Continuing our series profiling each one of our age group team members racing in this year's Ironman World Championships, we are thrilled to chat with Lauren Palmer. Team SFQ'er and super Smashfest Queen employee Lauren earned her Hawaii Ironman qualification by finishing 2nd in the 30-34 age group at Ironman Chattanooga last fall.
Can you talk a bit about your journey to qualify for Kona and your breakthrough race at IMCHOO last fall, where you finished as 3rd amateur overall?
IMCHOO was Ironman #4 for me and also my second time racing Chattanooga. Since the first time I raced there a lot has changed training wise. It was my first time getting a coach, Alyssa Godesky, as well as mentally committing to training. Before a coach I thought I was doing everything I could by reading books, articles, blogs etc but then you realize something is definitely missing. I always seemed to fall a spot short or few minutes short of trying to qualify for Kona. In my first Ironman I never had Kona on my radar ( I was busy eating cookies at every aid station on the marathon) I just wanted to know I could finish the distance. However every race I seemed to grow closer to the goal of racing Kona, and then soon realized this was a possibility I absolutely wanted to achieve.
I started working with Alyssa beginning of that year and she completely changed my structure and I started doing not 1-2 sessions a day but 2-3! That type of structure and consistently played a huge role into understanding what it takes to strive for a different level. During that time I had done things I never have done from a training aspect and a lot of these big sessions gave me more confidence on race day. To be completely honest there is no secret formula besides hard work and never giving up. Giving yourself a “no excuse policy” helps tremendously as well. Most people aren’t going to want to ride the trainer after work or go for a swim late but doing those sessions when you don’t want to make all the difference, and that has been a huge factor for me. So when I found myself on the marathon in Chattanooga bracing the hot, humid and miserable temps. It was these sessions that I thought back on and those kept me going. Although it wasn’t be pretty I know I won’t ever give up because after all that is never a viable option.
You've had a challenging season this year as a result of a couple of freak accidents, most recently one requiring collarbone surgery just a few weeks ago. Can you tell us about these challenges and how you have trained through them?
That’s an excellent description, both were total freak accidents! Beginning of the season I fell while trail running and split open my knee resulting in 7 stitches. After that incident I raced a 70.3 quickly after, and then a full Ironman on very minimal training. That recovery journey was hard knowing your race goals go from very high expectations to okay let’s see if I can survive to the finish. In a sense I think that gave me some mental reliance for what was to come…breaking my collarbone.
In all of my athletic career I have been really lucky not to have anything drastically bad happen. I think when injuries happen you go through a lot of stages from shock to being mad, to why me and then finally how do we progress and go from here. When this accident happened I was lucky enough to be surrounded by my coach Alyssa Godesky and Hillary Biscay. Everything happened really quickly and only about an hour after the crash I found myself in a doctors office with Alyssa getting X-rays and the news about needing surgery. I didn’t really have much time to think and the only option was to move forward. Training pre crash was going very well and had just finished up another solid training block for Kona, but now my focus had to be how do we salvage fitness pre and post operation. Leading up to surgery I had about 2-3 days and in that time I managed to do some hour spins on the trainer and hiked up a mountain. Pre-surgery pain wise actually was a lot more manageable, whereas post surgery was probably the worst I have ever felt. In those times I kept telling myself everything is going to be fine and most importantly to take one day at a time. Getting ahead of myself would only make me feel worse realizing there are a ton of things I cannot do, versus what can I do. No I wasn’t able to wash my own hair but maybe I can get in the pool and swim with one good arm!
I did end up having to rest for three days straight post op but knew if I was going to attempt Kona I had to get moving, and I couldn’t count walking around the house as a workout. Having Kona on the horizon was a huge motivating factor. It’s a goal you work so hard towards and couldn’t imagine giving all of that up when there was still technically time! I had and still have so many people in my corner asking me constantly how I am doing and helping me every step of the way. Having my friends and family as support has been a huge asset to recovery as well. In the end however it all comes back to you as an individual making the decision for yourself. You have to get past feeling sorry for yourself. A lot of people face challenges and the longer you dwell on the negative the less time you have to work on the positive. I could of easily stayed home on the couch and kept on asking myself why me, but instead I stuck to asking what can I do. My advice to anyone is to give yourself some time to be upset but realize you are in charge of your own outcome and you have to be the one to decide what you are going to do about it.
What's your current physical status in regard to coming back from the collarbone break and surgery?
As we speak we are just about one week out from Kona and I have just started to jog/run and sort of use two arms to swim this week. Lot of my range of motion has come back but its not perfect by any means. Predominantly I have been swimming with one arm and not able to run based on the nature of the screws and surgical repair. Physically I feel probably as good as I can for being 5 weeks out from surgery with no running or real swimming. Definitely banking on previous fitness and some intense hiking, elliptical and trainer rides to give me the confidence for race day. Perhaps even my stroke will become less doggie paddle and more freestyle by then :)
We understand that you've had lots of life excitement in the past couple weeks--can you tell us the big news and how it relates to riding bikes of course? :)
Ah yes! Not only do I ride a Dimond Bike but now I also have a diamond ring haha! My boyfriend Brent just recently proposed at a very special place in Tucson, Mt. Lemmon.
Mt. Lemmon is an epic 25-mile climb and an iconic place for all cyclists and triathletes. The first time I met Brent was on a blind bike date. Thanks to a great girls weekend trip I met his sister who ended up being our matchmaker! Following that trip she decided that we needed to meet in person and what better than climbing a mountain on bikes together! I think that is what normal people do right!? Needless to say about 2.5 years later Brent took me back to Mt. Lemmon (not in spandex) and proposed to me on that same mountain. It was exceptionally special and this mountain will always hold a special place in our heart!
What are you most looking forward to about race week?
Since working at Smashfest Queen the past two years in Kona I have had the great fortune to experience the island as a spectator. It can be extremely intimidating having all of the fittest people on earth here in one small space. Whether I am completely healthy or not I am looking forward to being relaxed and just taking it all in. Not stressing myself out with all of the hype, and enjoying every moment. I remember watching Mary Knott (Finding Kona) racing her first time and every time we saw her she was smiling. If I could do anything this week and on race day it would be to smile and soak it all up! Also looking forward to spending quality time with my family and Smashfest Queen family because these are the people that mean the world to me!
How have your goals and perspective on the race shifted in the past few weeks?
I would be lying if I didn’t say my goals haven’t changed a bit. However my perspective has only changed for the better. My goals as it stands right now are to swim with two arms and to finish Kona, but my perspective is much broader. This journey has taught me the true meaning of resilience and mental toughness. I believe if I can physically hold up my mind will help take care of the rest. Big picture this will only motivate me further to try and qualify again for Kona. It’ll make me work harder and absolutely appreciate every healthy moment that we get to train and race!