Ironman Diaries: A time to reflect

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The Era has chronicled training for Ironman Louisville through first-person accounts from local participants. Dannielle Hadaway is a 44-year-old personal trainer and mother and competed in her first Ironman Aug. 26.


Over the last six months I swam 182,000 yards, cycled 3,251 miles and ran 581 miles to prepare for the Ironman triathlon on Aug. 26. 

Despite my hard training I was not prepared for what happened to me on race day.

Completing the Ironman was the hardest thing I have ever done. It lasted longer and was more painful than giving birth to both of my children, one of which was a natural birth.

I was off to a fantastic start with a smooth, faster-than-expected 2.4-mile swim. I felt terrific on the first half of the 112-mile bike ride and followed my nutrition plan perfectly. I used the same bars, gels, salt tabs and sports drinks that I trained with all summer long. But, on the second half, I started to feel nauseous and my normally cast-iron stomach was revolting. I’m not sure why this happened but I’m blaming it on swallowing too much of the Ohio River during the swim. 

At mile 106, I pulled over and threw up. Twice. 

Feeling a bit better after that roadside break, I forced myself to get back on the bike and pedal the last six grueling miles to transition. 

I changed my shoes, exchanged my cycling helmet for a running cap, sprayed on sunscreen and thought I was heading out for the 26.2 mile run. My stomach had different plans and sent me hugging a cardboard box. I ended up spending some time in the medical tent where the amazing volunteers got my body temp down and gave me, of all things, a Coke. Out to run I went.

Again, my body revolted and I couldn’t fathom the thought of putting anymore gel or sports drinks into my belly, but I knew I needed calories so I went in search of some more cola. I had to run a mile to get one but it gave me some relief. Running hurt, so I opted for walking. I saw a friend who asked how I was feeling and I answered “nauseous.” A sprite runner passing by us overheard that and offered me some Tums she had. It was hard to get those chalky things down but I think they helped save my run. 

Another friend in my training group who was having a hard time offered to walk/run with me so we could keep each other moving. What a blessing. 

We encouraged and talked each other through our discomforts until about four miles from the finish when I caught a second wind. I managed to run all the way to that final turn where I could finally see the lights of the finish line at Fourth Street Live. Those lights drew me in like a moth to a light bulb and I was gliding.  People were screaming my name, whether they knew me or not (our names are on our bibs) and I forgot all my discomforts as I raised my arms crossing the finish line. 

It didn’t matter that my everything hurt or that my goal time was missed. One of my training partners said to me that it’s not figuring out how to get through the good parts of the race but figuring out how to get through the tough parts that makes someone an Ironman. 

I still received the same finisher’s medal, hat, backpack and T-shirt that all the other finishers received.  

All that mattered to me was that I overcame hurdles and crossed that line to become an Ironman. 

This journey taught me a lot about myself and my abilities. I was touched by strangers, cheered on by friends and family and made some lasting friendships through my training group. I am forever indebted to all the encouragement, kind gestures and generosity I received and I thank everyone for their support, locally and out of town. I hope I inspired at least one person to get out there and challenge themselves to do something they’ve never done. It doesn’t have to be something as big as an Ironman but pick an activity that’s important and exciting to you. I promise, it will be worth it. 


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