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Why an Ironman, part II (joining crossfit)

January 4, 2012

I took yesterday and today off of training, trying to avoid getting sick, so it seems like a good day to write the second post of how I decided to register for Ironman Arizona. (I have a sore throat, slightly stuffy, and resting heart rate up 10 bpm, but otherwise not that sick — and hopefully feeling better and back to training tomorrow!)

After my first marathon with Paul in 2008, I was hooked. Before training for that marathon, I swore I could never do long runs. “I have flat feet and my knees hurt.” But when I ran that marathon, I proved to myself I could do it. I just had to build the muscles to support my feet and legs properly. I ran the Chicago marathon again in 2009. And since then, I’ve run another four marathons in four different states. Eventually I want to complete a marathon in every state, but that’s probably like a 25 year goal.

Running became the base for me to get back into rowing. First on the erg at my gym, and then in summer 2009, I rowed with Chicago Rowing Union. It was great to be back on the water with a team for the first time in a few years. And it pushed me to keep my training more consistent.

At that point I was something of a cardio junkie, and especially endurance. I loved to go out for long, slow runs, and long, slow rows. I also loved the short intense interval work. But I rarely did weights. My coaches in undergrad included some weightlifting, but never made it a big part of our training. And before crew, I never did weightlifting. So I just didn’t have the background for weightlifting. As a holiday gift to myself, in December 2009 I bought a ten session package with a personal trainer to focus on weightlifting. The trainer I worked with had me do a fair amount of dynamic exercises. He still had me do things like bench press on occasion, but he also had me do things like kettle bells, box jumps and burpees, and squat cleans.

My partner also got me an erg for Christmas in 2009! Between having an erg at home and doing sessions with the personal trainer, I was definitely in stronger shape. I decided to row with Lincoln Park Boat Club in 2010. I was with a strong rowing team now. That summer, we went to club nationals in Tennessee. My lightweight four had a very solid row — we didn’t place well, but we were rowing against mostly college age kids that probably could train all days (the lightweight category was particularly dominated by younger rowers).

At some point in the middle of that year, I bought a 10 class pass to Rowfit when it went on a groupon-like special sale. Rowfit offers both rowing classes and crossfit classes (today, they also offer other options). I had been reading about Rowfit on Nell’s facebook page since it opened in February 2010. Back in fall of 2006, I was Nell’s assistant coach for the Northwestern novice women’s crew team. I had never heard of crossfit before she opened her gym. But as I began reading her posts about it on facebook, I got more interested. So when I saw that special, I decided to try it.

In November 2010, I signed up for the crossfit elements class. After a couple classe with Eric (Nell’s husband and instructor for the elements course), I was convinced that crossfit was amazing. But at that point, I was still thinking of it more as an add-on to my workouts. I remember asking Eric how often most people did classes and telling him I was thinking I might do once a week or so. He told me most people did at least three times a week, but that some people did fewer (in retrospect, I’m guessing he probably was thinking that to really get the benefit from it, I needed to do more than once a week, but he didn’t say that at the time). By January, I signed up for a monthly unlimited pass and was making it in 2 or 3 times a week.

Being on LPBC put me in a community of amazing athletes, but athletes all dedicated to a single sport: rowing. Being part of rowfit put me in a community of amazing athletes dedicated to many different sports. I continued my rowing, but got more involved in crossfit as well. In summer 2011, I went to Warrior Dash with team rowfit, and had a blast. And then I went to Tough Mudder with team rowfit (if you’ve never heard of it, check out their website; it is insane).

It was the drive up to Tough Mudder that really got me seriously thinking about an Ironman. I was in the car with Eric and Ken, and somehow got to chatting about Eric’s training for his first Ironman. I had played with the idea of an Ironman before, but not seriously, yet. It seemed like so much. I mentioned to Eric that my biggest concern was my swimming. I took basic swimming lessons as a child, but knew just enough to swim for fun with my head above the water. When I did the Chicago Triathlon, I got a little better; I could swim with my head in the water and breathe on the side, but I still needed frequent stops to catch my breath. Not going to cut it for an Ironman. Eric told me about how he needed to learn to swim as well, and the lessons he did for that.

As we talked, I began thinking “this is something I could do.” I’m not the only one who has learned to swim to complete an Ironman. In fact, swimming is pretty common as the weak leg for beginning triathletes. If others can conquer this, I can. And now it was more than just reading stories on the internet about people who learned to swim for races. Now I knew someone who did it.

Driving home from Tough Mudder, I was ready to begin seriously thinking about “what about an Ironman?” I never thought I would do something like Tough Mudder. But I did it. And I had a blast. But I still did not expect that I would be signing up for Ironman Arizona in four months. I had gone from an Ironman being a distant “what if” to being a more immediate “let me think about it.” But I wasn’t ready to sign up quite yet. One more post to explain how I got to the point of signing up for Arizona.

319 days to Ironman Arizona.

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From → motivation, rest days

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