“This is my last; never again,” these were the words I had during a brief moment of sanity in June…eight hours later I signed up for another one; clearly I had regained my loss of sanity.
I remember being eight years old and flipping through the channels on a Sunday afternoon and coming across NBC or ABC and seeing the Gatorade Ironman. Watching in amazement I said, “Daddy what is this?” He didn’t know, living in a small town in the mid-west we had never seen or heard of such a thing. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen anyone do. Sitting there with tears in my eyes; as a kid I didn’t know why it brought tears to me, I wasn’t a crier, but watching the race that day gave me a feeling I had never experienced before. There was nothing more I wanted to do than to try one of those races…whatever is was.
It took about 10 years to pass before the sport of triathlon to reached Indiana and I learned what an Ironman was. By this time I had graduated from high school and having been an athlete throughout my childhood and adolescence (a gymnast, sprinter and diver who rode her bike to town throughout the summer), I signed up for a race and thought this would be a piece of cake. I couldn’t have been more wrong…doing a sprint triathlon was the toughest thing I had ever done! Running 3.1 miles is a lot different from running a 400 meter dash and swimming 800 meters is even more different from swimming to the side of the pool after completing a dive. I was more amazed in having survived the sprint triathlon than what I was that day I had watched those athletes completing the Ironman on TV. I was 19 and knew nothing; I did my one triathlon and got on with my life.
Seven years went by before I figured out that what I missed more than anything in my life was the competition I had loved as a kid. I really enjoyed the training, the races and meets, the challenges and the way I pushed myself. It was a part of who I was and the seven years I went without it were the seven years of my life where I felt most lost and undirected. As I soon started to realize that thirty would be around the corner quicker than I had hoped for, I decided I wanted to be in the best shape of my life and knew this would be a huge challenge as I would reflect of my late teens of what my body was capable of doing. There was a girlfriend of mine who mentioned she wanted to do the Chicago Triathlon but didn’t want to do it herself; so I told her I would buy a bike and do it with her.
I bought a bike, running shoes, goggles and every book there was on training for your first triathlon. It took me about two weeks before I could fully complete 1 mile without walking and that single mile took me 12 minutes to complete. How was I going to make it through? But there was something in me that kept me going…maybe the fear of turning thirty (in 3 years) and looking thirty. Who knows, but whatever it was I kept on training. First race was difficult; it was 104 degrees that day, but I had fun…more than fun, I felt something inside of me that I hadn’t felt in year. A light turned on inside of me.
That year I did a race in July, August, September and November. Suddenly I thought maybe if I had a coach I could be good at this, so I hired one. I soon started to remember that day as a kid sitting in my living room watching the Gatorade Ironman and actually started to believe maybe I could do one of those. March of the next year I did my first Half Ironman in Oceanside, CA…fired my coach, cursed her out for ever talking me into a race like that. I cried before the race, during the swim, on the bike and in the run. At the end of the race I re-hired her, but told her, “Never Again!” Three months later I signed up for my next Half.
A couple years went by racing all distances up to the Half Ironman and with my 30th birthday in front of me I couldn’t think of a better gift to give myself but to fulfil that little girl’s dream of doing One herself. So I thought to myself, “if I were only to do one and only one, where would I want that to be?” Ironman South Africa it is; Happy Birthday to Me!
Why did I pick a “fall race” in the southern hemisphere while living in Chicago?! I became one with my trainer; riding indoors…staring at the black line in the bottom of the pool…listening the rhythmic hum of the treadmill. Training was rough and the race was tough, what was I thinking? It was everything I had ever dreamed of and more! My body had never experienced so much pain. I had never spent so much time with myself. There is nothing that can ever compare to coming across the finish line and hearing, “Kimberly Barnhart, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN”, it was amazing, but Never Again!
It took one whole year before I starting thinking about doing another one. At this point I was starting to get comfortable with doing Half IM, in fact one of my wedding gifts that came from my coach was an entry into my favourite Half Ironman; Oceanside, that’s right, the one I cried through my first time and now I have done it three times! But where in the world would I go next? Lake Placid sounded good; good enough to plaster myself to the computer the day registration opened and break into a nervous sweat and become overwhelmed with anxiety in hopes I get in before registration is filled. 11:00 a.m. registration opened, 11:10 a.m. I was confirmed, 11:20 a.m. registration closed and 3000 people where signed up. What had I done, didn’t I say I would never again done another one of these?
I like to call these “never again’s” moments of sanity, and these days I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing, but they are happening less and less. Before I had even raced Lake Placid (same day of my never again moment back in June) I had signed up for another, which leads me to where I am today; one week after Ironman Lake Placid 2010, taking a brief recovery before I start my next endeavour; training for Ironman Lanzarote.