Gritty and Graceful, Nichole's road to Ironman
WHAT SUCCESS MEANS TO ME...
Tell us about yourself!
I am a mover and have been all my childhood as we moved every single year until High School. Looking back I’m grateful for all the change. Being comfortable out of my comfort zone and learning how to make friends in any new environment has served me well. Mostly though I grew up in Southern California. After my Boyfriend of 5 years proposed at my Senior Prom in High School, we got married after I graduated and moved where the military sent him. Coast to Coast, some spots in between, and the best was a 10year stint in Hawaii. After island living, military moves, and two island babies, we knew we needed to set roots back on the mainland. Happily rooted and now a family of 5 we reside in the beautiful Bay Area in Northern California. We are home. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Hawaii. Being that I am the CEO of this household and a mom of three, I would venture to say that I am more than qualified and have a lifetime of experience under my belt! Ha!
Never stop reaching, never stop pushing, never underestimate the value of a challenge.
Favorite workout(s) and/or Sport My favorite workout is one where I can explore. Set out on a new trail, climb a mountain peak, or wander down a country road. With that exploration my soul smiles and I’m revitalized. In that workout I want to overcome a challenge as well. How many miles, how much elevation gain, how fast can I fly? So you see my adrenaline-junkie-self is always seeking a new challenge and that has been the evolution of my triathlon training. Now to my favorite sport. You guessed it, Triathlon. My self-challenging inner athlete started in my early 20s with a marathon, then a relay tri, solo sprint, and years and years later finally my first Ironman this past summer. Never stop reaching, never stop pushing, never underestimate the value of a challenge.
Favorite personal development book
I currently love the book You Are A Badass. It’s been a laugh out loud inconspicuous self-help book that helps you slap yourself out of a funk and into the fight for your life. It’s a must read!
What are you currently working on?
Kona. My ultimate goal is Kona. Ironman was holding that spot for many years, but now that I’ve completed that it’s time for onward and upward. Let’s talk about ultimate goals. This powerful idealistic peak with stunning imaginary views and sun soaking time to take in all the hard work that led you to the top. This goal is so fabricated and magnificent that you never let that fire to reach the top burn out. I really started utilizing and harnessing the power of not only setting a goal, but writing down my goals in my early 20s. When I put that pen to paper it was like a legal binding document in my mind, It’s a pressure that I take on. It’s an unspoken promise to myself unless otherwise broadcasted that I must honor. If I didn’t then I wouldn’t be honoring my true worth and potential and that is just plain unacceptable. I wasn’t put here to just get by. To take short cuts and kid myself out of the pitfalls, blood, sweat and tears that overcoming challenges throws at you. No no.. I am here for that and more. So pen to paper I went and wrote down the words and started the journey. Triathletes amazed me. I couldn’t even fathom how they had that much energy, strength, and focus. It blew my mind in the most mesmerizing way. Living in Hawaii opened up my eyes to the amazing sport of triathlons with triathlon season every single day and the famous Kona World Championships just a few islands over. The buzz and hype was a whisper compared to what it is now. Still, my ears perked. Kona for those who don’t know is the world championship race for Ironman distance. That mind boggling distance comprising of a 2.4mile swim, 112mile bike, and a 26.2mile run to the finish line. To compete on this sacred lava field you must qualify as the top performing athlete in your age group in an Ironman sanctioned race leading up to the championship. The best of the best.
I skirted around the sport with a few running/adventure races. Then finally I committed to a marathon. Once I gritted my way through that and climbed over that mental heaping mountain of a wall at mile 22, I thought maybe just maybe I was stronger than I thought and could actually attempt a triathlon. You see in that marathon I unexpectedly learned one of the most valuable training and life tips there is. Mind over matter.
I finally approached an acquaintance/secret idol who did relay triathlons and suggested (in my mind begged) if I could join in on any future races. No bite. So I went and cheered on the race watching all the swim bike and running go by. Again I asked and finally got a hit for an upcoming race. Someone else wanted to relay too! I was on a hodgepodge team of strangers and I was thrilled!! That was the hook. Over time I asked millions of questions, cheered on amazing athletes, and finally signed up for my first solo triathlon. That acquaintance/ secret idol has become my best friend of over 10 years now. She’s my soul sister and the reason I got into the sport of triathlon.
