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 Patti Lawrence. Team SFQ'er Patti earned her Hawaii Ironman qualification by winning the 50-54 age group at Ironman Florida last fall.
This is your first Kona!! Can you tell us about your journey to Kona-qualifying?
I'm so excited for my first Kona. Eight years ago, I finished my first triathlon. I was so afraid to put my face in the water, that I used the breast stroke to complete the entire 700m swim. I finished 11th out of 20 in my AG that day, and was thrilled. But then I began thinking about how I could improve. I'm guessing a lot of you reading this response can relate -- there's something about competing against yourself, and trying to improve a little in each area of a triathlon, that is addicting. Fast forward to the end of last year, and I'm qualifying for Kona at Ironman Florida. As the Ironman motto states, "Anything Is Possible". Coaching, training camps, like-minded friends, and family support have gotten me to this point. It's hard to describe the feeling when I crossed that finish line and realized I had won my AG and was going to Kona. But I will never forget that feeling. I also still remember watching this race on ABC Wide World of Sports as a kid, thinking these people are crazy. I guess I'm one of the crazies now :))
What do you think helped you take your performance to Kona level last year?
In past seasons, I struggled during long runs to hit the faster interval paces. And I also struggled with fitting in my workouts as the training hours increased. When my goal became qualifying for Kona, that had to change. This time, when I would think about not doing a workout, or not digging-in and picking up the pace, I would repeat to myself, "KONA, KONA, KONA", and try and feel the emotions of crossing the finish line first in my age group. For me, that visualization was very motivating.
And then on race day, I was surprised how relaxed I felt. I had worked on my mental focus, and had recently read the book, The Power of Now. I was not letting my mind race with what could or would happen that day. I stayed present, and focused on what I could and should be doing at that moment. It worked!!!!
How do you make it all happen, ironman training as a mom of three busy kiddos? We'd love your top "how-to-do-it-all" tips! :)
My goal is to finish all my big training during the week, and then spend the weekend with the family. And I usually add in a fun run with my husband or a quick mountain bike ride together. And then they understand when I need to take a few weekends for century rides leading up to an ironman. Training camp is also a great way to get away and focus on my training without interruptions. And I'm so thankful for that time away, that I come back a better mom and wife.
My Family: Rafting the Middle Fork of the Salmon River
Otherwise my focus is on my husband and kids. My kids are busy with activities every night and most weekends. My motto is to not let them have all the fun. I can usually find a good place to run in the area or a gym nearby to squeeze in a workout.
You have had an exceptionally unique lead-up to the race, dealing with some very significant health challenges that probably made typical ironman training seem easy . . . Can you talk about this and about how you maintained such an incredibly positive and focused mindset through it all?
I've struggled thinking about if I should open-up about my health. I know there are so many people dealing with their own challenges, so I don't think this makes me special. But at the same time, I think this is the perfect target audience, and welcome the opportunity to be a resource if needed. Six months ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a double mastectomy in June, with immediate reconstruction. And then earlier this month, I finished six weeks of daily radiation treatments. Now I am cancer free!!
My health came first in all my treatment decisions, but keeping my goal of going to Kona kept me positive and motivated. I drew upon the same techniques I used for staying mentally focused in an Ironman: stay in the moment, don't think ahead, don't think about all the bad things that can happen -- they probably won't happen anyway, AND smile a lot -- even forcing a smile creates positive energy. There were challenging times over the last six months. But I truly believe that my whole triathlon journey, from finishing my first race, to putting together a qualifying ironman race, has made me such a stronger person to deal with much bigger challenges in life.
Ringing the bell after my last radiation treatment.
Signifies being cancer free. A great day!
What are you most looking forward to about your first Kona experience?
There is so much!! The energy and excitement of the whole week -- swimming in the Pacific Ocean, meeting new people, seeing old friends, bike check-in and seeing all the amazing bikes, buying lots of stuff at the Village and at the Smashfest Queen tent, and best of all, meeting Hillary, Michele, Lauren, and my Smash sisters. And then there is race day -- taking it all in, doing my best, and crossing that iconic finish line!!
What are your goals for race day?
My goals have changed so much over the last six months. They've gone from finishing in the top 15, to finishing under the 17-hour time limit. At this point, my goal is to surprise myself.