Dual Sport Insanity: Triathlete Eventer, Lemons or Lemonade

Photo courtesy of Angela Earle. Photo courtesy of Angela Earle.

So you have qualified Rolex for the first time, hypothetical of course. You have worked on it for years. You’re ready, your horse is ready, your butterflies are building. You get notified, the day before you are to ship out, that more than half of the cross country course has been rendered unusable by unfortunate weather. What do you do?

I was faced with a similar question recently. I have trained all year to compete at Ironman North Carolina. A 2.4 mile swim, a daunting 112 mile bike, and a marathon (26.2 mile run). On Tuesday afternoon, the day before I was to leave home,  came the toughest email that I have received in years. Due to the devastation left by Hurricane Matthew the bike portion of the race was being cut by 56 miles.

My initial reaction was shock and disbelief. Followed closely by anger — yes I was mad. My first thought was to pull out of the race, a very selfish thought. As I thought about my options fellow competitors reached out to offer words of encouragement and inspiration. As one of my friends said, “The race is only a celebration of all your hard work, the distance doesn’t really matter.”

Slightly different from four-star eventing, where we have only six options a year, Ironman offers many races around the world every year. One of my training partners reached out to me to inform me that there were some charity entry slots available for the upcoming Ironman Florida. This was a crazy idea, it would only give me two weeks to recover, but then again I’m an eventer and we are not always looked at as the sanest people.

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Photo courtesy of Scott Shiminski.

I looked into the charity entry slot. Why would I not take advantage of this great opportunity? I am in the best shape of my life and I have a chance to give back, something I have always felt strongly about.  This time it will be the Children’s Tumor Foundation that will benefit from my training. I have learned a lot about Neurofibromatosis, NF, in the past 10 days and I have counted my blessings every day since.

So how do you prepare to get through two grueling events with just 14 days between each. Well that’s easy, not! The biggest thing is try to relax. Relax, yes, I can relax when I am on the back of my horse.  So on Sunday, just one week post Ironman NC and three days until I would leave for Florida, we took a two-lesson clinic with eventer Bobby Meyerhoff and his jumper wife Danica. It was a workout, a learning experience, and a Pony Club outing rolled into one. It was another reminder of how much I love riding my big chestnut horse.

Being at the clinic with fellow Horsemasters and our Pony Club counterparts reminded me once again how fortunate I am to have my health. Being able to get out and do the things we love to do is truly a blessing. The young riders and their parents in our Pony Club have been extremely supportive of me in my efforts to become an Ironman and I can not thank them enough.

The day before I left for Florida I got an injury update from my physician. I had been having intermittent and moving hip pains. My MRI results showed a stress reaction, slightly less than a stress fracture, and a minimal tear of a hamstring. My Doctor advised me to listen to my body and have a safe race. Off to Florida I headed knowing I would not have my best race but I was raising money and awareness for a great charity.

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Photo courtesy of Scott Shiminski.

Florida Ironman was the best decision I have made in years. The conditions were close to perfect, I was settled, and the community was full of hype. We made a practice swim and a short bike ride on Thursday. Followed that up with another swim and a short run on Friday. It was our own sort of Jog Up.

I walked around the race expo, stopping at the Base Performance tent, as I walked in the lady working looked at me and asked  “You event?” “Yes, how’d you know.” Unaware that I was wearing my JBH Eventing hat. We talked about the similarities between eventing and triathlon. She told me I was insane, and I said well I’m an eventer.

Courtesy of Scott Shiminski

Photo courtesy of Scott Shiminski.

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Photo courtesy of Scott Shiminski.

Saturday morning came early, I was up at 4:30. I talked to my wife on the phone as she prepared to head out for a day of cross country schooling. I headed to the start line to join my friends and teammates. The swim start looked calm, the cannon went off and in the water we went. One hour 45 minutes later I finished the 2.4 mile swim and was headed to the bike. I expected the 112 mile bike to take about 6.5 hours. What I didn’t expect was my wife to be standing at the bike finish cheering me on.  She pulled off the ultimate surprise. After an few emotional moments it was time to change my clothes and head out for the marathon (26.2 mile run) portion of the triathlon.

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Photo courtesy of Scott Shiminski.

I did it, 14:45:29, I was an Ironman for the second time in two weeks. I was thrilled, I was exhausted and I was hungry. Throughout the race I thought about the sacrifices my family and friends made so that I could compete. I thought what next because I am goal driven. I thanked everyone I could for their support.

If you have a goal, set your mind to it. Achieve it. Learn from it. Grow from it. I hope to meet many of you, the EN Nation, as I set out to achieve my 2017 goals. Happy New Year.

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