Taking Chances

When I originally signed up for Ironman Lake Placid last July, the odds were against me. It was almost scary. But as Phil Collins would say, it was a chance I had to take.

Triathlon? What?

Triathlon? What?

I didn’t own a road bike.

I didn’t know much about cycling…besides knowing how to do it. That whole “you can’t forget how to ride a bike” thing really helped.

So you're saying I'm going to be attached to the bike?

So you’re saying I’m going to be attached to the bike?

I pretty much knew nothing about bicycle maintenance.

I had only recently started swimming again – before that, I hadn’t done a real swim workout since high school. Unless you count swimming to the raft I fell off of in the ocean.

Does lounging count? I'm IN the water...

Does lounging count? If I’m IN the water? No?

Even more worrisome, I got a stress fracture a month into training.

All huge red flags, right? I know. Maybe it wasn’t the best idea. And I’m sure my family and friends were more than a little skeptical and maybe even nervous.

accomplishment quote

Not that this was one of the “world’s greatest feats” or anything…not even close. But maybe it seemed a little reckless initially. Did you think it wasn’t smart? ADMIT IT! I know it seemed that way.

But did I respect the distance?

Yes. I think I did. I knew how hard I would have to work and every time I felt like skipping a workout or cutting it short, I reminded myself…”you have a lot of work to do.” I pictured myself in the race unprepared – and that was an extremely scary thought. So I put in the work. I researched. I read books. I found extremely knowledgable coaches. I found a team of equally crazy people. I asked questions. I did everything I could do to finish my first Ironman.  I knew I could do it.

And I did.

Check that one off the bucket list.

Check it off the bucket list!

I’m not saying this to sound boastful, I’m saying it because I want others to feel empowered to go for their goals. Once you do, it’s the best feeling ever.

I knew I had the common sense and determination to get over those obstacles safely. I knew that if I put my mind to it, I could figure it all out, persevere through the training, and finish the Ironman. And knowing myself, I knew I would love the journey. I just knew it.

People will always tell you you can’t do something. They always have a reason to give you; an excuse for why you can’t.

CHEESEBALL ALERT: In your heart, you have to know the reasons you can. If your heart says it wants something, JUST DO IT. Even if logic gives you a million reasons not to fight for what you want, focus on the one reason you should…because you want to. Because you love it. Because you’re doing it for someone else. If it’s positive and safe and healthy, do it. Whatever your reason, do it. Do it now.

You may be thinking…”yeah, it’s easy to say all that now that you’ve finished”. But the thing is, I finished because I stayed positive and believed in myself. If I could give everyone one gift, it would be that. True self-confidence. This happy feeling that makes me want to be a better person. 

So now, we move forward.

(I have no creative transition into the next section of this post, except to say…”now I’ll answer some of the questions I’ve been getting”. I know, I know, you totally come here expecting proper writing skills. Sorry folks!)

How do you feel?

Physically, I feel great. Like, too great. Sunday night I was hurting, obviously. Monday my muscles were just tight. Tuesday I felt pretty good. By Wednesday I felt back to normal. There has to be some kind of physiological reason for the lack of soreness. Physiological, or I was just pretty dang slow. I’ve been taking my recovery very seriously (AKA not working out and drinking beer) but I’ve done yoga, biked, and went on my first run back yesterday. Legs definitely felt a little heavy.

I’ve been waiting for the past week to get sick. You know that whole “your immune system goes down after a big race” thing? I was certain I’d catch a cold. I always do. I do after marathons. I did after my half ironman. But this time? So far so good. I am continuously AMAZED by what the human body can do. It’s incredible. Although I probably just jinxed myself by saying it.

Hardest part?

Of the race? The last 11 miles of the bike and the last 13 miles of the run. Of the training? The long bike rides (5,6,7 hours). Leaving to train when Brendan was still sleeping. Reorganizing my schedule around training. As “they” say, training is 97%, the race is 3%.

How was the training? How did you find the time?

It was tiring and there were times I was cursing the word “Ironman”, but I never for a second hated it. I didn’t dread training. Plus, I think my emphasis on sleep helped me feel continuously energized – I typically get 9+ hours of sleep every night. Regardless, I found the time because I truly love it, as always happens when you enjoy something. It made me feel strong and gave me a lot more confidence in myself. I’m happiest when I have a big goal to work toward.

I definitely had some days that made me question everything, and it was tough, but overall the experience was just FUN. Don’t hate me, but I’m one of those annoying people who genuinely loves exercise – most people think this makes me certifiably crazy, but hey. Fine. I’m crazy. (I don’t love it every day…but the general trend in my brain is toward YAY FUN EXERCISE as opposed to UGH F YOU EXERCISE. I have the running community to thank for that!)

Even more fun when you have friends!

Even more fun when you have friends who love it too!

Will you do another Ironman?

