A dedicated eighth grade math teacher, wife, and mother of two, Carolyn Phelps did not exactly have the schedule to accommodate triathlon training. But after persuasion from her triathlete neighbor, Carolyn embarked on a year of intense training in order to compete in the Half Ironman in Lake Stevens, Washington this past month. Diagnosed with MS two years earlier, Carolyn made the decision to "keep moving." Competing in an Ironman event was not on her list of things to do a couple of years ago, but with her new diagnosis, she made her mind up to just move. "I don't want it to pass me by," she said. "We want to set a positive example for our children. This was a lifestyle decision, not an event," she explained.
Carolyn is the first to say she never could have succeeded without her family's support. Long runs and late night swims at the local pool caused Carolyn to commit to a tight schedule. Her husband and children were with her every step of the way "Picking up the slack," she said, "and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches some nights when she could not make it home for dinner." She still gets emotional about it. "I just had so much support."
In preparation for the event, Carolyn's training consisted of weekly long runs, swims, and bike rides. With her daughter on swim team, Carolyn received stroke and technique training from the 10 year old expert. Her swimming regimen consisted of a one mile swim 3-4 days a week often between 8-9 p.m. at night. Riding her bike to and from work became a daily occurrence and weekends allowed for 5-6 hour long rides. The most grueling were the 'brick workouts,' Carolyn said, a term used to describe back to back training. In this case, Carolyn would complete a 50 mile bike ride and then immediately transition into a 5 mile run.
With friend Connie at her side, Carolyn began the 70.3 mile adventure in the beautiful Lake Stevens area on August 17th. Starting with a 1.2 mile swim and transitioning into a 56 mile bike ride, the race concluded with a 13.1 mile run. Unknown to Carolyn, her children and husband had placed signs along the racing path the night before. "Come on mom!" and "Go Carolyn and Connie!" were some of the nearly 15 posters placed along the trail. An emotional tribute to their mom and wife proved the perfect encouragement for Carolyn. Not all of the signs said her name, but she could recognize the handwriting of her children. It was a special and unexpected detail of the event which further demonstrated her family's strong support.
With an overall time of 7 hours 42 minutes, Carolyn finished the race without any obstacles. Upon signing up for the event, Carolyn's goal was to "just finish." As the race got underway, her goal went from just finishing to completing the race in 7.5 hours. Just twelve minutes over her goal time, Carolyn glided through the finish line as a Half Ironman. It was not until the final five miles, Carolyn said, that she realized what she had done. Another athlete ran up beside her and said, "Can you believe in five miles you are going to be a Half Ironman?" That's when it really hit me, said Carolyn.
Since the race, Carolyn has competed in the Iron Horse Traverse in North Bend Washington. The event consisted of a 5 mile kayak (keep in mind this was only her second time in a kayak), a 27 mile mountain bike ride, followed by a 24 mile road bike ride, and a 6 mile run. Carolyn is far from slowing down. With no clear list of upcoming race events, Carolyn said there is no concrete plan. "I just plan to keep moving, I do not want it to pass me by." Although overly modest in her speech, we all find Carolyn's words truly inspirational: Just Keep Moving.