When did you decide to start pursuing this goal seriously?
I was 23. I remember because it was my birthday and I was heading out for a sunset surf session with my husband when the phone rang. Toes in the sand, sun setting on the horizon, and the perfect sets rolling in. This is Dr…..blah blah……CANCER….blah blah.…you could have 10 years to live if we don’t move fast. I hung up the phone and went out to surf. The horrible joke was my reality and the next few months were the hardest of my life. Stage III melanoma and I was lucky enough to have it spotted and removed from effected lymph nodes in the nick of time. While in this whirlwind with my husband transitioning out of the military I then got a call that my father had unexpectedly passed away. My walls were crumbling and I was suffocating in pain and uncertainty. I wanted to run away. Fly away. I wanted to breath. That was it! I needed to breath, fly, RUN! Healed and humbled from the grief of life lost and the gratitude of life spared I had the power to surge toward my goals in a way that I never had before. I cried on so many miles, I screamed out loud in anger. I got faster and it got clearer. My muffled dim view started to come into focus and on one particular run I danced. I started pursuing the goal of Ironman when pregnant with my first child. I was newly in love with the sport and still racing throughout my pregnancy. I was embracing the miracle of motherhood and suddenly craving the urge to push my body to it’s competitive limits. I was hungry and that was the perfect time to make a plan. Within a year of my first child, I competed in my first Ironman 70.3 in Hawaii.
What have you learned about expectations that you can share with us?
I thought that when I finally completed an Ironman that would just be it. I would be comforted and proud in my achievement, possibly get a tattoo, and be…..satisfied. Well, what I learned was that before I even toed that line on race day that I was already fearing not having a goal and what possibly could be next. You see, you have to have a solid grasp on your goal, but have to allow enough space to let other opportunities come through the cracks. The whole point of chasing towards a goal is to wonder and explore all the different pathways to get there.
What does personal success mean to you?
Oye. This changes all the time for me personally. One minute I want fast podium attack level performance and the next I want to just enjoy the event. Smiling at every single face, hugging and laughing with my family along the course, and thanking all the volunteers. This is actually something I struggle with currently. I have been reached out to in efforts to get an actual coach to help guide me to the podium instead of skirting around it on my own training plan, but I never can commit to them. My fears are that if I make that commitment that it will change my feelings and joy around the sport into a job that I dread. Training was my therapy, escape, and think tank place. I’m afraid to change that. This is my struggle at the moment-any insight from others that have made the leap and have advice is appreciated.
What kinds of obstacles have you come across and how did you overcome them?
The most constant struggle is just making the time. Making the commitment to yourself that you deserve and need the time it requires in order to make progress toward your goal. There are a million excuses and valid reasons to derail you along the way. For me as a stay at home mom, getting in a 5+ hr workout in on a regular basis is just not feasible. I have to make it work for me and I chose to make it as minimal sacrifice to my kids and family as possible. That means early early and late late workouts. When they drive to a hike, I bike to the hike and meet them along the way. I try and get all my needs in when they are in sports/school activities. It isn’t always a perfect system, but I try my best. Another obstacle is fuel. Eating to fuel this body not just fill it. When training the weight stays at bay but oh boy can you feel it in performance. It’s often called the 4th sport in triathlon because nutrition plays such an essential role for each athlete. Tone it Up’s Nutrition plan has helped tremendously with educating me on what foods are packed with nutrients and the best time to eat them. They make the process fun, refreshing and always yummy. Although I use TIU as a guideline I don’t try and cut any calories. As a busy mom always on the go it is a struggle to get enough in. No calorie counting for this mama.
What is your best advice for women who want to complete a goal despite negative feedback, or discovering that its really not a good fit. Is it ok to quit on something that just doesn't feel right for you?
