I am lucky enough to be inspired by amazing people pretty much every day. Some people I look up to, like Shalane Flanagan, are obvious sources of inspiration because of their amazing international accomplishments. While I love the professional athletes as much as the next fan girl, its the amateurs who have full time jobs and still train crazy hours per week that really inspire me. One such person, is Katy Kunkle. If you are lucky enough to know her you know what a beast of an athlete she is and that she is the last person to ever tell you she is a beast of an athlete. She is humble, kind and has a quiet determination that makes her a force to be reckoned with on the trails and on the roads. This weekend, she will be participating in her 2nd full Ironman and I can’t even imagine that kind of punishment, so I asked her to share her story. She trained for this event all while planning her wedding! Ladies and Gentlemen I give you: Katy Kunkle.
Ironman. Numerically it’s always the same; 2.4 mile open-water swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run. But what it means is different to everyone.
Five years ago I went to watch and support one of my best friends, Julia, compete in Ironman Coeur d’Alene. I didn’t know how to swim, had never ridden a bike further than 6 miles to work in Birkenstocks, and had run one marathon (per Julia’s suggestion) pitifully slow. I had no idea what she was about to endure.
Over the course of a 14-hour day I watched Julia, among 2,600 other athletes, go through just about every emotion there is to experience. After crossing the finish line and getting back to the house, she was understandably a little out of it, but she insisted that we HAD to go back down to the finish line to cheer in the last finishers before the midnight cutoff.
By 12:01am, I had witnessed the most inspiring event I have ever seen, and I said to myself, I’m gonna do this someday. Two years later I did.
It was the most incredible and challenging experience of my life, from the 13 hours, 44 minutes and 10 seconds spent on the race course, to cheering the last finisher in who had overcome a lifetime of debilitating asthma at midnight. I knew it was something I would do again in my lifetime, I just didn’t know when.
One day in December I got the itch. The first thing I did was call Julia and told her, “Julia, I kinda got bit by a bug…” She responded with attitude because this didn’t make sense, “What do you mean you KINDA got bit by a bug?” I clarified, “The Ironman bug.” “Ooooh,” she says. While I could tell she wanted to be supportive of me, she also brought up great points like, are you sure that’s a good idea when you’re going to be in the middle of planning your wedding and getting married? Don’t you have like, four other weddings besides your own to attend this summer? Do you think it will make training stressful? But my mind was made up the second that feeling hit and there was no amount of common sense that could talk me out of it.
Training is something I enjoy almost as much as the race itself. You’ll never hear me bitch about having to go out for a 6-hour training ride or an 18-mile training run – alone. And the day I do, I don’t deserve to be out there doing it. Call me crazy, but there is something so peaceful about leaving the house before sunrise on a weekend morning while the air is crisp and cool, to have the roads all to myself, watch the sunrise, and to be headed back home while the majority of people are just beginning their day.
No, not every single day of training is glorious and there are certainly days I wake up to an alarm that I wish weren’t set so early, but there are a number of places where I draw inspiration from that keep me motivated and make me grateful for what I get to do everyday. I could write a book about how my cousin Steven motivates me to be better and stronger everyday, but I will leave it at the fact that he so truly believes in me and is genuinely proud of me that I feel like I can conquer the world. I also have the most supportive and loving husband a girl could ask for. Does he wish for the alarm to go off between 4:22 and 5:03am six days a week? Probably definitely not… He not only puts up with it, but he gets up with me multiple times a week so we can enjoy breakfast and spend more time together. Gosh I’m lucky! And then there is November Project. This insanely supportive, crazy, accepting, compassionate group of people who I am so proud to call family. I promised myself to work Wednesdays into my training schedule, and I am so happy to have kept that promise. There is nothing more motivating and uplifting than sweaty hugs, bouncing, yelling Fuck Yeah, and burpee’ing at 5:30 and 6:30 in the morning.
I am going into this race with an intention first and a goal second. My intention I will bring with me into race day is to push my body and mind to see what they can do while maintaining a feeling of gratitude for the opportunity. While my ultimate goal is to finish, I’ve worked too hard to not strive for more. This is a different race, on different terrain with different conditions and challenges, but I am confident in my goal to finish faster than my first go in Coeur d’Alene, with the same mantra: Dream it, Believe it, Do it.
Can’t wait to see what this girl can do this weekend!