Monday, February 15, 2016

Ironman Arizona Race Report: Epilogue

Three months. Today marks exactly three months since I swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles, and ran 26.2 miles to become an Ironman.

Some days, it feels like yesterday. Some days it feels like 20 years ago. But isn’t that always the case with racing – and so many other wonderful events in a person’s life? You can never really remember every single moment.

You want to know the funny thing?

It’s still hard for me to comprehend those distances. I remember the first time I read about the Ironman, I couldn’t comprehend the miles involved. You’d think that after finishing the race, I’d have a better grasp of just how far an Ironman is. The truth is almost the opposite.

Three months later, I can’t fathom that I was actually swimming, biking and running for almost 14 hours.

I remember a quick swim, a wet and rainy bike ride where I had the courage to ride fast (for me) downhill in the rain, and a run that started out beautifully and then had a few issues between kilometer 14 and the finish line.

Okay, I remember that my back hurt…a lot. To be honest, though, the most difficult part of the day happened in the finisher’s chute…the steps between stopping to savour the moment and crossing the actual finish.

Wow. Those three steps were hard.

But I remember smiling as I took each one of them.

I remember my Dad catching me at the finish line. My mom telling me I came in under 14 hours. My friends cheering me along the way and after I finished.

I remember checking my Blackberry and having 144 Facebook updates and messages. That’s when I realized just how many people at home had followed my Ironman Journey – who were pulling for me all through that amazing and unexpected day. My mom. My brothers. Other family and friends. Those posts and cheers made my day.

Ironman Arizona. It’s still crazy to think that I did it. I really did it.

I have to give huge thanks to everyone who helped me on my journey – who made my crossing the finish line possible:
  • To my parents – for being with me every step of the way. While my Dad was there in person, my Mom was glued to her computer all day. I am not sure who had the harder job (or most stress) that day. 
  • To my coach – Mark Linseman of Loaring Personal Coaching. You are a rockstar. I don’t know quite how you did it, but you got me to the finish line. Your advice, words of wisdom, constant support and sheer patience with me mean a lot. I look forward to having your help as I take on my next big (if shorter!) goals!
  • To my brothers and friends at home – for support, encouragement and keeping  everyone else in the know about where I was and how I was doing. For staying up crazy late to watch me cross the finish line – and to screen capture and video every drunken moment of it.
  • To my friends Paula and Karen – who came out to Arizona to cheer me on – and who were instrumental in helping my Dad navigate an Ironman Race Day.
  • To my friend Barry and his penchant for having Tiger Balm around. Here is to your quick thinking (and quick running). You were a lifesaver. I attribute my 42 second sub-14 hour finish to you. I didn’t stop a single time after I saw you under the bridge. You are awesome.
  • To the girls in the TTC who did IMAZ - the fact we all finished is amazing and says a lot about how awesome we all are. Thanks for the encouragement, support, group rides and everything else leading up to race day.  So glad to share the race with you. Onwards and upwards!
  • And of course, to all the awesome volunteers and other spectators – who braved cold and wet weather to help every racer out there. You deserve your weight in gold.
An Ironman Can be Anyone

I remember my Dad telling pretty much every person we met on the rest of our Epic Road Trip that I was an Ironman. I blushed every time.

Heck, I think I blush whenever I hear my cell phone ring because my Dad programmed the ringtone to be Mike Reilly saying, “Jana…come on, just a few more steps. You are… Ironman.”

I hear the words. I remember crossing the finish line. And yet, I still have this odd sense of wonder at the whole thing.

I wonder if people look at me when they hear I’ve done an Ironman and think, “Right, Sure you did.” I know I don’t look like an Ironman.

Then again, what does an Ironman look like?

If I did it, I guess that an Ironman can look like me: an average 37 year old single girl. But an Ironman can also look like my ultra-fit cousin Bob and my friends Hector, Kim, and LK – or someone with few extra pounds, sometimes more. 

An Ironman can look like someone in a wheelchair, a person with one leg or no legs – someone who is blind, or deaf, or who has ALS.

An Ironman can be a nun, a single parent, a grandparent, an octogenarian.

An Ironman can be a former drug addict or alcoholic, a cancer survivor, a heart transplant recipient.

Really, now that I think about it: An Ironman can be ANYONE.

It can be me. Or you. Or you. (Yes, I mean YOU).
But how does a normal person turn a dream into reality? After all, it's kind of a crazy goal.

In my mind, becoming an Ironman takes 3 simple things. Well, simple in theory…maybe not in execution.


If there’s one thing you need more than anything else, it’s commitment. Training for an Ironman is an incredible task – there’s no doubt about that. It’s not a race to enter on a whim. You need to commit to what you want – and then do everything it takes to get you there.
Depending on where you start and what you want to achieve, this might mean months or years of dedication before you toe the line – certainly it will take lots of time swimming, biking and running…not to mention doing laundry.


Back in my second year of university, I joined the swim team when I was a terrible swimmer (I saw a sign that said ‘Any skill level welcome’ and believed it). At the end of the year, the team gave me the Perseverance Award. I might have sucked as a swimmer, but they knew I was never going to give up. I was going to finish what I started.

If you’re going to take on an Ironman, you’re going to need every bit of perseverance you can muster. Not just on race day when you might have to deal with unexpected things (like a back spasm), but throughout the long training cycle – through 6 or 7 hour bike rides, 3 hour runs, and long swims. There will be good days and bad days…you need to be able to thrive on the best days and get beyond the worst. When you doubt yourself or when others doubt you, you need to look in the mirror and say: “Watch me.”


I mostly train alone, but I still have a huge support system. My parents and brothers are behind me a hundred percent. So are my closest friends – even the ones who think I’m nuts.

As mentioned above, I have an awesome coach in Mark Linseman of Loaring Personal Coaching – who has helped me for 2 years now. He figured out how to get me to the start line confident I could do it. He patiently kept me practicing until I could take my hands off my handlebars (it took 18 months). He’s still trying to get me to ride aero (that might take 18 years). I also have all the other coaches at LPC, who have helped me at triathlon clinics, training days – and at the Florida Triathlon Camp.

And, of course, I have my friends in the Toronto Triathlon Club – who I train with when I can, who I raced with in Arizona, and who I rode with a lot last summer (especially my friend Carole!). While you might train alone – you can’t do it alone. Certainly you don’t have to. Join a club, join an online triathlon group, go to a camp, hire a coach if you can.

Take support when you can get it – and be thankful for everyone who helps you. Make sure you pay it forward in the future.

Commitment. Perseverance. Support.

Oh, right - and a relentless belief that you can do it.  If you don’t believe in yourself – then who will?



  1. A great journey for sure! Congrats again Ironman. Belief is everything on race day!

    1. Thanks Robin! And isn't that the truth. If you think you can, or you think you can''re right! :)