by Heather Schulze
If you have ever had a dream and had people tell you it was impossible, then this is a story you need to hear. I am not your conventional Ironman triathlete. This time last year, I didn’t own a bicycle and had never done a triathlon. I was a marathon runner who had fallen in love with spin class and met several wonderful people who piqued my interest in triathlons when I was burning out on training solely for running events. When I ordered my Quintana Roo tri bike, people immediately began telling me I had made the wrong choice – I should have started out on a road bike or even borrowed someone else’s to see if I even liked triathlons first (which were probably all true statements, but I had decided to dive in head first and wasn’t going to change my mind). It was a struggle at first…I had my first major wipe-out in the bike store parking lot the day I bought it and a couple more to follow, but in the end, it all came together. Last summer, I raced in three sprint distance triathlons, and I was completely hooked.
One night last October, I was messing around on the internet and found myself on the Ironman website to see what everyone kept talking about. I had tossed around the idea of completing one in 2008, but somehow I ended up scrolling through the different races just to see what was still open. The US races were full, of course, so I began looking overseas even though I had never traveled much at all. Ironman France was still open and fell at the end of June which was perfect. Hmmmmm….
I wish I could say that this was a well thought-out process, that I spent a lot of time investigating the course before committing to the outrageously priced entry fee and plane ticket, and that I did the training exactly like the experts recommend. The truth, though, is that at the last minute, I decided I couldn’t wait until 2008 to do the race so I signed up to go to Nice in June. I began to work with Joel as my coach and immediately got started on a training schedule. I admit there were a few moments when I had some doubts…two hours into the Big O standing under a barn…guess I won’t be doing a half-Ironman after all…what do you mean France has the hardest bike course of all the Ironman events???……but in the end, I believed I could do it and I was going over there to prove to myself and everyone else that sometimes dreams that seem impossible can come true.
So that is how in one year I went from a girl whose idea of a long ride was an hour-long spin class in an air-conditioned room at the gym to an Ironman…..
By now, many of you have probably heard about the adventures we had before even getting to the starting line. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining because everything worked out very well in the end, but in case anyone happens to not know the details, I’ll give you the condensed version. My passport, instead of taking the predicted eight weeks to arrive, ended up taking about fifteen which still would have been all right except then the postal service lost it….sent it to New Hampshire for some reason. When I was about five days from my flight still with no passport, I was going through different emotions depending on the minute – furious at the postal people for putting it in the wrong box, numb from disbelief that I was not going to be able to go after all of this training, sick enough about it to stay home from work. Anyway, it ended up arriving on Friday (I flew to France on Wednesday) so it was fine after all. First crisis over. The second big problem came when we arrived in Nice. When we left KCI, my friend Katie (the most wonderful girl in the world who volunteered to pay for an international plane ticket to fly halfway across the world to watch me race for 13+ hours – if that doesn’t make an amazing friend, I’m not sure what would) and I joked with the atten