Five years ago I could not run a single mile. Four days ago I completed a full triathlon (140.6 miles). If that isn’t a testament to the power of goal setting, I don’t know what is!
For many years, the idea of completing an Ironman (a full triathlon- 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile run) seemed impossible to me. The thought of even completing any one of those events was daunting, but when combined, the mission was completely terrifying. Completely terrifying, yes, but also the ultimate test of endurance, stamina, and grit. As I progressed through my fitness journey, the dream of completing an Ironman slowly began to become more of a reality.
Around Christmas 2014, the quiet whisper became a shout and it became clear to me that if I was ever going to be able to complete an Ironman, it would have to be soon. My husband was not deployed, both of my children were old enough to attend school, and my career was flexible enough to allow for the massive amount of training required.
With my BHAG established, I set out to find a race. I quickly ran into a big problem- only one of the races fit into my schedule (I needed to find a race before we moved) and of course, that race was also the only one to be completely sold out. I was devastated but couldn’t bring myself to pay over $1,500 for a charity slot.
I tried to get the goal of completing a full triathlon out of my head, but during every long run it would work its way to the forefront of my thoughts. I can still remember the moment during a swim in January that it all became clear. The situation I was facing with my Ironman was similar to the situation I was facing with my career!
My professional goal (helping others leverage their natural talents to become more effective both professionally and personally) required me to “think outside the box”. Instead of letting obstacles (multiple moves, young children, restructuring a partnership) stop my progress, I was able to take those obstacles and use them to help shape the solution (forming my own LLC- www.activateyourtalent.com). Activate Your Talent allows me to move the company with me, have a flexible schedule to be there for my children’s soccer games and field trips, and most importantly, to be a catalyst for positive change in others. If I was able to “make it work” Tim Gunn style with my professional BHAG, why couldn’t I do the same thing with my physical fitness BHAG?
So I began planning “Ironman KC” and spent many miles/hours over the next few months planning the race based on daylight hours, open swim times, children’s schedules, and refueling options. My logistical brain loved the task of figuring out the jigsaw puzzle of moving variables and it became clear, that while not easy, it was possible. And that was enough for me!
My next step was comparing my current fitness level to where I needed to be. This process allowed me to then lay out the small, actionable steps (AKA a training plan) that would help me to reach my BHAG. With a written plan in hand, I eagerly began stacking on the miles. With each mile it felt so good to be getting closer to achieving what for so many years seemed completely impossible. The hours spent out on the road and in the pool were welcome additions to my schedule. Not only were they getting me closer to my goal, but they also allowed me the time and space to really think through a lot of difficult situations happening in my life.
On the morning of April 30th, 2015 I set out at 4:30 in the morning on a mission to complete Ironman KC. Since the lap pool wasn’t open that early and it is a wee bit unsafe to be biking around the back roads of Kansas in the pitch black, I was forced to rearrange the order of events and get creative with locations and refueling stops. Navigating through these challenges made me realize how often we have to do the same thing with our lives: even if we have all the right pieces, we still have to be flexible enough to rearrange them to fit into the puzzle of our life.
I happily spent the day meandering around the Kansas countryside slowly checking off the miles and soaking in the absolutely perfect weather. My body responded surprisingly well; the combination of diligent training and a carefully planned route created the conditions necessary for success. Of course, there were a few hiccups- my only hair tie ended up broken and on top of the coals in the sauna (long story, don’t ask) so I had to literally tie my hair in knots for the bike portion- but overall I couldn’t have asked for a better day. The intermittent shouts of encouragement from neighbors and friends on social media combined with the exhilaration of getting closer and closer to completing my BHAG created an almost euphoric glee that lasted all 140.6 miles.
13 hours and 16 minutes after I began, I rolled into my driveway one final time. As I hopped off the bike, I was struck by the feeling of being completely fulfilled. Even though my body and mind were fatigued, my soul felt satisfied and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I had done it; I had completed something I had previously thought to be impossible.
In the days following, many people asked me why I did it.
I did it for myself.
I didn’t do it because someone else wanted me to. I did it because I needed to soothe the voice that said “you could never do something that hard” that seems to linger in so many of us.
I did it myself.
I didn’t do it to hear the crowds cheering or to build camaraderie with other racers. I did it solo to prove to myself that through goal setting and actionable steps, I could do anything I set my mind to.
I did it.
And in the end, all reasons and circumstances set aside, that is all that matters.