In the first official race season of NYX Endurance, we couldn’t be more proud of all of our athletes. From beginners all the way to seasoned vets, our sport requires us to continue to push ourselves to be better. We are always striving, always searching for a stone unturned. And even when we think we’ve done it all, we often find ourselves humbled by a first that we didn’t even know we were searching for.
The following accounts are from athletes who achieved a monumental first in 2021. We asked them to reflect on their experience by answering 1 of 8 questions we sent them. They mostly answered all 8 questions, and we totally get it.
Grant Burkhart: 1st World Championship Event
I participated in my first half ironman event in 2006. In those days, the only HIM length event in the Colorado Front Range was the 5430 Long Course. My time was a 6:28.
Since then, I have attempted 12 HIM events and completed 10, including the World Championships last September. (I’ve done 36 triathlons total, all half ironman or shorter, since I started doing these back in 2005.)
I qualified for the World Championships at the Boulder 70.3, with a time of 5:45. (45 minutes improvement over 15 years!) In my division, there were 7 slots for worlds. I placed 10th and a slot trickled down to me.
There are lots of HIM triathlons in the world besides Ironman Corporation sponsored 70.3 triathlons. Still, I feel that qualifying for worlds gives me the “I am a serious triathlete” certificate that I never had before, except in my own mind. That’s what qualifying for worlds means to me.
I also really wanted another crack at that course after first experiencing it in in May. But that didn’t really turn out as I had hoped. No PR on that course for me! When I first saw that I was biking into the teeth of a severe thunderstorm, I realized that my goals for the race had just changed from trying to break six hours to simply surviving. Being buffeted by severe and gusty winds, pelted by rain, and biking downhill on wet streets took nearly everything out of me. But there was no way I was going to quit, even if I had to walk. And I did have to walk on part of the run.
My final time was an anti-PR – my slowest time ever on a HIM – 6:55. But I finished.
What the race left me with, is a keen desire to have another crack at that race course; I am already working hard to improve my time and hopefully qualify again next year.
Erin Keane: 1st Full Ironman
What does it mean to you to have completed your 1st full Ironman?
Ironman was a bucket list time for me; something I’ve wanted to do since I was a teenager and saw Kona on TV. It feels amazing to have completed this goal. Some days it still doesn’t feel real.
What has completing this first ignited in you – what fire has it lit to keep going, reach higher, etc?
I’d said that I was one-and-done with IM. I knew I’d do more 70.3’s but finishing IM CdA got me fired up to do another.
Describe your journey to get to your first, and what you got out of it.
My journey to get to my first was long. I trained for a year on my own to ultimately have my race moved and then cancelled for COVID. I had a lot of doubts after that first year. I trained really hard, but also felt very unprepared. It made me worried – I’d already trained so hard and didn’t feel ready; how could I do more? I started working with Laura about 8 months before the race and quickly learned a lot. I shifted gears to quality vs. quantity, new running routes and new workouts. I was instantly refreshed and found that drive again.
What I got out of IM training: You have to prioritize your time to the Nth degree. You need support – for me it was my friends and family. I know how selfish I was able to be with my training because my husband stepped up and carried the parenting torch. And of course, at the end of the day I felt a new sense of accomplishment. I almost never think about the time it took me to finish, but about the training. The 4AM winter swims, long solo bike rides, and the countless times I went to bed early so I could get up early and be prepared for the workout. I’d say I’m more proud about the work I put in to get to Ironman – the race was just the cherry on top.
What did you learn about yourself upon completion?
If the passion and commitment is authentic, I’ll find a way. I also learned at Ironman CdA, that it’s possible I was a camel in a previous / future life.
Describe the community that you feel you may have joined of other IM finishers.
I’m proud to be a part of the community of Ironman finishers. I also really enjoy the NYX community. Seeing the NYX kits out on the course was a positive element to a very hot day. Whenever the negativity started to creep in, I knew I had to turn it around. I wanted my family watching to see me smiling and enjoying the experience. I wanted to be a positive force for the other NYX athletes out on the course slugging away through the heat. My 8 year old son has an Ironman Support Crew t-shirt from the race. Every time he puts it on, he points it out to me. Although I’m not sure he fully comprehends how far an Ironman is – I know how much fun he had at the race that day and how proud he was. It gives me the feels every time.
