This past weekend marked four weeks until Ironman Florida and like clockwork, I had my pre-ironman melt down. I was sitting in the bath tub after finishing the Great River Ride (and 80 feet per mile of climbing) and I just started sobbing in self doubt.  I wasn’t worried so much about my training but about everything else: my ability to recover; my general exhaustion; my lower abs / psoas; my body composition; and my general mental ability to execute on race day.  I sat and blubbered in self doubt for thirty minutes while Shaun tried everything possible to reassure me that everything was going to be ok.

Swim practice at IM Louisville.  This is where I met Shaun.

 This isn’t the first time I had a pre-race meltdown but it also hasn’t always been this way. Before Ironman Louisville in 2008, I felt fantastic and thought I was capable of going between 12 and 13 hours on the course.  Leading up to the race I was in complete “ignorance is bliss mode” and had no idea how much actual training it took to complete an Ironman.  Leading up to the race in 2008 I had biked an average of 211 miles per month, ran an average of 60 miles per month and swam an average of 9700 yards per month.  I thought these were huge numbers.  I also weighed almost 190 pounds.  The race was a disaster.  I was lucky to walk across in finish line in just under 16 hours.  Despite my poor finish at Ironman Louisville there were two bright spots — I didn’t suffer from any pre-race anxiety and I met Shaun. 

Pre-Ironman Arizona.  I was a happy camper.

My preparation for Ironman Arizona in 2009 was actually worse than in 2008. I was unfortunate enough to be on trial in the Southern District of New York for a month in May and June followed by an overseas trip for a client visit in July, which completely destroyed my willingness to train. For the year I average 186 miles of biking per month, 54 miles of running and 5900 yards of swimming (for comparison’s sake last week I biked 202 miles, ran 38 and swam 8600).  Even worse, compared to 2008, my weight was even higher, I probably weighed 195 lbs in November of 2009.  While my training was lacking, my result was somewhat better.  I finished the fairly easy Arizona course in 14 hours and 30 minuntes.  I also had zero pre-race anxiety.  Leading up to the race Shaun and I went hot air ballooning (bad idea), took a Pink Jeep Tour through Sedona (best tour ever) and visited the Grand Canyon (so scary, I am ridiculously afraid of heights). 

I was incredibly nervous before IMLP.  Shaun, not so much.

When I started to take my training more seriously, I began to have issues with pre-race anxiety and pre-Ironman meltdowns. While training for Ironman Lake Placid, I was mess. On the Sunday of my split long run before Lake Placid I ended up curled up on the living room floor sobbing my eyes out about how I wasn’t ready for Lake Placid and how I was going to fail.  I tried to convince Shaun that I would be better off not starting Ironman Lake Placid and just waiting until Florida.  While I calmed down a bit in the few weeks before the race, I was pretty much a mess once we got to Lake Placid.  Shaun had a fantastic time in the days before Lake Placid (Lisa Gs, Saranac Sourdough, Lake Placid Brewery and Tail O’ The Pup). The best part about Lake Placid for me was having Stacy stay with us for the night before the race.  I had someone to talk shop with and didn’t have to bore Shaun with my race plan for the hundredth time.  Now heading into Florida, I’m even more nervous.  I feel like the more time and effort I put into training and nutrition the more anxiety I feel before the race.  I really want to be able to put myself in a bubble once I get to Panama City Beach.  Hopefully I’m able to do that.  I can relax come November 6, 2011, until then I plan on being wound tightly and racing well. 

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Kelly Burns Gallagher

mccarter english employment litigator / oiselle team runner / coeur sports triathlete / sonic endurance coach & race director / writer / dartmouth '02 / emorylaw '05


The Miller Family · October 12, 2011 at 8:18 pm

I MUST book my ticket to FL!

In all seriousness though….you are dedicated, focused, and a talented athlete….and you will succeed at IMFL!

I still can’t wrap my head around the full distance…maybe that is what I have not signed up 😉

Chin up…enjoy that you are able to makes your dreams reality

abqtj · October 13, 2011 at 2:08 pm

You’ll do great, Kelly! I have confidence in you.

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