“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.

Chicago Triathlon

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.

American Triple T

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 fulfill 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! 

Ironman Oceanside 70.3

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 favorite 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 hover 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 its a good or bad thing, but they are happening less and less.  Before I had even raced Lake Placid (while having 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 endeavor; training for Ironman Lanzarote.


*this post was originally posted in 2010 on WP Iron Insanity.  In efforts to merge and manage blogs in one location, this is a re-post.


Challenge Family Race Entries

For anyone who has chosen to make endurance sports a part of their lifestyle, race entries can get expensive.  With Challenge Family entering the Americas and having a full presence in the 2015 season, they are offering a 10% discount on entry for the former Rev3 Races.  I thought I would share and pass on while prices are at their lowest!  CODE:  KSTRI15

KRS Challenge Discount

The Chameleon

Rev3 Cedar Point Full – Sandusky, Ohio

Chameleon – a distinctive and highly specialized clade of lizards with the ability to change color.

140.6 Distance Triathlete – a unique breed of athlete specialized in long endurance racing with the ability to change and adapt to any situation on a course.

A Coach, a Wife, a Sister, Daughter, Teammate and Athlete were the expectations of the weekend as I traveled to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio for the Rev3 Full Triathlon; one of those roles, I was sure to fail, if not a few.

The Coach – Earlier in the season, I had planted the seed of my NJOY RACING team coming to Cedar Point and race with me and get a taste of what a triathlon was, even if it meant I bribe them with relays & roller coasters, so be it.  To much my surprise people committed than I had ever dreamed – 4 sprint relay teams, 3 half relay teams, 5 sprinters, 3 half distance, 1 full aqua-bike and 2 full & 1 boat volunteer.  In other words, I had over 20 people coming to race with me and only 5 of them had completed a triathlon previously.  Needless to say, if I had not raced I would have been stressed enough, let alone having signed up for the full distance race, but there was no way I was not going race.  I LOVE my Rev3 races and get to be part of a team as an athlete and not a coach.  Not to mention, I belive they run the best races in North America.

The Daughter & Sister – Unfortunately, like most people in this country, my family has lost sight in the importance of taking responsibility for their health and life more active lifestyles (and their excuses are not unique).  In the 8 years of racing with over 100 races, they have been to less than 5 of them, so I thought it would be a good idea to not only invite them to come watch, but be part of the team and join a relay team of the sprint distance.  3 agreed – I was ecstatic.  In my job, I get to change lives in a very positive way.  I give people a chance to live longer, healthier lives.  I help people feel better emotionally, physically about themselves and build confidence in ways they may have never had.  This was my chance to not only have my family there with me, but also have them do something healthy with me.  It was my opportunity to help give them a better quality of life.  Who knows, maybe once a year they might want to join me for a family event?

The Coach – Rev3 picks the best race locations!  On paper some might not seem like the most exciting locations: Sandusky, Ohio – but who doesn’t like a good roller coaster?  Fun, family friendly locations with lots to do…and doesn’t hurt to be $$$ reasonable places.  So when waking up Saturday morning to pouring rain and a flooded bike course, it was very disappointing the sprint triathlon was cancelled.  However, you make the best of it and do what you can.  Troopers on team NJOY went ahead and ran the 5k, all getting race PRs!  As the day continued it got beautiful, sunny and dry – ROLLER COASTERS!!!!  That’s what we did and had a great time doing it.  After the first ride I thought it was about the stupidest thing I had ever done before the race I was about to do, and only more stupid after the second.  But like drinking, after a few it doesn’t really matter how many more you ride once you realize your body is going to feel it tomorrow regardless of how many.

The Athlete – Race Day…could not have been more perfect with the weather as the day began.  In the morning this girl woke up as Athlete.   I have often been asked why I don’t race with the athletes I coach…this is why:  I need to focus and take care of me and only me, and I don’t like to talk to people at all before a race.  Simply, I am no good as a coach before a race and some of my athletes got a taste of that in transition before the race even started.

