140.6 Miles of Smiles

140.6 Miles of Smiles

by Kendra F.

I’m a marathon runner.  I’ve been running for years.  I even Boston Qualified last year in Chicago.

So what’s the next challenge?  Well, it had to be an Ironman.  The Ultimate Challenge.

So I bought a bike and hired a coach and signed up for Ironman Lake Placid 2017.

Oh boy, guess I better learn how to swim and ride a bike!

I’ve always been comfortable in water, so I assumed swimming was going to be the easy part.  Wow, was I wrong.  I couldn’t swim to the end of the pool the first time I tried to do freestyle.  Between panic and inexperience, I had a long way to go.  Coach Kurt Woodward of Experience Triathlon Personal Coaching Services started me off with lots of drills and lots and lots of time in the water.  I literally couldn’t believe it the first time I swam a continuous mile in the pool.  I would go to Masters Swim classes and ET Open Water Swims at Centennial Beach and every time became more comfortable in the water.  Still not fast, but I guess there is time for that.

Next up?  Conquering the bike.  I showed up at my first ET group ride with a look of panic on my face.  How did the ride work? Could I keep up?  Would I look like an idiot?  But Kurt encouraged me along and I gained the confidence to ride with the faster group and learned to absolutely love getting out there and pedaling over some pavement.  Kurt taught me basic handling skills in the school parking lot and I could not believe the difference that made in my ability.

I loved looking at the week ahead in Training Peaks to see what coach had on tap for me.  This was all so new to me and I thoroughly enjoyed the journey. I have been amazed at the unbelievable group of people I have met along the way.  I used to say runners were the nicest people you would meet.  I was wrong.  Triathletes are.  Everyone is so encouraging and motivated.  There was always someone willing to ride an extra mile or meet for a morning swim.  And the best part?  Early dinners with crazy fun people – who also understood that at 9 p.m. I need to go to bed so I can get up and train. 😊

I chose to do the Lake Placid Ironman in the Adirondacks of New York because I have a summer house there and have been going for all 45 years of my life.  It is my Happy Place and so fitting for my first 140.6 mile challenge.

I arrived a week ahead of the race to acclimate and test out the course (we don’t have a lot of hills around here – let alone mountains).  I teared up when I saw the Ironman truck parked in front of the finish line at the speed skating oval.  I got emotional when I did packet pick up and had my wristbands put on.  The orange one was my favorite.  It had the simple, yet very motivating slogan: I Will Become One.  I gazed at that often on race day.

I packed and re-packed my gear (almost forgot my jog bra!) and checked the weather hourly.

And then it was race day.

I had 2 goals:

  1. Become an Ironman
  2. Have fun

I love to race and the best description of the Ironman I heard was that the race itself is the cherry on top of all of that training.  8 months of early mornings and tired muscles all came down to this day.  I was determined to smile and thank volunteers and high five fans and enjoy the stunning scenery.  And that is exactly what I did.  I smiled for 140.6 miles.  I had an amazing support crew that I saw 7 times on the course!  I pushed forward when I was tired, but stuck to the plan Kurt and I had laid out.  And I not only succeeded in crossing that finish line, I did it in less time than I had hoped by over 2 hours.  Running around that oval with my family cheering, and the sun still out, and Mike Reilly telling me “Kendra Frigo, You are an Ironman!” was the most amazing 15 seconds of my life.

The journey was long, and hard, and incredibly rewarding.

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