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Q & A with Taryn Spates on her DIY Ironman Fundraiser

Today we were so fortunate to grab a few minutes with TeamSFQ superstar Taryn Spates and hear some key details of her DIY ironman adventure this past Sunday. A bunch of our team members were able to turn out to support this effort and to watch Taryn's very impressive run and finish, which was a feat in itself, but equally impressive was the way in which Taryn turned her DIY event into a fundraiser for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research and has raised over $10,000 to date.  

Can you tell us what your pre-COVID season looked like?  And how the opportunity to do a DIY ironman presented itself?

My pre-COVID season looked very promising on paper. I had a marathon slated for early March, Oceanside, 70.3 in early April, and Ironman St. George in early May. I did race the marathon in March, (the Los Angeles marathon was held on March 8th, the last weekend before lockdown), but I incurred a high-hamstring injury during the race, and even though I managed to cross the finish line, it was ugly. I was taken aback by how severe the injury was, (my legs are typically my failsafe), but as the weeks progressed it was clear I would not be able to race Oceanside or IM St.George if they did go on as planned, so their ultimate cancellations did not affect my schedule because my only priority was healing my injury. 


CUT TO: Mid August, nearly six months after I strained my hamstring, I was finally putting together consistent pain-free runs, and thought I was ready to *maybe*train for something BIG. I spent most of the Summer energized by watching my fellow TeamSFQ teammates accomplish amazing feats, Heidi Videto's 36-hour ride at the Washington Island Relay, Alyssa Godesky's 46 High Peak Fastest Known Time record in the Adriondacks, and Cameron Hawkin's solo "iron" triathlon in North Carolina, that I started to brainstorm for an event of my own. During an easy training ride on Friday, August 14th, I thought up a *Iron* distance course to start near my house in the San Fernando Valley and finish at my parent's house in Palos Verdes, Ca. I figured could swim at the pool at our club, then ride over the Santa Susana Pass into Simi Valley and on to Camarillo, (an area I have ridden thousands of miles in training), then ride down Pacific Coast Highway to Pacific Palisades, and run 26.2 miles south on the beach strand to Palos Verdes. However, I did not just want to make this a long training day, (it would be very similar), I wanted to bring attention to, and *hopefully* raise money for a cause very close to my heart, a cure for Parkinson's disease. My Dad has Parkinson's, and my Uncle passed away from it in the Fall of 2018, and since it is a disease that robs time, I did not want to waste another second pushing off an opportunity to show my Dad how much I love him, and concurrently help other people affected by Parkinson's. So at about the 1:26 hour mark of that easy Friday ride, "Taryn's Iron Journey From The Valley to The Sea" benefitting the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research was born.  

How did your training for this ironman compare to that which you did for your last couple of ironman-branded events?

The training for this event was different than any other ironman-branded event I have trained for because I was still building my high-hamstring injury back up, and for the first time in the dozen or so years that I have been competing seriously as a triathlete, my husband asked that I take Sunday as a Rest day because we barely saw each other during the week due to his nutty work schedule, which made for a refreshing reboot to every week. Also, my coach added weekly stair repeats wearing a 25lb. weighted vest. in an effort to gain strength in my glutes and quads to take the load off of my hamstrings. This workout quickly became my favorite of the week, and nothing short of miraculous, because my hamstring pain went away almost instantaneously. Plus, my legs beefed up to be stronger than ever, which in turn helped my long-distance run strength reappear after pouting in the closet for six months after a painful/disappointing showing at the LA Marathon. As far as bike prep, I have always done a lot of riding volume before IM's, but this time we bumped it up with multiple 130+ rides in the weeks leading up to race day, and I put in a BIG month of riding in May, plus my first 12-hour ride in June, so my legs were ready to go to work for this event. Lastly, for the swim, since I am an adult on-set swimmer, I train all year like I am racing 2.4 miles every Sunday. #moreyardsplease

Given the current state of the world, lots of people are intrigued by the idea of a DIY challenge. Can you talk about how you planned the logistics of yours? What were your biggest challenges/ hurdles? 

Since this course was basically a "home town" course, I was able to train on it every week which was a huge benefit. I rode hill repeats on the Santa Susana Pass every Wednesday, and long miles up and down PCH and throughout Camarillo on Saturday's which provided plenty of opportunities to map out a 10x mile loop to simplify the course on race day. I ran a few times on the run course to nail down the exact mileage from the start and end of the marathon, and to practice weaving through the *typically* heavily trafficked bike path, but those skills were not needed on race day since the high winds kept the crowds at home. The biggest challenge was COVID related, because the earliest our club allowed lane reservations was 7A, but with the time change I would be chasing daylight all day, so I needed to be swimming by 6A in order to even have a chance to finish before sunset. Luckily, the swim director was accommodating, and made sure I had access to the pool as early as I needed. My toes were in the water by 5:51A.

