For most of the race, I kept myself occupied with word problems that required multiple calculations and steps in order to distract/entertain me. I would check in with how I felt frequently being sure my heart rate was on point and my muscles were okay. I reminded myself to hydrate and fuel according to my schedule I created with Coach T doing the math to be sure I was following the right intervals. When I wasn’t doing math problems, I looked around and took in all my surroundings – I couldn’t believe I was really doing an Ironman and that it was this beautiful and inspiring.
2. How did you push yourself to the finish?
I have never had a hard time in a competitive setting to make myself finish. How I finish is a different story but I will cross that line. I have moments where I want to quit but I always remind myself it could be worse, I have done worse and when I reach the end it will all be worth it. Positive self talk is huge in my life and it can be very helpful getting me back on track when I have lost the drive to go on. I give myself small accomplishments as checkpoints to keep me feeling good about how I am doing and to keep moving forward rather than focusing on the finish which was definitely daunting in this race!
3. Was there a point at which you wanted to quit? If so, how did you get past it?
Like I mentioned in the last question, I do hit a point where I want to quit. In this race it was around mile 16 where there were barely any spectators and I was about 4 miles from seeing my friends and family. The course was the same loop over and over again I was bored, my hip flexors seized up on me and I thought to myself why am I working so hard when all I am trying to do is finish. I did some math problems again and realized I could slow down and still come in at my goal finish time. So I took a breather and slowed down. I thought if I was still moving and still on target overall I could do it.
4. What was your favorite part of the race, your least favorite part and why?
My favorite part of the race was the bike ride! To those that know me, this will come to a shock to them because I started my training hating the bike. Everything about the sport was horrible – the wind factor, the potential for a mechanical issue or flat tire, changing gears, sitting uncomfortably for hours, lower back pain and more. As I developed my biking ability, I realized how much fun it can be and truly enjoyed my rides. The race ride was so flat it was unreal how easy it felt pedaling. I just hung out in aero for most of the ride looking at the beautiful marsh land and watching the other strong athletes around me having fun too. It was only for the last 20 miles or so where the wind was so strong it was pushing my bike sideways that I wanted it to end. I remember thinking after mile 80, “wow this is great, I am totally signing up for another!”
My least favorite part was the 20 minute wait at the beginning of the race where we had no idea what was happening with the swim course but we had to stand there in the freezing cold waiting with only our anxious thoughts to distract us. I got so nervous, frustrated and angry I didn’t know how I was going to race. The anticipation of how the race was going to go was far worse than the 11.5 hours it took to complete!
5. How did you feel when they announced the swim change?
I was upset and frustrated because I worked so hard for the past year to get to this race and have the opportunity to race 140.6 and be an Ironman that I wanted to do the whole thing. I have never been one for cutting corners and I saw a shorter swim as cheating. Luckily they moved it up to 3000m which was close enough to the full distance that I wasn’t too disappointed.
Just before the finish I thought about how accomplished I felt and how all the long training days were worth it. At mile 24 I knew I would finish and I had a moment with myself about how amazing it felt and how all my worries were gone. I had the biggest smile come over my face! I then thought about all my biggest supporters – my mom and JT, Tyler, Bill, Lynne, Beth and Beth’s family who all came and cheered me on the ENTIRE day! I was so grateful to have these inspiring people in my life to continue to help me grow and develop as a human being. I was blessed to have so much love surrounding me at the race and at home – I knew so many of my friends and clients were tracking me and cheering me on all day and here I was about to cross that finish line finishing this incredible journey not alone but with all my supporters.
7. What is the greatest lesson you learned from this experience and how will you apply it to your life moving forward.
My biggest takeaway from this entire journey would be knowing there are challenges in all aspects of life that will seem impossible to do but with time, effort, patience, discipline, perseverance and the support of others, it is possible and will be achieved. If you really want something you will push past the hard times knowing it will get better and it will all be worth it in the end.
