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How I Conquered the Ironman With Jill Kuhn

Our second installment of Bike Week guest blogs is brought to you by good friend and triathlete, Jill Kuhn! Jill recently completed her first Ironman and took the opportunity to talk about her struggles and successes building up to such a huge accomplishment.

Check out her story below:

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On July 13, 2014 I had a cycling accident that resulted in two surgeries and almost a year of physical therapy.

To this day, I am still filled with fear and anxiety each time I get on the bike. But like John Wayne says, “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.”

So I got back up in the saddle and faced my fear head on.

I started by using my indoor trainer. And I worked my way back slowly but surely. I found safe roads to train on. And I found friends I could count on to get out there with me. I also found organized group rides to go on. Those rides really gave me the experience I needed while providing me with a sense of security. The intersections were controlled by police, there were rest stops, and there were Support and Gear vehicles who help along the way. Getting out with a team or group was extremely beneficial.

April 10, 2016 I completed Ironman Texas 70.3.

Just 6 days before, I had another fall on my bike. The ER doctor told me my elbow was broken.

I was devastated at the thought that all my training was for nothing and that I wouldn’t be able to race.

After a couple visits to the orthopedist, it was determined I did not have a break, but, instead, nerve damage. The orthopedist said I could do what I could tolerate.

I didn’t make a firm decision until the morning of the race; though I knew in my heart I would do whatever it took.

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The bike was still my biggest fear; mounting safely was a big relief. When I made it to the turn around and I didn’t fall, I screamed out loud with joy! The only thing left was dismounting safely. Once I did – I cried tears of joy. I was going to do this! And I did!

Then it was time to make my ultimate dream of becoming an Ironman come true. I continued most of my training indoors on the trainer where I felt safest. Thank goodness for virtual training rides and Netflix!

And on April 22, 2017 – the day of my first full Ironman – I knew it was going to come down to the bike portion for me.

I started strong and felt great. I was enjoying myself and I was keeping a really good pace. I got out on the open stretch of the Hardy Toll Road which was two long loops. Heading out, I could not believe how well I was doing!

Shortly after, an ambulance passed by with its lights on. It reminded me that things could change at any moment. And when I hit the first turn around, it did.

A cool front came through. Temps dropped, but it also brought headwinds of up to 25 mph that made for some serious work and challenges. But I pushed through and turned for the second loop. I had the tailwind but it by no means made up for that headwind. There were debris everywhere. I hit a water bottle and I have no idea how I didn’t crash.

But things got worse; a man started weaving back and forth in front of me and lost control and he went down. He almost took out both me and another rider. Fortunately, he was ok, but his bike didn’t look to fare as well. It was a really close call.

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The rest of the time I just kept hoping the wind had changed directions and I wouldn’t be facing headwinds the whole way in. But no such luck.

I was going downhill from an overpass into the headwinds at full speed of 8 mph! Yes, that is EIGHT miles per hour! I was trying to sing to distract myself but I couldn’t think of any words. So I resorted to singing the ABC’s! I was desperate. There were people sitting on the side of the road with their bikes, people walking their bikes up the the overpasses, and people just quitting.

At 100 miles, with only 12 more to go, I wondered how I could do it. But I knew I couldn’t quit either. And those last 12 miles seemed just short of an eternity.

All of a sudden, I could see the dismount line! I was worried because my legs were toast. But when I got off the bike, I saw my family and I cried that I did it and I didn’t fall. The crowd chuckled at my exclamation.

I rejoiced and knew I conquered something that day that I didn’t let conquer me!

And that is fear!

Check out more of Jill’s inspirational stories and photos on her blog, Instagram and Facebook page. Do you have an inspiring biking or triathlon story to share? We’d love to hear it. Tweet us @66Audio. It’s not too late to enter to win a free BTS Pro in our Bike Week Giveaway – head on over to our Facebook page for more details.