Balancing Work, Life and Ironman

By Stephanie Aanstoos

IMG_8563In May 2013, I graduated from FSU with my master’s degree and began my new full-time job at CMC & Associates. Six months later on November 2, 2013, I became an Ironman. Balancing a new career, life and training isn’t easy, but it is possible.

What is an Ironman?

Ironman is a triathlon consisting of a 2.4 mile open water swim, 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run, all in one day. The cannon fires at 7 a.m. and you have 17 hours to complete the race. I completed Ironman Florida in Panama City. To give you some perspective, the fastest professional triathlete finished in an incredible time of 7:53:12, breaking the record, and I finished nearly five hours later in 12:40:11. Competitors ranged in age from 18 to 84 and from seasoned professional to first-timer, like myself.

Why did you want to do an Ironman?

IMG_8634When I was in sixth grade, I had no idea what a triathlon was, but I volunteered with a school club at the Blue Devil Triathlon, an iron-distance race in Durham, NC. As I handed out food at an aid station on the bike course, I stood in awe of the racers. The leading female stood out to me the most. She made it look easy, fun and was extremely gracious towards the volunteers as she pedaled by. Triathlon remained on my bucket list of things I would like to one day attempt, until my senior year of college. I had just started running and done a couple 5K races when I met other students at the gym who were starting the school’s first triathlon club.

They asked if I would join, and I said yes without hesitation. I’d never ridden a road bike before, or swam in open water (other than for leisure), but after my first sprint tri in Columbia, SC, I was hooked. I competed for Mississippi State for one year and then joined the Florida State TriNoles in grad school. By October 2012, I had completed many sprint and Olympic tris, two marathons, one half-Ironman and was signed up for my second. The next inevitable step seemed to be a full-Ironman. At the time, I still thought a 140.6 miles race was insane, but the more people you meet who have done one, the more reasonable it seems. After tracking a friend racing in the 2012 Ironman Florida, I decided I wanted to do it. Not sometime in my life, not when I am older and can actually afford it, but now.

What was your training like?

I raced in the Raleigh 70.3, and half-iron distance race, on June 2, 2013, and my real Ironman-specific training started after that. I used some of my savings to invest in a coach since I had no idea what I was doing. My coach, Jennifer Kilinski of Revolutions: Triathlon Coaching, LLC, sent me my weekly schedule every Sunday, and I did my best to stick to the plan. A typical week consisted of 3-4 swims, 4-5 runs and 3 bikes and a few strength training sessions. Training usually totaled 12-20 hours per week.

How did you find balance?

It was hard, don’t get me wrong, but it was manageable. If you have the goal to do an Ironman, or whatever your sport or hobby of choice may be, know that you can balance work, life and still accomplish your goal. The two most important things you need are commitment and support.

There were days I did not want to train, there were days that I did skip my workouts, and there were people who thought I was crazy or seemed to be rooting against me. But I was committed.

IMG_1374 (1)I also had support. While I was the one swimming, biking and running, I could not have done it without the people in my life. My boyfriend, my coach and my parents were all amazing throughout my training and on race day. I also had support from my bosses and coworkers here at CMC. Everyone at work supported my goals and encouraged me to stay on track with my training. Accountability goes a long way.

When you are surrounded by people who support you and believe in you, it makes things a whole lot easier! If you’ve got the commitment and support system down, then you need to make a plan and stick to it. If you miss a workout, you have to keep looking ahead and not behind. Sometimes your body will benefit more from the rest than it would have from the training. My coach understood that training couldn’t always come first and she was able to help me adjust my plan as needed.

Throughout the experience, I have learned to be more flexible and to go with the flow, while also pushing myself beyond my perceived limits. Self-doubt is often the biggest limiter, but if you give it your best shot rather than telling yourself you can’t, you’ll be shocked by what you can accomplish! I hope that if you take anything away from reading this, it is the inspiration to go achieve the goal you’ve always desired but never thought possible. What are you waiting for?