This is such a shame. I feel like the tides are changing and evolving, but woman shaming is a true thing. I have been criticized for being too active many times as well as the double disapproving looks when running or racing while pregnant. Dialing into what your needs are and listening to your body is the best advice. If you believe it you can do it. The timeline and ways to which you get there may differ from the person right next to you but enjoy and embrace the journey, it’s yours to navigate. Is it ok to quit something that isn’t right for you is a tricky question. The answer is Yes, with a catch. If a certain workout regimen or goal you seek is physically harmful to you then stop. Everyone has different body types and strengths and making sure you are healthy and preventing injuries is key. Now for the catch. Don’t think of it as quitting. You never want to give up or quit on yourself. Many times life gets away from me and my focus wanders from my goal. As long as you are aware and making that sacrifice knowingly with the promise that you’ll try again at a later time. Your goals are worth your time, focus, and all the sacrifices that are necessary to reach them. They are also timeless, so go for it another way or another time and never give up!
What role does validation and recognition play in your personal success?
Validation is the most motivating aspect out there! To push yourself out of your comfort zone, grit through the burn, and retrain your inner voice to say keep going instead of stop now is no easy task during endless training sessions. Then on race day you lay it all out there. Results are in and don’t lie. You will see and feel the difference and know that all came from your dedication and hard work. It’s the best feeling. The recognition part is such a humble blessing. I myself was inspired by someone to start my journey and it honestly makes me so happy to hear that I have become that for others. I see how brave, fearless, and strong they are and couldn’t be more honored that they reach out to me for advice or guidance in their journey to their goal. I tear up thinking about it. Supporting each other is the best reward there is!
What kind of sacrifices did you need to make in order to complete your goal?
Personally It’s the early nights and even earlier mornings. The pressure of training is constant and heavy. The time spent away from family or moments cut short due to training never feels good. Financially triathlons are a very expensive sport. On average I would say just the gear alone can cost around 10k. That is on the extreme low end. Then there is still the sticker shock of registering for an Ironman. Each full entry fee starts at $650-800+ and are sold out in a matter of minutes. I knew if I wanted to do IRONMAN races again I needed sponsors. I needed discounts. Well, look at that, a mini goal presented itself. I wrote it down and told a few friends. I will be sponsored next season. I reached out to the team that inspired me the most. The loud bold in your face feminine fierceness that come to play on race day and cheered along every person that came along after her with a smile. Team Betty from Betty Designs. I was stunned that I made the team and am still pinching myself with a second season with them. We have amazing sponsors that make us faster, keep us protected, fueled, and looking F’ing amazing as we train and race through the seasons. The best is the sisterhood that I never had; the amazing group of women that comprise this team with positivity, perseverance, and pride. I am honored and home with this tribe by my side.
How do you make time for it all? Do you have a specific approach to productivity? Is there really such a thing as ‘balance’?
I am dropping balls all the time. It’s a fluke if they are being juggled and in the air at the same time. I can’t fit in my workout, I forget the kids practice was changed last minute to another field, did I kiss my husband today, there goes reading time it’s already past bed time, I lost my patience and acted just like the child I was upset with, we are having cereal for dinner…..it all happens. The most important part is that I pick up the balls I dropped and keep going. I keep trying maybe with different methods, but I never give up. I think that is the balance that I am ok with. Never give up. The kids are always going to have their busy school/sport schedules and its good for them to see and appreciate all that goes into that. As they get bigger they will take on some of that responsibility and know that if you forget a glove you still go on with practice, you still show up. Also I try and remind the family and myself that I/we GET to do this. We have the opportunity and gift to go for bike rides, make a great meal together, cheer each other on in their event at school/recreation. Every day is a gift not a given and should be appreciated.
Why is it so important for women to have personal goals?
Women are often times put into a box; a mold of expectations that may limit or inhibit our true potential. As women we not only need to dream of extraordinary goals in order to achieve them, but we also need to support one another to go after their limitless potential as well. I also feel that women wear so many hats and are amazing at reinventing themselves. There is nothing that says that a mom staying home with her young children can’t or won’t get herself through school, start a business and be running a major company by the time those young children turn into young adults. It is possible and all at our fingertips, we just need to reach for it.