James Trott: 1st 70.3
What does it mean to you to have completed this specific first? It means a lot, this was a goal I wasn’t certain I could achieve, conquering uncertainty and the unknown was incredibly satisfying and liberating.
What has completing this first ignited in you – what fire has it lit to keep going, reach higher, etc? I’m in a state of flux, do I try to go further? faster? both? or hang up my shoes and just enjoy being able to swim/bike/run with friends and family, or for myself, at a distance and pace I never dreamed possible, whenever I want through keeping up my fitness.
How do you see yourself differently now? As someone more capable, more able, with more potential than I’d ever imagined.
Describe your journey to get to your first, and what you got out of it. It started innocently enough, two friends who thought doing a half ironman was a good way to push ourselves and escape our rapidly widening middle aged selves. Of course the world had other ideas. Coach Alison will confirm: I’ve had injuries, equipment issues, life/training balance challenges, anything life could throw at me. But week upon week, I kept lacing up my shoes, and putting one foot in front of the other, making steady progress. I’m as fit as I’ve ever been, my health is better, I have a vastly better attitude and perspective on training and working out. I have a healthy relationship with running, I can actually swim, with some kind of technique (which I couldn’t do when I started), and I have a trusted friend and mentor in coach Alison – someone I trust implicitly and have loved working with these last two years. I’ve gained so many things from the experience I never expected, but I guess when what you mostly expect are blisters, the only way is up.
What did you learn about yourself upon completion? That there was more in me, whether that’s distance/endurance/speed, there’s more, and all I have to do is authentically and willingly take the step forward back into the darkness, only to emerge stronger and faster than the last time.
What part of your identity has shifted? I think more than anything my confidence, I can do it. I’ve always known I had focus and was able to dedicate and commit myself to an effort. But I feel in a lot of ways, like if I had anything left in my life to prove to anyone, I don’t anymore.
Describe the community that you feel you may have joined of other 70.3 finishers. A colleague who had heard what I’d achieved stopped me after a meeting to tell me that they admired what I’d done, and that I’d joined an elite club they wouldn’t ever dare attempt. I realized at that point I’d crossed a gap I didn’t know was there, of folks that take a step that others won’t: to commit, train, prepare, line up, and then leave it all out on the course. Meeting so many athletes on race day, and after, was another unexpected joy. It was strange to feel a part of something like that. For various reasons, my particular neurodiversity makes me feel very lonely a lot of the time. Training is no exception. I train alone and largely enjoy it that way, but on race day, I felt I was a welcome member of a tribe, if just for a few hours. That was very unexpected, I don’t really think I’ve finished processing that.
How did/does being part of NYX elevate you towards achieving your accomplishment – either the community or your coach or both? My shyness and awkwardness means I don’t always engage with the community perhaps as much as I’d like. But I’m still here. I was proud to put on my team kit and represent NYX, our coaches, athletes and community members. I also received compliments all day on my kit, even on the ride where someone pulled alongside me to let me know they loved that it said “Embrace the darkness” right above my butt. The coaches have been an immense help, whether it’s articles on coach Julie’s blog, notes in my inbox from Coach Laura, or the constant support and patience of Coach Alison, my guiding light, rock and data analyst extraordinaire, who would encourage me when I failed and pick me up when my barriers seemed insurmountable. I simply couldn’t have achieved any of this without NYX.
Jeff Krebs: 1st Podium in an Ironman Event
What does it mean to you to have completed this specific first? One of my top goals for 2020/2021 when I joined NYX Endurance for was to qualify for the IM 70.3 World Championship. Based on my past 70.3 performances, I felt that it was certainly reachable and I knew that my coach, Julie, could get me there. We worked hard and everything was on track before COVID hit. Still, we persevered and we decided that I would take part in the Virtual Ironman Championship Series since in-person races had all been cancelled. Racing every weekend for 4 weeks in a row was not easy but I was goal oriented and did what I needed to do in order to achieve what I had set out to do. In the end, I placed in the top of my AG and qualified for IM 70.3 Worlds. As an added bonus, I raced in-person at IM 70.3 Des Moines this past June and placed 4th in my AG. There were 6 WC slot allowed to my AG and I was offered a spot again. While I was very happy to qualify through the virtual IM series, my performance in Des Moines legitimized to me that I deserved to be at the WC in St. George.