Yes, yes, a resounding yes! (Oops…I mean…Brendan…would you mind?) It wouldn’t be for a year or two and I’m not sure which one, but maybe Mont Tremblant in Canada, Madison (Wisconsin) Couer D’Alene (Idaho), Colorado…OMG THERE ARE SO MANY OPTIONS…I would also absolutely do Lake Placid again. I plan to volunteer next year – gotta give back!

Thank you volunteers! Couldn't have done it without you!

Thank you blue-shirted volunteers! Truly couldn’t have done it without you!

Post-Ironman blues?

Yes. I always feel down after a big race. I’m super crabby. I’ll let you know when that’s over.

The crabbiness started at a young age...

The crankiness started at a young age.

What’s next?

The recurring question in my life. I’m hoping to do a one or two more sprint/olympic tris this Summer if I can find some that work. I’m running the NYC Marathon for the second time this November, and I would love to do another half ironman next Summer. On my wish list is Ironman 70.3 Kansas because it’s in Lawrence, KS, where I went to college. (ROCK CHALK BABY!) I can’t think of a more perfect location. Oh and Hines Ward did it last year, so there’s that. But for at least another couple days, I am fully embracing the recovery period.

What do you want to do? What’s on your bucket list?

I’m a writer currently living in New Jersey and blogging about running, fitness, wellness, and motivation. I want every reader to laugh and feel empowered, balanced, and motivated! Subscribe by email to get 1-2 newsletters a month with post updates, my favorite articles, running playlists and more!


  1. August 7, 2013 / 10:07 pm

    Congrats Kara! Be sooo proud of your accomplishment, you have an amazing body and mind! It is truly cool to find out what you can do when you put your mind to it. :)

    • August 7, 2013 / 10:35 pm

      It really is! Thank you! :)

  2. August 7, 2013 / 11:39 pm

    I love that you cited Hines Ward here (I’m a big Steelers fan). Seriously, way to go ahead and start thinking about more after finishing one. That is impressive. I cannot even imagine how great it must feel to finish one. And oh yes, I understand about how difficult it is to get out of the house and leave to train when the boy is still asleep. My guy sleeps late and I hate to come home when he is still in bed and I just ran like 16 miles or something. Then he is up for the day and I am back in bed.

    • August 8, 2013 / 12:50 pm

      Haha! I’m just a huge football fan :) So excited for the season to start! And yeah, getting on a similar schedule with the BF can be tough!

  3. August 8, 2013 / 9:30 am

    Thanks for sharing, Kara! I have really enjoyed reading about your ironman journey :) It’s really the “regular” people like you who have a job, family, and friends AND manage to train for these incredible endurance races who are so inspiring for me. I just finished my first half iron distance and plan to do another one in late September. I am just generally loving the training, races, and overall tri lifestyle (on most days).
    I look forward to seeing what else you accomplish!

    • August 8, 2013 / 1:01 pm

      Thanks so much for reading, I appreciate it! I always liked reading more about “regular” people as well – I find it harder to relate to the professional athletes. (But I’m still very much in awe of them!) Congrats on finishing your first half iron! Isn’t that the best feeling? So happy for you!

  4. August 8, 2013 / 11:55 am

    You decided that you were going to do it, you set your mind to it, and you did it!! Congrats!! It has been so fun reading about your journey the last 7 months!!! You caught the bug!! There is no going back now!! :)

    • August 8, 2013 / 1:02 pm

      Thanks for always reading and leaving me such postivie comments. You’re the best! I have definitely caught the bug – hope to do a race with YOU someday!!

  5. August 8, 2013 / 1:01 pm

    Great post Kara! Found your blog through someone’s post on Facebook. Congrats on your Ironman! I was at the same situation 3 years ago, I didn’t own a road bike, haven’t been on one since a child, but with swimming, I had NO experience – I didn’t know how to swim! I took the chance, joined TNT’s IronTEAM (saw your purple jersey – GO TEAM!) and was the best decision in my life! Probably going to do Mont Tremblant next year. I’ll be sure to follow your adventures, good luck!!

    • August 10, 2013 / 5:54 pm

      Hi there! Thanks so much for reading! Love having a fellow TNT IronTeamer here :) They definitely transformed me into the triathlete (sounds weird saying that) I am today. Maybe I’ll see you at Mont Tremblant – I’m thinking about it too!

  6. August 8, 2013 / 1:56 pm

    I think sometimes there is a decision to be made about whether going after certain dreams is doable in that particular moment but generally speaking I think everybody should take a big risk on something to find out what they’re made of. Even though the odds were against you, you put in a lot of hard work & that is why you succeeded!

    • August 10, 2013 / 5:58 pm

      Agreed – risk is good! Thanks Shannon!

  7. January 29, 2014 / 3:55 am

    Thanks for sharing this, Kara! I love it! What an amazing accomplishment. I’m excited to try for 14 5Ks in 2014. I just ran my first at the end of last summer and I can’t wait to do it again. From there, I know I would like to do longer races. This is so inspiring!