8. Was it worth it and why?
As I have mentioned a few times, it is completely worth it! The whole day was unreal with so many different athletes around me with different stories all coming together to complete something extraordinary. Not only was experiencing what the body can do if you dedicate and train but learning how to stick with something through the good, the bad and the ugly. This is not the only case where I will experience this and I am grateful to know I do have the mental ability to conquer my fears and any obstacle that comes my way.
9. If you could go back and tell yourself something 8 months ago, what advice would you give?
I would tell myself to follow the training program from the start rather than skipping some workouts in the beginning thinking I didn’t need to start the training that early. I would also tell myself to start using the Kickr from the start because only after you build your aerobic base for a sport does it begin to be fun and feel easy.
10. If you could do one thing differently, what would you do?
Other than doing more of the training program in the beginning, I would make a priority to sleep, stretch and lift more during the training season. I felt I could have used more yoga and leg days even though during training I didn’t want to do any more! During the race specifically, the one thing I would do differently now knowing I can actually complete one would be to push myself harder in the run. I held back because I didn’t know if I would finish (running 26.2 miles after all that seemed unrealistic before the race) and I had come to Maryland to finish an Ironman.
11. What was your biggest accomplishment?
I feel like my biggest accomplishment was actually dedicating 8 plus months to a strict training program and teaching myself how to hydrate and fuel properly so that after that 112 mile bike ride I had the ability to do the marathon run.
12. What was your biggest fear?
I was most afraid of not fueling or hydrating properly. You hear horror stories of people collapsing, needing IVs and EMTs and I was petrified that I would be one of them having never fueled according to the guidelines before. Although I am not proud of it I did a marathon on one gel and half a banana, I just didn’t like eating while working out. I didn’t want to screw up my nutrition on the bike and not be able to finish.
13. What are you most grateful for?
I like anyone else you ask cannot pick one thing or one person. I am most grateful for all of my supporters and the race volunteers. My friends and family supported me throughout the training process up and through the moment I crossed that finish line. From friends at home on their computers checking my tracking time to those on the course, I want to thank all of my supporters for believing me and inspiring me along the way! No one doubted my ability to complete this and I couldn’t be more grateful. During the event, I was never so excited to have so many familiar faces on the course.
Beth – you were the only one who followed through and took the challenge of training and completing an Ironman with me. Thank you for being such a great sport and friend! You killed it and I am so happy to share this with you!
Bill & Lynne – You two were always there for me with advice and support. I could count on you both to keep me on track and help me get my training days in. I had a blast working out with you both and learning the ins and outs of triathlons. Holy hills Reston century ride is a memory never to forget as well as murky lake swims in all weather! I don’t think I would be where I am today without you both and Coach T. Which brings me to my last shout out…
Lastly I need my mention my boyfriend Tyler. He has been by my side literally every day for the past 8 plus months guiding me as a coach and supporting me as my partner. He saw me after my good days and after my bad ones. Luckily for me, he could be on the side lines cheering for me from the start of the swim until the finish line where he stood smiling ready to place the medal over me as they called out “Kacie Harrington, you are now an Ironman.” That was truly the icing on the cake.
14. After completing it, do you want to do another one?
Before the race, I would say this was easiest question of all and say the answer is 100% no unless of course I had qualified for Kona hahaha… but really I would have bet on myself not wanting to do another one. Like all the things I have told my mother, “don’t worry mom, one and done. I will never do another one,” after completing it another one is exactly what I want to do. I guess I still have not learned to never say never! As much as there were days and minutes of struggle, I overall had an amazing time throughout the entire journey, especially on race day! If I close my eyes and can see exactly where I was on the bike during the race where I thought to myself, “this is awesome, I am totally doing another one!” It was somewhere around mile 75, which is shocking if you knew how much I hated biking when I started to train and how I would be complaining by mile 40 about how I wish the ride would end. If I was having so much fun this far into the race, I had to do another one. I look forward to training for my next one in 2017! Stay tuned for updates 🙂