What has completing this first ignited in you – what fire has it lit to keep going, reach higher, etc? I gained confidence in my abilities as a triathlete. I realized that my goals, despite being lofty at times, are not unreasonable.
How do you see yourself differently now? I see myself as a true competitor rather than a triathlete just trying to finish a race.
Describe your journey to get to your first, and what you got out of it. Having the utmost trust and confidence in my coach was one of the most important lessons I learned. I did my best to always follow her plans and to ask questions along the way to help me better understand why I was doing what I was doing. With this full understanding, I was able to complete my training days with more confidence and certainty. As I saw improvement during training, I became more confident in my abilities and knew that I could achieve my goals.
What did you learn about yourself upon completion? I realized that no matter what the circumstance, I will do my very best to continue moving forward. Heading into 70.3 WC in St. George Utah, I developed low back pain with sciatica. This was new to me but I was determined to do my very best whatever that was going to be on race day. I did my best to listen to my body, determine what it was really telling me, then responded the best I could.
Describe the community that you feel you may have joined of other podium finishers and World Championship qualifiers? I may not be an elite athlete but I feel that I am at least moving in the right direction. It felt great to be out there racing with others who had qualified for the WC race. It feels good to be part of that “club.”
How did/does being part of NYX elevate you towards achieving your accomplishment – either the community or your coach or both? The support of may NYX community cannot be underestimated. Whether it was needing a training partner, expert advice or just someone to commiserate with, my NYX brethren are there for me every time I needed them. Julie, Laura, and Alison have created a truly supportive tight-knit group of talented athletes and it is so nice to be a part of it.
Aubrey Shinofield: 1st Full Ironman
What does it mean to you to have completed this specific first? It means everything to me. I was so happy to not only finish the race but be able to do so without any major catastrophes or issues along the way. It was even more fulfilling to have made it through three training cycles without getting injured or giving up hope. I am actually grateful that it worked out that way because I am not sure that I would have been ready or that the race would have gone so well if it had happened in April 2020 as originally planned. Because of the deferrals, I was able to add training, races, and events to my schedule that gave me confidence along the way. By the time I got to the starting line, I felt like the combination of everything that I had done made me so much more confident and ready for the race. It also enabled me to change my mindset from just “checking the box” for completing one ironman to being someone that just trains at this level and can now look forward to bigger and better goals. This was a huge shift for me and I definitely want to keep going!
What has completing this first ignited in you – what fire has it lit to keep going, reach higher, etc? It makes me want to see what else I can do. It opens up a whole world of cool, fun races and endurance events for me. I would love to try endurance or trail running next. I also love that I have this incredible foundation of training under my belt, and I am looking forward to picking it back up once I have my new goals on my calendar.
How do you see yourself differently now? I see myself as someone that has the capability to keep going. I felt this throughout my training when the volume got really high and I was able to complete the workouts. I also felt it during the race on the run when I got nauseous midway through but was able to keep going and trust that I had the foundation to get to the finish line. It is a very powerful feeling to know that you can endure if and when you need to.
Describe your journey to get to your first, and what you got out of it. My journey to get to the starting line of my 1st ironman started in August 2019 and lasted until October 9th, 2021. I went through three training cycles, getting to within 4-6 weeks of the race the first 2 times, only to have to start over again. This was crushing the 1st time because I still had the mindset that I just wanted “get it over with” and check this box to say that I had completed an ironman. Thankfully Alison was able to talk me off the ledge! It was also wonderful to be a part of NYX during the pandemic because the goals immediately shifted and I had all of this fun, creative stuff to do on my calendar. Along the way, I completed 3 open water swim events, the 4x4x24 and then the 4x4x48, a 13.1 trail run, and a half ironman. All of these events gave me confidence in different ways that ultimately led to me feeling like I was ready by the time IMTX finally rolled around. Now I feel like I want to keep adding races and events and bigger goals to see what I can do. I no longer feel like I am just checking boxes off my bucket list.