 

How did the execution go, logistically , first? Can you talk about how you fueled/ refilled/ transitioned/ used the restroom??

I planned the course with transition areas as the top priority, which is why T1 was the bathroom on our club pool deck, and T2 was the parking lot of Temescal Beach and PCH because I had access to a public restroom. I ate a 1/2 cup of Picky oats before the swim, and 1 cup of coffee. After the swim, I ate 1x Packet of Justin's Almond Butter, 1x Bobo's Lemon Bar, 1x Picky Bar, and 1x Banana in T1. During the ride I drank 6x bottles of NUUN Hydration and Blue Frost Gatorade, 3x Picky Bars, and 2x gels, (maybe 3?), and 1x banana. I originally asked my crew to meet up with me at 11:15A for a bottle swap, but I was ahead of schedule, so I switched it to 10:45A. I drank primarily water from my 1.5 liter hydration vest during the marathon, 1x 1/2 bottles of NUUN at mile 9.5, a sips of NUUN at a SMASHING aid station in Hermosa Beach near mile 19, and another few swigs of NUUN at the last aid station at mile 21, and 4x gels. I used the restroom at T1, T2, and just before starting mile 22 of the marathon, which was conveniently located at the end of the strand I was running on in Torrance Beach. 

 

And how did the DAY go from a performance and feel standpoint for you?

 The day went just as I hoped it would during the swim, bike, and run, except for about 20min. during the swim when I was shaking off some sleepiness. I did have to contend with cataclysmic wind conditions during most of the ride, and all of the run, but I was strong enough to handle all of it, so it didn't slow me down too much. I had not "run" a full marathon in over two years, (I walked part of the marathon during Ironman Wisconsin in 2019 due to a foot injury, and again had to walk during the LA marathon due to my hamstring injury), so I was thrilled to feel solid and pain-free during the entire marathon.  

 

It was an absolute highlight for us to be out there to witness your day and to run the last few miles with you. You had an absolutely stellar TeamSFQ support, pacing and cheer squad out there--it was incredible to see how invested the team was in your efforts. Can you talk about the atmosphere on the day, and at the finish line?

It was nothing short of a dream come true. Considering the race took place on a Sunday, AND the windy conditions were borderline dangerous, I was blown away that so many of my teammates showed up to support me. Lynne Fiedler was the first to join in on the running fun at mile 17, then Jenn Aronson popped in about a mile later, and Genn Geiger set up perfectly placed aid station near mile 18 which gave me, but mostly my brother, Peter, the fuel boost he needed from running the longest run he had in months in very dry, sand-whipping conditions. Next, while running through the Redondo Beach pier, (and not feeling' so hot, honestly), I saw a pink flash out of the periphery of my right eye, and spotted the dynamic duo of Bridget Haga and Terri Unzueta wearing matching SFQ puffy jackets, and cheering through the wind.

 

 

 

Then while "running" up the steep hill at the end of the strand at Torrance Beach hearing and seeing all of those ladies, my husband, sister, PLUS my coach, and Smashfest queen Co-Founder, Hillary Biscay, cheering for me as I crested the hill was pretty much the best feeling ever. I was running on fumes at that point, so having Hillary take the lead for the final hilly miles of the course was a welcome reprieve, and the fact that we were clicking off those miles before the sun went down was the biggest *win* of the day. Thankfully, my endorphins kicked in as we climbed the last hill, and I was able to enjoy the last downhill miles in high spirits. The crowd at the finish included my amazing aforementioned teammates, plus Jess Zaiss, family friends, a few of my siblings, a gaggle of nieces and nephews, my step mom, my mom, (who I hadn't seen since June because of COVID), and the man of the hour, my Dad. When I hugged my Dad I told him the wind made it a hard day, but that it was awesome. I am still amazed that so many incredible people braved those ridiculous windy conditions to root me on to the finish, but I am beyond grateful they did. It was an exceptional day from start to finish, and the race I am most proud of because I was able to share it with so many wonderful people, (in person and from afar), and it was an honor to race for my Dad, my Uncle Pat, and many others affected by Parkinson's by raising over $10,000 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. 

 

 

This was my first DIY event, but it will not be my last.:) 

 

Thank you so much Taryn for taking the time to share with us!!! More pics and details of Taryn's phenomenal effort can be found on her blog here.





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