The Road to Raleigh 70.3

Please enjoy the following guest blog post written by Shannon Spake, a former NASCAR correspondent and current college football and basketball reporter for ESPN. 

My triathlon journey began the Summer of 2014. That was when, for the first time since 2007, my work schedule slowed significantly, and I (gasp) had the entire summer off! As I sat looking at my empty calendar I thought, “This would be a perfect time to try that triathlon thing!” What I didn’t realize was the “triathlon thing” would soon not only fill the vastness of my lazy summer days, but it would also become an enormous part of my life.

My interest began while covering NASCAR for ESPN. I heard that a few drivers were dabbling in tri’s and thought it sounded fun! I was a competitive swimmer most of my life and ran two full 26.2 mile marathons in 2005 and 2006. As far as the bike thing, come on, how hard could that be? I mean, who hasn’t ridden a bike?! Well, I was WAY wrong because not only has the bike challenged and frustrated me, at times it’s been downright scary!

I bought a used bike, signed up for a race, downloaded my very first training plan, and 16 weeks later, I was crossing the finish line of my first Sprint distance race. Since then I have upgraded my bike, competed in six more triathlons (Sprint and Olympic distance) and officially spent more time with my various Garmin devices then I have with my husband and children.

I’ve trained in freezing temperatures, oppressive heat, rain, snow and everything in between. When traveling for work, treadmills and stationary bikes are my best friends, and I’ve probably consumed more protein bars and electrolyte powders in three years than a normal person will their entire life. I’ve had a herniated disc, tendinitis of the Achilles and ear infections, and I’ve come to rely on acupuncture, anti-inflammatories, muscle rollers and heating pads for daily relief just so I can physically and mentally battle my way through 2-a-days, tempo runs and brick workouts that can last up to four hours.

Anyone who has trained for a race, regardless of the distance, can relate. It’s a sacrifice to get to the finish line, it takes commitment and follow thru that many aren’t interest in tackling. It tests you, and at times, it will break your will; but for many, that sacrifice is worth it because we realize the sport isn’t selfish. It gives back!

Forerunner 920XT

My days are crazy busy, but they are also coordinated and scheduled. My lack of speed leads to many frustrating training sessions, but when the workout is completed, I am full of pride. The daily exhaustion is overwhelming, but when I catch my breath and realize what I’ve accomplished, I feel powerful as hell. Long bike rides, hundreds of hours in the pool are boring and mind-numbing, but I have also met some amazing people who I have no doubt will be lifelong friends!

The flipside to the sacrifices are endless and there are countless benefits. So many positives, and because of those, I can honestly say I am the selfish partner in my relationship with triathlons. I get more back than I give!

Of course, that will be tested this weekend as I tackle my longest distance yet —70.3 miles. A Half-Ironman. I’m nervous, anxious and excited. My family will be there cheering me on, and I can’t wait to glance over and see their proud faces as I cross the finish line — after all this is their race too. They’ve sacrificed just as much over the last six months. On Sunday, all of that hard work will (hopefully) pay off. Then I will rest.

That is, until I decide to sign up for my next one…

Wish me luck!