What did you learn about yourself upon completion? I learned that if I put in the work that I can do hard things. I learned that I enjoy endurance events more than I care about being fast. I learned that I enjoy being fit enough to be able to enjoy these types of events. I learned that even when I feel terrible, I can keep going. I learned that even when something seems insurmountable or crazy or impossible to achieve, if you take the time to work towards it, anything is possible.
What part of your identity has shifted? I look at myself now as someone that would like to train on this level as a part of my life. Rather than just working out to be in shape or to look a certain way, I want to approach my fitness so that I can keep working towards new challenges for a long time.
Describe the community that you feel you may have joined of other Ironman finishers. I feel that I have joined a community of people that understands and appreciates how much the body can actually do with the right level of training. I love the idea of being able to run for a really long time.
How did/does being part of NYX elevate you towards achieving your accomplishment – either the community or your coach or both? I can’t say enough about how much being a part of NYX and having Alison as my coach made it possible for me to achieve this goal. If I was not a part of NYX during the pandemic, I wonder if I would have made it through. To be a part of a community that offered such creative ways to stay fit and had examples of people that were still very much working towards their goals when it was so challenging to even find a place to work out was inspiring. I love being able to read about what races other people are doing, to see what is out there and what is possible, and to share in the challenge and the success. I also marvel at the fact that I was able to train like this for two years and I did not get injured once! It is a testament to the training plan that Alison set out for me and her ability to adjust and tinker with it when needed. I am so thankful for this group and I look forward to more challenges and events in the future!
Michi Ware: 1st Full Ironman
What does it mean to you to have completed this specific first? It’s an incredible life accomplishment — something that I’ll always be proud of. I have a fuzzy memory of watching an Ironman on TV back in high-school — I remember thinking that all of those people were incredible athletes but also insane for choosing triathlon as a sport. I never would have thought that I’d someday be in the pack with them during an Ironman— especially as a 43-year-old mom of two!
How do you see yourself differently now? I feel like I have some serious street cred now— I’m an Ironman! It’s a reassuring thought on the days when I’m feeling particularly unfit or tired or old (or all three).
Describe your journey to get to your first, and what you got out of it. I started triathlon about five years ago after signing up for a local women’s sprint triathlon in my town. I was hooked. I then did a 70.3 the following year and, after that, I almost immediately signed up for a full Ironman. But life got in the way and I relocated with my family to Singapore for my job. I was traveling 50% of the time and, when I was home, training in 90 degree weather with 90% humidity was not my favorite thing to do. But, then, Covid hit. I was totally grounded. I decided to sign up for another full Ironman and started working with Alison about 11 months before the race. Life was not super fun in Singapore during Covid— it’s a tiny island and we were trapped there with no travel, significant restrictions on daily life, mandatory work from home, etc. Having a consistent training program was a huge life saver for me from a mental health perspective. I was laser-focused on achieving my goals and had little time left to feel sorry for myself or be stressed out about things that I couldn’t control. For me, although I’m incredibly proud of finishing the Ironman, I am even more proud of the consistent day in, day out training that got me there.
What part of your identity has shifted? I used to tell people that I did triathlon “just for fun.” But now I own it — I did an Ironman!
Describe the community that you feel you may have joined of other Ironman finishers. In my experience, the triathlon community is fantastic. I’ve always found people to be incredibly encouraging and supportive. But those who have finished IMs — myself included — are really a unique type of crazy.
How did/does being part of NYX elevate you towards achieving your accomplishment – either the community or your coach or both? Alison talked me off of the ledge at least half a dozen times in the weeks leading up to the IM. I relocated back to the US about 2.5 months before the race. My life was crazy upside down. She reminded me of the many weeks of hard work in Singapore and really encouraged me to trust the process — that the “the hay was already in the barn.” She gave me the confidence that I needed to get to the start and, ultimately, it was her voice in my head that helped me push through to the finish! I could not have done this without her and the motivation that came from being part of NYX.