have done it without so many friends who encouraged me along the way. I could win the lottery tomorrow or inherit Google or become the elected Queen of the Universe and I would still say that my biggest unexpected blessing in life would be the community I fell into as a runner and triathlete in Huntsville, Alabama. There are no better people in the world, I guarantee it.


I need to be a triathlon training couch potato…can you help?

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 4.56.56 AMSo! I’m training for an Olympic Distance Triathlon which has a 26-mile long bike. Since Donnie gets dibs on times mornings for his daily workouts, I do 99% of my bike rides on the trainer. (A base that turns your bike into a spin bike, basically.) I finished the first season of The 100 for the first stretch of the season, but at 5’ish hours a week, that was over quick. I tried to watch Salem because I heard about it through Nerdist, but it’s REALLY gory for a Puritan-era drama. Witches back then needed lots of blood and nudity for their spells, evidently, and that’s not idea on the trainer.

I need something that I have at least a full season of. Remember – I’m not a fan of grown-up shows. I fast forward through a lot of stuff which I can’t do on a trainer. It needs to be mild enough that I can just leave it going, but it also needs to be entertaining enough to keep me distracted.

I would love to watch the second season of The 100 but since it’s still so new, it’s almost $4 an episode and I can’t hang with paying that much. If you recommend a TV show enough, I don’t mind paying $25 for a season of it or so, but I don’t want to pay much more than that.

OR! even good movies that are out right now on Amazon Prime? They need to be the “free” ones because I don’t want to spend $5 entertaining myself for a 2-hour bike ride.

SO! What are your recommendations? I watch on my laptop while I ride…so really Netflix, Hulu, HBO NOW, and Amazon Prime are all options!