Just over a year ago I was not sure of myself or my life as it stood. I lacked passion, motivation, happiness, and personal goals; but then came Fleet Feet. One early morning I reluctantly went to Cades Cove with my mother to meet up with the running group. Someone asked me to try triathlons and I did not know them well enough to say no. I could not even run one mile, what was I thinking? Little did I know, that moment was the beginning of my new life. I became a part of a group who was loving, supportive, and full of encouragement. Shahin and Cheryl asked me to accomplish tasks that I once thought impossible for me. Soon, I ran my first 5k, raced some sprint triathlons, and completed Storm the Fort Olympic Tri. I wanted more. What else could I do? That was when I decided that it was time to plan for the Augusta Half Ironman. This past summer I began training. I struggled with time, exhaustion, and self-doubt. At the same time, I experienced excitement and hope. When September rolled around, I was full of anxiety and wondered if I had done enough. The time had come to pack up for Augusta and find out.
Race day was a defining day in my life. I can honestly say that I went through more emotions in the 6 1/2 hours of the race than I normally go through in a week. There were times that I was intimidated by the size of the race and the appearance of the other athletes. The swim is my favorite discipline in triathlons, yet a few minutes in I began to question what I was doing and the possibility of completing the race. I felt moments of excitement when I was feeling stronger than expected. Mile 45 of the bike I felt great and knew I would make it. There were moments that I had to repeat, out loud, " I have this.". During the run, I wanted to walk so many times but I had already made a deal with myself to only walk at the water stops and I was not going to let myself down this far in. The hardest part of the race was the last three miles of the run. My muscles were tight and my body wanted to stop. It is at these times that you find out what you are made of. My mind had to take over; this is what I had been working for. As I crossed the finish line with the support of my friends and family, I could not hold back the tears of pride. I knew at that moment that I could do whatever I want to do and the hard work it takes to reach those goals is worth every minute. Life is like an ironman, it takes passion, determination, perseverance, and hard work and that is how character is built. Just as important is the support of loved ones who believe in you when you question yourself. I am greatly humbled by all the loving words and actions of all of you that support me through this ongoing journey. - Kyli Wooten