Below is the “story” of an ordinary girl doing an extraordinary thing. What you read is her own story. It is meant to show you that ANYONE can do ANYTHING they put their mind to if they are willing to put the work in. It is not meant as training advice or to take away from the seriousness of the event. Next we will be featuring an Elite IRONMAN, who will have a different training program, different goals, and a different experience. My goal is to showcase two athletes with two different stories. Patti did this event to represent the “regular folks” and she did that very well. We followed her throughout the whole race, and she looked strong and HAPPY the whole time. She made many people proud and has inspired, and will continue to inspire so many people in the future!

Tell us a little about yourself.

I live in Portland and am 34. I work full time as a pediatric Occupational Therapist. I live with my 7 year old son Ryan and my 4 year old daughter Nyla.

Have you always been an athlete? What races did you complete before this?

That's funny Darce! I joined a local gym when I was 30 and before that I never broke a sweat! I ran a local 10K a year later because that is how long it took me to learn to run! I had to google what a 10K was when my friend asked. No natural ability here. I went to the gym near daily (because there was a daycare) and literally took a month to make it to 1.0 miles! I remember that day. Over the next year I did a half marathon then a full marathon a year later – all at my own pace!

When did you first start becoming interested in triathlons? What made you decide to try one?

I have always been one to do too much at one time….none of them well, but I do it all! I had little time to work out (with two toddlers) so I would often run (literally) to bootcamp and then off to spin class. Everyone was impressed, but little did they know my next opportunity to work out could be in 4 days. A triathlon was perfect for me – let’s do it ALL at the SAME time! That’s my life!! I am also not a wisher and dreamer – I like to make things happen, so I was not about to sit around and say “oh maybe someday I will…….”

When and where did you do your first triathlon? What was that experience like?

I did two sprint tri's at Lake T and an Olympic last summer. I did not train specifically for them and at the time consistently did bootcamp, bikram yoga and ran 3-4 times a week. Since I didn’t train, the run after the bike was difficult. I walked when I needed to, and I finished every one I started. Last summer I heard about the Lake T tri’s and I thought I had just as much right as anyone else to be there and try it out. I didn’t tell anyone and just went in myordinary gym clothes, my son’s spider man goggles and a borrowed bike! My friend Pam came with me. We were like two little kids on the first day of school. We were scared, nerdy and I suspect really stood out! I watched what other people did and tried to follow along, but I couldn’t (and still can’t) mount my bike on those racks so I just laid it in the grass. I was the last girl in the water (hoping to avoid a crowd) and side stroked (I invented that move!) and doggie paddled my way around the buoy. I got out of the water just about last and there was my lonely bike, laying on the grass like a kid’s outside their house.

What made you decide to do an IRONMAN?

I don't like to do things half ass, so when I heard there was this IRONMAN triathlon it bothered me that I hadn’t done that distance. If I was going to say I did a tri I wanted it to be THE one….the big one. Again, I had just as much right to sign up as all those people in fancy race clothes and fancy bikes. I wanted to represent us regular folks! I am also extremely goal oriented in my life and appreciate a challenge, structure and a plan (all provided by the training).

What was the training schedule like? How long did you train for the IRONMAN?

I hired a coach and began training earlier than most because I did not know how to freestyle swim or get on and off a bike! Ah hell, it took me abut a minute to buckle my helmet. Literally, started from scratch! I took swim lessons at the local gym alongside 3-5 year olds. I trained for 9 months. The mid day workouts were 60-90 minutes, 4x week (either a swim, bike or run but not one of them for 90 minutes – a combo of 2) The weekends were a bike ride on Saturday and a 10 minute run after to get used to running on tired legs followed with a run on Sunday. My goal was to finish, so I had no pace requirements. I just biked and ran at my own pace. I was only out of breath biking hills (Hebron Ave). All the training was at a very comfortable pace.

How did you balance training with your professional and social life?

Ha very carefully! I would often bike to my parents to visit them versus driving. I sat on my trainer in my family room biking while playing doll house with my daughter or “guys” with my son. There were many 5am bike trainer rides where I was still kinda sleeping and my heart rate would not budge from 70! I often ran, biked or swam just before meeting my friends out. The locals became very comfortable with me drinking wine in running clothes and compression socks! I snuck my hot pink compression socks under my work pants and wore “dressy” sneakers versus heels to save my feet. OBVIOUSLY, my family came WAY before any workout. I once biked for 4 hours to get my legs nice and tired for a run after the bike (the meat and potatoes of tri training) but as I headed into the driveway my daughter came to greet me and fell. I couldn't bear to let a sitter console her so there went my run! When I needed a couple of days off my coach adjusted my week. I skipped many a weekday workouts because life just happens BUT I always was smart about it because I didn't want to look back with any regrets and to know I tried my best. One time Pam and I were sitting on our bikes in her basement eating pretzels and watching movies when we were all of a sudden like, “Wait. Look at us! We better move it."

What was the hardest part of the training process?

