I couldn’t even swim, so signing up for a triathlon took me outside my comfort zone
If you had told me two years ago that I, Revie Schulz, was going to sign up for and complete in a Half Ironman I would have called you crazy, hilarious and delusional! I’m a lover of Olympic lifts and power lifting, as well as a sucker for punishment by burpees and short bursts of high intensity workouts – that’s what makes me happy. You know, I’m talking about those tough 12-minute workouts that take you to a dark place. However, I do believe great things come from stepping outside your comfort zones.
In 2013 my good friend Courtney McCarty (now owner of TriBabes here in Australia) said to me after a fitness session, ‘You should do a triathlon.’ She mentioned the local beginner entry distances being 400m swim, 10km ride and a 4km run. Even then I shook my head and said, ‘no way, I can’t swim! I don’t even have a bike…’ The excuses came flooding out of my mouth. Courtney loved doing triathlons and has an infectious ‘can do’ attitude, but I remained adamant saying, ‘you’re barking up the wrong tree here, lady.’
I took a step back and realized I had just responded out of fear. I had been quite negative about trying something new. Normally I frown upon reacting to new challenges in such a negative manner. So the following week I approached Courtney and mentioned maybe we should try it out and see if any of the other fitness athletes would be interested. Just like that, we had ignited a love within our CrossFit community for triathlons. And so, naturally TriBabes was born. Six months after, I had fallen totally in love with the challenges faced within triathlons. There was so much room for improvement across the three disciplines of swimming, riding and running.
It started with a death stare but ended with high-fives
I vividly remember the day I signed up to the Ironman 70.3. I was so scared my hand holding the mouse was shaking. I could feel my heart rate pick up as I clicked the ‘register’ button. It was less than six months ago that I was big on weights, short bursts of high intensity workouts… and my swimming skills, well, they were practically nonexistent. Before I knew it, there I was, in full swing of an Ironman training routine which had me waking up at 4am in the middle of winter to jump into a lake and then had me running some loops. I had stepped way outside of my comfort zone and felt completely afraid of the looming date in September, but at the same time I was also proud of myself for stepping into the unknown. This is what being alive really felt like. Some days I would get up thinking ‘I got this’, whereas other days I would be questioning myself and thinking, ‘How did I let this happen? What the hell was I thinking?’ The key is to focus your energy on the positives!
I was fortunate enough to have Courtney sign up with me. Without one another we would have skipped sessions to sleep in, taken an easy route on a ride or swam 2km instead of 4km. Having each other not only kept us accountable, but it also made it all enjoyable and gave us memories to share for a lifetime. Sometimes we’d see each other first thing in the morning for a training session and just death stare each other but by the end we’d be making each other laugh, high-fiving and taking our goofy, sweaty selfies.
Most weeks my training looked like this:
1 x long ride 60-100km or 1 x ride to run 40-60km ride into 5-10km run
1 x swim with squad
1 x distance swim 1500m-2000m
1 x distance run 12+ km
2 x CrossFit Strength based sessions
2 x CrossFit Skills based sessions
My main goal was to maintain around 70% of my strength, so it was a difficult balancing act which took a lot of patience, mobility work and the ability to listen and respect my body. It was important to respect these two fitness activities for what they were – physically polar opposites. My main priorities were to keep in tune and invest in my body. Mentally, these two sports required the same amount of toughness. ‘Push through’, ‘don’t give up’, ‘you have more in tank’ and ‘yes, I can’. These are all things we say in the box, but they also applied to me out on the road or in the pool. That’s what excited me about these two totally different sports – it took metal tenacity.
When race day came, I felt queasy. I didn’t expect the nerves to kick in like they did, but I was definitely nervous. Scratch that. I was scared. There was nothing I could do but remind myself I had done the training and the only thing left to do, was put my head down, bum up and get to work.
The swim was always going to be the most challenging discipline for me. I am a land lover through and through. To say the swim was challenging is an understatement. It was so far outside of my comfort zone. The only option I had was to push myself and give it everything. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to see sand in my life! Proud as punch that I did it, but boy was it hard. Don’t ever underestimate the ocean. Once I got out on the bike I felt like I was in the zone and finally back in control.
The training, the sweat, the tears, the chafe, the sacrifices… all worth it
The 90km went by quicker than expected. We were lucky to have a beautiful sunny day on Australia’s Sunshine Coast. After completing the bike part of the race, I knew it had the race in the bag. The run was always going to be my strongest discipline, so I got to enjoy the last two hours of the experience. All of the training, the sweat, the tears, the chafe and the sacrifices were worth it when I got to that finishing shoot and saw the line. Tears of happiness ran down my face as I crossed it. I had officially finished an Ironman 70.3 and completed a feat that I had once thought was impossible.
BackSquat PR – all round fitness improved following Half Ironman
If I signed up for another one, I wouldn’t change a thing – except maybe the next time I would be more prepared and wear a wetsuit for the swim, (yes Courtney and I were keen and naive and swam in just our pink lycra!) It was chilly in September and I believe we were some of the only ones that didn’t wear wetsuits in our wave.
Three months after the Ironman 70.3, I PR’d my BackSquat by 12.5kg with a 107.5kg BackSquat. So, I think it’s safe to say I kept my strength up throughout the preparation and became a better, more well-rounded athlete because of it. I don’t claim to be the fittest, the fastest on the road or the strongest in the gym. I am more of an advocate that anything is possible and that with some hard work, positive attitude and self-confidence you can actually do whatever you put your mind to. The only person stopping you from giving performance training or a triathlon a go is you. Give it a crack, you never know where that journey is going to take you or what you’ll learn about yourself.