SheriAnne Nelson, you are an IRONMAN!

“If you are standing on the wood deck you MUST jump in the water!” said the voice behind the megaphone.  Pink and lime green swim caps were jumping in the water and bobbing out to the starting line.  I stood there for a moment to take in all the energy; hundreds of people lined Mill bridge and the shoreline.  I was nervously excited and ready to embark upon a day for which I spent months preparing.

Leading up to Ironman Arizona, I had been mentally preparing for a great day.  I even had the audacity to declare on TV on Good Morning Arizona the day before the race that I planned on qualifying for Ironman World Championships in Kona.  Who does that?  Even though those declaring words slipped out of my mouth with such confidence moments of doubt would creep in but I would slam SHUT the door and created no space for them in my head.

As I stood there on the deck, I took a deep breath and told myself I have what it takes to finish and to have a great day.  All I thought about in that moment was going for a one hour swim, to stay relaxed and focused.  Honestly, underneath the calmness I portrayed I was terrified of what to expect. I have never experienced a mass swim start with 2700 other athletes.  I’ve only witnessed it in amazement from the shore.

“There is no terror in the bang; only in the anticipation of it.” – Alfred Hitchcock

The cannon sounded and mass chaos erupted. I put my head down and started swimming knowing it was going to be physical for a little while.  My Coach encouraged me to just go with the contact and not fight it, just keep swimming.  I received a few decent blows to the head and body and even swallowed some yummy Tempe Town Lake water.  It helped to focus on swimming buoy to buoy and before I knew it I was at the first turn buoy.  As I approached the swim exit, I was feeling pretty good.  I didn’t know it at the time but I had a stellar first time Ironman swim.  My stretch goal was 1:10 and I was prepared for a 1:15; I was out of the water in 1:08.

Visualizing your race is such a powerful tool and skill.  In the days leading up to Ironman, there are plenty of opportunities to walk transition and visualize what you will do on race day.  As triathletes we spend hours training in our three disciplines, but some do not practice transitions and this can become a black hole of time.  I purposefully spend time before a race to visualize what I will do in transition and it is very effective. My coach told me anything under 5 minutes is great; I was pretty stoked to see my transition from swim to bike was 4:11.

Once I settled in on the bike, I mentally prepared to be in that saddle for five plus hours.  I stayed in the moment and focused on keeping my effort consistent.  It was very cold coming out of the water and my muscles were tense and constricted.  Once they started to warm up, I felt a little strain in my left groin from tensing them so tight.

At the same time, my stomach started to show signs of being unhappy.  Half way through the first loop I quickly evaluated what I should do because I still had a long way to go.  Knowing that GI distress can derail your whole day, I decided to alter my nutrition plan on the bike.  I would continue to take salt sticks for my muscles but chill on the caloric intake unless I was hungry.  After all, if I self induced a bonk due to low sugar I can quickly fix that but with an unhappy tummy there was no way I was going to hit my goal of a 5:15-5:30 bike split.  Once my legs were fully warm, they felt better and the strained feeling in my groin diminished.  My stomach continued to cramp and I began to question if I was going to be able to run a marathon, the way I know I can run, after this ride was over.  I stopped thinking about the run and focused on my effort level and cadence.

Every Ironman athlete that I’ve spoken to has shared you will have ups and downs throughout your race. Ride the highs because they will end and hang on during the lows because they too shall pass.  At the start of my 3rd loop I knew I was going to be okay. I know my body well enough to know that once I was upright and on my feet I would feel better.  After doing some quick math I knew I was on the mark to hit my time goal and that was a driving force to push all the way into T2 (transition 2).  I began to look forward to the run and ended up negative splitting my 3rd loop on the bike.  I came into T2 in 5:21 and so excited!

My T2 was very fast; in and out in 1:29. Having my running shoes on my feet brought such delight.  The volunteers throughout the entire race are amazing and do not get enough acknowledgement.  The day would not happen without them.  As I ran into the transition tent a volunteer grabbed my bag, asked if I wanted it dumped, and I said yes.  She quickly handed me my socks and as I put on my socks and shoes she was putting my hat on my head and handing me my gels.  Faster than ever would not have been possible without her assistance, I was off and happily running.

What is so crazy is, as I was exiting T2 to start my run, some male Pros were starting their 2nd loop.  It is fun to share the same course as professionals, as they are so personable and encouraging.  Plus, the crowd in Tempe is amazing and the energy is high.  For evidence, just look at the grin on my face; it says it all.  I looked down at my watch and saw I was running a 7:30 pace.  This pace would be fine for me to hold in a marathon by itself but an Ironman marathon is different.  I have never run a marathon after swimming 2.4 miles and riding 112 miles.   Choosing to be a little more conservative, I slowed my pace to what I wanted to hold as lon as possible.