Having enough organization and structure in my life allowed me to fit in the training very naturally, BUT there were days when I had like 5 text conversations going at the same time trying to organize sitters, birthday parties, what time I was meeting fellow bikers, what time I had to be at the family dinner etc etc – all happening on the same day. A bit nutty at times! Also, not comparing yourself to others. I was ALWAYS last on the bike / runs and came to realize that when people would ask me to bike / run with them what they really meant was they wanted to meet me in the parking lot and have a snack at the end with me! Since all workouts were for time (not miles) we started and ended at the same time so I felt a bit social in the parking lot but was really on my own. I decided early on I would rather be last than quit.

What was the biggest thing you learned from the IRONMAN experience?

That I can do just about anything if I practice it and ask for help.

What was your goals going into the race? Did you have a goal time to finish?

I wanted to finish happily and comfortably.

What were your thoughts as you entered the water minutes before the race?

I deserve to be here and this is my OWN race. STOP looking around for someone else with a pot belly. Don’t look at anyone. It’s some nice alone time with beautiful scenery ad family and friends nearby!! OMG, I can’t believe my friends took time away from their summer to be here for me!!!!

Give us a brief synopsis of the race.

The swim shot gun went off and I waited about 5 minutes to go. The buoys were so easy to see and whenever I got real close to someone I just treaded water a bit and waited for an opening. Since you float in a wet suit it is easy to tread water. The swim was calm, peaceful and it was a beautiful, clean lake. Such nice people along the way and lots of “Oops I’m sorry” when you bump someone. Tri secret #1- you don’t need to kick and since you float in your wet suit you are really just moving your arms – piece of cake! Tri secret #2 – there is a yellow cable at the bottom of the lake so you don’t need to worry about going off course. Just look down at the cable. I found Pam at the end of them swim and we hugged when we got out. I saw my son and fantastic support crew as I jogged to the tent to change for the bike. Tri secret #3 – there are people to take off your wet suit for you “Lie on your back and put your legs up!”! All my bike gear was in a bag hanging where I left it the night before. Tri secret #4 – there are volunteers that literally dress and undress youand get you ready for your bike! They peel off your wet clothes, rub sunscreen on you and put your helmet on for you in this lovely spa like tent. I prefer “wardrobe change” to “transition”. Tri secret #5 – they let me peek in the mens tent – woot woot!! Off to bike. Do 1 loop then repeat. Super easy pace, people chatting along the way, got off and stretched and used the porta potty. Had a banana and some cold water! I had all my food (some people call it “fuel” / “nutrition” but I refuse!) and drinks on my bike. I drank sports drink and had a gu every hour. At the halfway point I had packed myself a bag of goodies (baby wipes, crackers, cold ice tea, new cold drink bottles) and the volunteers hand you all your “stuff” as you just take it all in! I saw my son and stopped to chat. 2nd loop – Go. Done. Went by so fast! So happy to be back in the tent getting dressed to run. Wardrobe change #2. I had new shorts, shirts, deodorant, lip gloss, visor and a baby wipes bath. Like a mini makeover! Run the first loop, then repeat. I was rockin my lovely pace until about mile 18 when my whole group around me started walking. I kept jogging, but got sucked in by “Hey where ya from?!?” Here we go – Ironman turned into a cocktail party. We were chatting, walking, drinking soda, chips, cookies (yup nutrition plan aborted!) Then I hear "Hey it’s only 8:00 – we got plenty of time”. Well, now we're all STOPPED at a water station talking to the volunteers. "OK, OK I have to go" I told them, “I have a 7 year old waiting." Obviously, no one at that point had a time goal. I was once again walking at mile 21 when an angel from heaven (or Matthew Mund, the owner of mission FITNESS) came and yelled out “Clarke -let’s go”. Fine, I will run the rest of the way. FINISHLINE!!! My kid fell asleep two minutes later! I freakin did an IRONMAN!!

What is the best advice you would give to someone who wants to try a triathlon, but is nervous they will not finish or come in last?

Get a friend on board to do the same race with you. Pam got me through this. She was the only one who knew I was in my PJ's on the bike in the morning, texting her…. and chances were she was too! My friends and family knew I was doing this and were right there with me. Shelly watched my kids one morning when my sitter cancelled at 6am! I was lucky enough that friends (T,S,D,K,M,J) were all there on the course for me. My coaches R & A were at the end waiting for me. I would ask people to come with you. With training and race day be VERY specific about what you need. “I’m doing a 4hr bike – can you meet me in the Whole Foods lot at 10am?” – That was a common email I would send out. Sometimes I would have 2 different people taking “shifts” during my ride to keep me company.

Last? Someone has to be last. Be realistic about your goal. I never had a time goal or pace goal – FORWARD PROGRESS! Get a coach, train smart and be safe. Tri secret #6 – if you’re last out of the water it is real easy to find your bike!

Do you plan to continue to do triathlons?


About the author

Matt Mund is the owner and founder of Mission Fitness. He is dedicated to helping his clients of all fitness levels achieve their personal goals

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