By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
“You gonna die!” exclaimed Rebecca Kelley’s mother when Kelley, 27, told her mother the distance she must cover to complete an Ironman Triathlon.
Kelley, a self-proclaimed “mediocre athlete,” competed in Ironman Canada in Penticon, British Columbia, on Aug. 29.
Kelley did not die. In fact, she completed the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-run in 12 hours and 38 minutes.
Kelley began participating in triathlons in 2008. She started training with a track group and was “swept into the whole triathlon thing.” Her training group, TN Multisports, focuses on group workouts, events, and races, while also setting goals for individuals.
A native of Detroit, Mich., Kelley moved to Seattle for college. Kelley attended the University of Washington in 2006 where she majored in Communications and minored in Spanish.
She played basketball and softball in high school. “I’m kind of a solid athlete — proficient enough to make the team, but not great enough to stand out,” Kelley said.
Kelley’s first triathlon was a sprint-length triathlon (a 1/4-mile swim, 15-mile bike ride, and 3-mile run) in Issaquah. She got a flat tire during the bike portion with only 2 miles left. Unfortunately, Kelley did not know how to change a tire. “I stood there not knowing what to do,” she said.
Eventually, Kelley got her tire changed, although it delayed her 45 minutes. “I felt really frustrated.
However, it is a really addicting sport. You always want to improve.” Completing an Ironman triathlon was not an aspiration of Kelley’s when she started doing triathlons. However, when she went to witness Ironman Canada to watch her teammates from TN Multisports compete last year, she realized that it was something she wanted to do. “There were young, old, fat, and skinny [athletes] competing,” Kelley said. She was enthused by the whole environment.
Kelley trained for a whole year in preparation for Ironman Canada. “It’s pretty much a part-time job.”
Kelley, an Internet marketer and writer, works at home. Her employer was very supportive of her goal.
“Toward the end [of training before the Ironman], the biggest workouts were 15–16 hours a week.” Kelley worked out 6 days a week and sometimes twice a day. During training, Kelley did not adopt any specific diet, but she “ate a little healthier.” Kelley lost 20 pounds during training.
Kelley started her Mediocre Athlete blog about a year and a half before training for Ironman Canada. Titled “Mediocre Athlete,” the blog features snarky, self-deprecating highlights of Kelley’s race adventures.
“It’s kind of funny, I felt like such a newbie. I got used to the middle-of-the-pack viewpoint.” The website is visited by many of her training partners as well as fellow triathletes. Kelley says that she has received e-mails out of the blue from people who have found her blog and have entered triathlons based on her reviews.
Kelley vividly remembers the race day. Although anxious and excited, she developed a positive mindset. “I was shockingly calm and prepared. I really envisioned how the race would go, and it was kind of nice.”
“It was the most crowded race you can think of, times a thousand,” said Kelley, jokingly. According to the Ironman Canada Web site, 2,732 participants finished the race.
Throughout the endurance race, it never crossed Kelley’s mind that she would not finish. “I am an exceptionally stubborn person. My legs would have to fall off for me not to get across the finish line.”
As Kelley neared the end of the final leg, the 26.2-run, she knew that her hard work was going to pay off.
Running a marathon after the first two portions was a great unknown for Kelley. “Nothing really ached, which is funny to say.”
As she ran passed cheering teammates who watched the race, she said to herself, “Holy crap, I’m going to finish this thing.” She choked up with emotion and started to “dry cry.” She described it as “having no moisture left,” and her body could not produce tears.
Once Kelley crossed the finish line, she walked around in a haze. “It felt like somebody borrowed my body for the day and then returned it.”
Mother knows best
Prior to the race, Kelley called her mother in Detroit, letting her know about it.
Kelley’s mother was astonished by her achievement, but disappointed with the payoff.
“You mean you don’t get paid?” Kelley’s mother asked. She thought that a t-shirt and a medal were not good enough for what Kelly had to go through. Kelly’s mother also said that the Ironman was “too much exercise.”
Kelley takes her mother’s comments in stride, like the other stories she has posted on her blog. She finds humor in talking with her mother.
The price to pay
Training for and entering triathlons can be pricey. “I spent more on training fuel than on actual groceries this year,” Kelley said of the various gels, bars, and sports drinks she purchased to aid in making it through the training and the triathlon. She had to invest in a wetsuit and swim goggles, running shoes, and a special triathlon bike and helmet. With the entrance fees, it all adds up.
Kelley stated that the entrance fee for a full Ironman Triathlon is $600.
After her great accomplishment, Kelley has no intentions of stopping. In order to train for next year, she plans on running a half marathon when she visits her mother in Detroit in October. She also plans on competing in the Las Vegas Marathon in December. ♦
Jason Cruz can be reached at email@example.com.