I’ve been competing in marathons since 2004. Mike, my husband, was my greatest cheerleader and supporter. On my early training runs, he would ride a bike next to me, handing off hydration whenever I needed it. Throughout the years, he would listen to my woes of ever-increasing mileage, sore muscles and lost toenails. On race days, he went above and beyond, charting the course, overlaying my expected pace range at several spots throughout the race, so he could see me for a few seconds before darting off to the next meet-up spot. He’d often log 13 miles getting around the marathon course just to see me for a total of maybe 2 minutes.
Then, I started training for and competing in IRONMAN events in 2014, something I never really envisioned. I honestly don’t even recall why I decided to tackle the IRONMAN Muncie 70.3 that year. I do however recall watching the IRONMAN World Championship event in Hawaii years before Muncie on TV. Mike had turned to the station knowing I love endurance events and athletics. I remember remarking as an elderly man was stumbling and crawling towards the red carpeted finish line “this is insane! Why do people do this to themselves?” Now I know. The challenge itself is extraordinary…but what our bodies and minds can accomplish is even greater!
From 2015-2019, Mike continued the cheerleader and supporter role through my annual race schedule, usually including a marathon, a 70.3 (half IRONMAN event) and a 140.6 (full IRONMAN event). In the summer of 2019, in a matter of 3 weeks, I lost Mike to pancreatic cancer. While I have other cheerleaders and supporters in my life, this loss drastically impacted my mental toughness, a huge factor in successfully completing endurance events and the training that leads up to them.
Despite this struggle, I’ve continued to train and race. I’ve also joined Sky Foundation (Pancreatic Cancer | Finding An Answer – Sky Foundation Inc), a nonprofit raising awareness of and funding innovative research into the early detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer, to help make advancements in the fight against this dreadful disease.
A couple of weeks ago, I was awarded a spot in this year’s IRONMAN World Championship in Hawaii, the same event I watched with Mike so many years ago. As such, I feel it only fitting to do the race in his honor and will be raising money for Sky Foundation (SHANNON’S IRONMAN – Campaign (classy.org)) as way to create more awareness around pancreatic cancer.
Over the next several weeks, I will be journaling my IRONMAN World Championship journey…I hope you’ll join me.