By the time I was on my 2nd and 3rd loops more and more people were on the course and it was critical that I keep MY pace. Getting caught up looking at other athletes and my surroundings I lost a little focus and my pace slowed.  Wanting to relish in the experience I even walked for about thirty seconds when I passed my family.  My kids were so amazing and seeing them twice on every loop was such an energy booster.  I think about the example I am setting for them and it is a driving force for me to do my best.

At the start of the 3rd loop I was reminding myself that my coach told me an Ironman is all about getting yourself to the last 10K and then it is go time.  I started to really focus on hearing those magical words, “SheriAnne Nelson, you are an Ironman!”  I could not believe it was almost here.  I have worked so hard and spent so many hours training for this moment.  Half way through my 3rd loop I realized this particular woman and I had been running the same pace for a while. I asked her if she wanted to work together and push each other to the end. She asked me what age group I was and said not yours, so let’s go.  As Mimi and I ticked away the last 4.7 miles we jockeyed for position and pushed one another.  I had no idea what the race clock was and had a feeling I was close to my goal. I was now officially in the hurt box and focused on seeing my family at the finish. I could feel the emotions welling up inside of me and I used that as a driving force to mask the pain my legs felt every time they hit the ground.

As I rounded the corner to the finish line I thanked Mimi for her camaraderie and took off to bask in my finish by myself. There is only one other thing I can liken to the feelings I had rounding that corner and that is when I had each of my three babies.  The glorious, climatic feeling of running through a cheering crowd, hearing Mike Reilly say, “SheriAnne Nelson, first timer, you are an Ironman!” and then seeing my family’s faces was like I had just birthed a child.  Instead I had just birthed a new me!  I love this sport and everything it encompasses.  The tears started flowing.  I DID IT!

My finishing time was 10:16 and I had a great day.  I came in 3rd in my age group and 8th amateur female overall.  This was my first Ironman and I still had no clue what I had just accomplished.  This was an event that just a year ago I was in complete awe of the athletes and here I was now one of them.  I am an IRONMAN.

So back to my bold declaration of qualifying for Kona, I had to wait until the following morning to find out about Kona slot allocations.  Regardless of qualifying for Kona or not I really tried to focus on my accomplishment and be proud of myself.  But underlying the acknowledgment of my achievement I SO BADLY wanted that slot!  Mainly because of what it represented and how coveted they are but also because I so boldly declared it.  At 9am I went to the allocation table to see if I earned my spot. As I walked up to the table I could feel my heartbeat in my entire body.  She asked my age group and name, I now could hear my heartbeat in my ears.  The anticipation was relentless. She looked up at me and said, “You got it.”

I am going to the Ironman World Championships in Kona!  Holy Cow! The feeling of accomplishment is overwhelming and I still have a lot to learn! I am so incredibly excited about this next year of racing.  The strides I made this past year were amazing, especially since it was my first year racing.  Experience plays such a huge role in this sport and I look forward to learning more about myself as well as racing.

I want to thank my wonderful family for all their support and love. Seeing them on the course was such a boost and wonderfully inspiring.









I want to thank Toby Baum, for all the coaching, support and guidance. You are so instrumental in my success.

I want to thank Rolf’s and Iqonic for your outstanding support. Without your graciousness I would not be able to do this wonderful sport and positively impact people’s lives.

I want to thank Triple Sports for always being willing to help me get gear, provide me with a wetsuit and keep me well stocked on nutrition.

I want to thank Sole Sports Running for supplying me with some outstanding shoes and providing all your support.

I want to thank My Fit Foods for supporting me by providing a great place to get good healthy food to fuel my body during my weeks of intense training.

I want to thank Dr. Marc Weissman for keeping me healthy and moving all year long.   Your treatments kept me going strong.

Thank you for reading and see you 2013!

Watch me FINISH!

About sherianne

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is SheriAnne Nelson and I am happily married to my husband Mike. I’m a mother of three beautiful children ages 9, almost 6, and 3, am a passionate fitness professional, and a Star Diamond Level fitness coach within the Team Beachbody program in Scottsdale, Arizona.

  • Damn, SheriAnne – my heart rate was nice and slow until I read your race review, now it is beating a little faster!  In fact, I’m going to put on my running shoes and hit it!  Thanks for the awesome review.  You had a great race and finish and I can totally relate to everything you said.  That was a GREAT day and WE did it!  I’m so proud of you and look forward to seeing you at Kona.  I am confident that we will see another great day and race for SheriAnne Nelson.  Whoo- hoo!  

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