The Journey to Ironman: Meet Claire
Why I Tri: Claire’s Story
I guess I had always dabbled in triathlons, mainly as a kid and youth. Somewhere along the way, maybe in that youthful spirit, the dream to do an Ironman before turning 30 came to me. It just so happened that my 29th year landed me back in my hometown of Whistler, host of Ironman Canada.
This was my year to do Ironman.
Setting an Intention
I went into this Ironman Project seeking a dream, not a goal. My dream was to do an Ironman – there was not a time or place attached to this. This intention allowed me to focus on the journey rather than the outcome. It also left room for surprises!
Why Tri? Before I get into my journey, I thought I might share why I think triathlon is such a great sport, and why racing is such a unique experience.
- Balance – three sports is better than one! My body, mind and spirit thrives off of the variety offered by the sport of triathlon. Coming from a few years of mainly running and a few injuries, I couldn't believe how great it felt to have the variety in activity. Triathlon can offer a balanced and healthy avenue to training and personal challenge. For me, it has also open doors to connecting with multiple communities.
- Humbleness – the sport of triathlon requires a humble spirit. Everyone has a strength and a weakness. Some triathletes come from swimming or running or cycling—very few are pros at all three, which means everyone is out of their comfort zone at some point. Triathlon allows you to build on your strengths, weaknesses and your humility.
- Multiplicity – triathlon, and Ironman in particular, brings together an extraordinary multiplicity of people. You have professional athletes and first-timers all racing the same course at the same time. Motivation and inspiration is drawn from all levels.
This was my year to do Ironman, so I registered. I did this with the support of my partner, family and friends – and looking back this community support was critical to my (our) success. I am a person who likes to think I can do it all. But, Ironman required a discipline I was not accustomed to and a focus that meant I had to miss out on some things. But, it also meant many other experiences were gained.
I took a few months in the fall to build up my base before diving into a full training program. To set up this training program, I connected with a local multi-sport coach and Ironman athlete of many years. Each week, I received a training program that I worked through, mostly independently. I should note that I fit this training in around a full-time Monday-Friday job. I thrived off of my training program, though I did not get too obsessive with sticking to it day-to-day.
And when training began to feel a little less exciting, I looked for other ways to keep it fun—like a roadie road trip. Once spring had sprung, my boyfriend and I packed up our car with camping gear and road bikes, heading off on an adventure with rest, riding and exploration our focus. Our adventures began on the Olympic Peninsula, with rides taking us from the ocean to the alpine (Hurricane Pass) and dense rainforest to hot springs (Discovery Trail), then down the rugged Oregon Coast, and capped off in the ponderosa pine and lava field foothills of the Cascadia. Yes, triathlon training can (and should) be fun, maybe a fun adventure. When we got home I tried to bring this same sense of adventure to all of my training sessions.
When you do anything for the first time, there is a heightened element of mystery and excitement – anything can happen! What will that open water mass start swim with 2000 men and women be like? Will I be able to take in enough water and fuel on the ride? Will I be able to manage the heat? Will my stomach hold up? How will my body feel after 11 plus hours of effort? I just want to finish strong!
Being one of the hottest spring/summers on record, I never wondered: will I get hypothermia? Who would have thought that race day would bring torrential downpour and 6 degree Celsius temperatures. Despite extremely challenging conditions, with more than 20 percent of racers not making it to the finish line, I had a great race.
I trained well; My body and mind were prepared. But I not only wanted to finish strong, I wanted to enjoy the experience. As my coach said – attitude is everything, especially on race day. I went into my race day determined to enjoy it.
I surprised myself with how great I felt during the race and how a positive attitude can make the most challenging experiences joyful. Perhaps this is my greatest ironman legacy: the power of attitude.
My dream was to do an Ironman before I was 30. It was challenging, but extremely rewarding. I have never felt so strong, alive, and connected. You never know what you are capable of until you tri.
-Claire Daniels (2015 Ironman Canada Finisher - 5th place 25-29 age category, 30th female overall)