The race course was great, even for a flat bike course, which are not my favorites to ride.  I love 2 lap courses!  Mentally I know where I am at all times and what is coming up and makes the course easier to master.  Due to a sprain shoulder, I had not been in the water since KMD Challenge 4 weeks previous, so my swim was not fast by any means, but I still enjoyed.  On the bike I went out averaging 19.5 mph to mile 70, but after nutritional issues causing my stomach to not be able to hold in my calories I lost all energy and took a small nap in the ditch before finishing the rest of my ride.  I know that sounds crazy, but it is the second time in a long distance race I have ever gotten sick and the same thing happened:  couldn’t keep my eyes open, took a little nap and woke up feeling fresh and ready to take on the world!  The problem I believe was – using new gel I had never used before and couldn’t hold it down (and any time I ever get ‘sick’ like that I immediately fall asleep).  No, I’m not a rookie and will spare you the details to why it happened.  I know better.  After falling off the leader board with that move (I had been one of the top 5 females overall) I finally made it to the T2 and was mentally questionable, stomach was questionable, but legs felt great.  Off I went after a brief conversation with my husband who was there to cheer me out onto the course.  Time to take down some runners!

All day I had been looking forward to the run, but with my head and stomach playing games on me, I was uncertain of the outcome.  I made it to mile 6 where I had convinced myself I was not going to make it through to the 2nd lap and this is where my saving grace came to my rescue. Rev3 Teammate Tim Andrus put me back together.  I never name drop, but he gets all the credit in the world for this – I could not have done it without him.  Stopping to complain about my iffy stomach, he got me moving while he inventoried me – asking me how my legs were.  When I said they were fine, he told me we can get my head and stomach together and coached me through my nutritional changes and in no time I was off and ready to take on the next 20 miles.

The Wife – By mile 12.75, 1 hour and 52 minutes later convinced myself the only way I could complete this race was if my husband was there at the turn-around to tell me to get out there and finish the final lap.  But he wasn’t there.  He had gone back to the hotel room with everyone else.  As the world came to screeching stop, the tears flowed and the rage set in as I completely lost my mind.  I start screaming at the one person who was there to get my husband on the phone and yell at him to not bother coming because he was too late.  As I continue to run while sobbing, I am conversing with myself out loud that I would never be in this situation if I were married to a triathlete.  A triathlete would know the final turn-around is one of the most crucial points in the race.  Of course he should have know, even though I had never expressed that to him…but then again he is not a triathlete.  So he didn’t get it.

Client coaching the coach – at this point to only one out there attempting to pull my head back together was a long time client of mine who helped me pulled it back together for the next 4 miles.  Forever grateful and ever so sorry he had to deal with my crazed psychosis, as we laugh about it now.

The Husband – shows up at mile 19ish after my client told him to get there, but I wanted nothing to do with him until mile 20, where I decided to let him know he wasn’t there for me when I needed him the most.  Let’s be clear – half my family left Saturday, before the race had even started.  The other half left after I had gotten on my bike, so at this point I was left with only 1 on the run – and now he had left me.  As soon as he said he would have never left had he known, my switch flipped and I was perfectly fine and off to finish the last 6 miles.  I had never been so focused at this point, taking down one mile at a time as I tried to hunt down every female I could who was head of me.  (Still, he is banned from any important race I have from here forward.)

The Finish Line – I had made my way up to 14th overall as I crossed the finish line, taking my highest placing ever overall and in my age group at 4th in a Full Distance race.  As I came across the tape, I found my husband standing there while they played our first dance song at our wedding (Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’…our first dance was in a nightclub in Vegas).  My athletes who were still in town were all there to see the athlete cross the finish line.  It felt surreal and was a blur.  Oddly, I don’t remember much.  I felt good, but I was dazed, and then it was over.

In Conclusion – It was a great race.  It was a place where everyone was able to come together, have fun, try new things and support one another as a team.  I am a proud coach, as I see my athletes work together and try a new sport that took them out of their comfort zone.

As an athlete, anyone who loves this distance can relate to the “now what” feeling you go through once the curtain has closed.  That is where I am. There is an emotional let down for me goes beyond the race being over as I reflect on my experience with my family at this race and come to the conclusion that some don’t care (fore they left before the race had even started), others try to get it, but can’t quite get there (I appreciate them for trying) so by the time I made it through 127 miles I had been left by all of them.  Hence, why I like racing solo so much – no one can let you down but yourself.  *This is why it has taken a couple weeks to write this piece.  It has been hard for me to deal with and I want to be honest about my experience. 

As for my goal of attempting give the gift of a higher quality of life through fitness to my family…I failed.  Why do I try when I know people will never live a healthy lifestyle unless they are willing to take responsibility for themselves and be willing the break bad habits?

I walk away with this race experience looking forward to next year doing the same distance.  A chameleon can change its color to fit into its environment in order to survive.  An endurance athlete must be able to do the same in order to survive a race like such.

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