The Big Update – Decisions, Decisions

Looking at the bright side, this was the view at the end of my run!

Looking at the bright side, this was the beautiful view at the end of my run a couple days ago.

As I promised earlier, this is the big update.  I took a break from blogging (more on that in a minute) but not from training. For a while it was looking like I was going to be able to close the speed gap and go into the IM with a good chance of finishing under all the cut off times.  Then I got sick, and my training slipped, and I just haven’t been able to close the gap, which threw me into a spiral of disappointment and frustration and sadness that I’m still trying to climb out of.

So there’s basically no chance that I’ll be fast enough to finish the IRONMAN this year. I’ve made improvements to both my speed and distance since I started this journey and I’m trying to be proud of what I’ve done but it’s tough when I’m coming up short once again.

I made the decision a while ago that if I couldn’t finish it this year, I would try one more year. I have received lovely and encouraging e-mails from people who have tried 3, 4, 8, even 12 times before they finished an IRONMAN and while I have tremendous respect for the discipline that requires, I think I have one more year of this in me and then it will be time to find something to do that I actually enjoy. There’s a Mark Twain quote “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. Then quit, no use being a damned fool about it.”  I’m on the second try.

When I set this goal for myself  I knew that the training would be difficult, but I believed that I would put in the training hours and the improvement would happen and I would finish the event.  Except that’s not what happened, I put in the training hours but my speed just has not increased enough.  It’s super frustrating.  I had some improvements in speed but I also had long plateaus, and even backslides, in between those improvements.

It’s possible that part, if not all, of that is that I’m not working hard enough – basically that because I don’t enjoy these workouts and I’m struggling just to make myself do the workouts in the first place (and not quit once I’ve started) that I’m mistaking misery for difficulty and thus not working as hard as I think I am – we’re working on some techniques to fix this.

It does leave me with a difficult decision about the upcoming IRONMAN. There are two schools of thought when it comes to a race that you think you can’t finish. One school says: you paid for the race, get in there and do what you can and get a feel for the course and some extra practice.  The other school says: if you know you can’t finish, don’t start- it’s not cool to take up space in a race where you know you won’t finish and other people are chasing PRs.

The pros of doing the race include getting a chance to do the swim, the bike and part of the run. The pros of not doing the race include not having to taper and recover so that I can just move forward with my training, not having the expense of traveling to the IM and everything that entails.

I didn’t buy race insurance (hindsight is 20/20!) so the bad news is that I can’t get a refund, but the good news is that I can take until the last minute to decide. (If I don’t race it’s nice to know that if my trolls made good on their promise to register to harass me in person they’ll have wasted their money since IRONMAN does not have a  “That blogger I stalk isn’t racing” refund option and, since I know that y’all dote on every word I write, you’re welcome for another year of constantly harassing me.)

So that’s the update on the race, here’s the update on blogging.  I basically stopped blogging here for a while for several reasons – first, I just got busy coordinating a few events and when I get busy this blog is the first thing that gets dropped.  As I realized that I wasn’t going to be fast enough I struggled to keep doing the workouts and not quit and so I just put all of my energy into that.  Finally, I just wasn’t enjoying the way that I was blogging – it felt like just another chore in a week of chores. So as we’re rethinking my training program I’m also rethinking the way that I’m going to blog about it this year.

In the meantime I’m still grinding away at the workouts and I’m still looking forward to, at very long last, crossing that finish line and hearing those words “Ragen Chastain, You Are An IRONMAN!”  For those who are following my journey, it looks like we have another year together!  Massive thanks to everyone who has offered me encouragement and well wishes, you can’t know how much I appreciate it and how much it means.

If you’re looking for some thoroughly cheesy pick-yourself-up-and-dust-yourself-off music, I’m your girl! Here’s what I’m listening to right now (and as always, your suggestions are welcome in the comments)

About danceswithfat

Hi, I’m Ragen Chastain. Speaker, Writer, Dancer, Choreographer, Marathoner, Soon to be IRONMAN, Activist, Fat Person.
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41 Responses to The Big Update – Decisions, Decisions

  1. Melissa says:

    When I didn’t get into med school the first two times I tried, I listened to Michael Jackson’s “Keep the Faith” on repeat. It worked, I’m a doctor now. You can do this. Much love and admiration, lady!


  2. Always helps me when I’ve got something to fight through.

    I’m sorry you’re struggling so much. I can’t imagine doing what you’ve done… putting all the time and effort into training for something you don’t find to come naturally or particularly enjoy. I admire you for deciding you wanted to do it in the first place, though.

    Whatever you decide, the people who support you will continue to do so. And the asshole trolls will, as you have pointed out, lost money if they seriously stooped to such a level.


  3. Denny says:

    Hi Ragen, I finally got a Facebook account. How do I as you as friend?


  4. Penny Wilkin says:

    Tough decisions – you’ll decide what’s right for you! But getting this far with all the trolls and having a life is an achievement in itself.


  5. Liz V says:

    Teddy Roosevelt said it better than I ever could, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. ”
    I admire the hell out of what you’re doing. Good luck, ma’am!


  6. Patsy says:

    Ragen, believe in yourself! I am sure you WILL finish the Ironman. You can do it. Ignore the Trump trolls, they are just trying to make you doubt yourself.


  7. Bethany says:

    All the love and support for you in this difficult decision. Thank you for your honesty and all you do!


  8. Denise says:

    Be proud of what you’ve already achieved Ragen! I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish half of what you have, especially with all the haters and death threats, hell it wouldn’t surprise me if all that stress is half the reason you got sick!!

    Anyways, thank-you for showing the world that us larger ladies can achieve!!


  9. Jana says:

    Cheering for you!!


  10. Theresa the Ham Beast says:

    This is the song for when you’re like “I can’t do tjis and I don’t wanna!” Also try “Heels of Steel” by Hysterica!


  11. Linda Strout says:

    *HUGS* and *GOOD MOJO*


  12. Jamie says:

    Hi Ragen, I just finished IMFL last weekend. One thing anticipated, but wasn’t fully prepared for is how much of the race was a mental game. Speed didn’t matter as much…I swam, biked and ran at a pace I felt I could maintain all day…which was by no means speedy. But as the day went on, it was mind over matter. My head carried my body across the finish line. It’s painful for me to read that you aren’t enjoying your training any longer. I’d encourage you to work on your mental game. Try to remember all the reasons you fell in love with the sport. It’s those thoughts that will keep you moving forward all day when your legs want to quit. Also, it’s been about a week since the race and I can tell you my body and mind were craving a break. I’m taking some time off to recover, rest and recharge. I have a feeling I’ll come back stronger when I’m finally ready. Hang in there…I’m proud of you!


    • Hi Jamie,

      Congratulations on IMFL, that’s amazing! I appreciate the advice and the kind words, they really do mean a lot.

      I wanted to quickly clear up some confusion – I never liked the training, I never fell in love with the sport. A lot of people have real difficulty with this, which I understand because spending this much time doing something difficult that I don’t enjoy doesn’t make sense to a lot of people. I decided to do this for a lot of reasons but mainly (after spending my life doing only athletic activities that I was good at right away) as a continuation of a project to step out of my comfort zone and do things that I’m not good and and don’t enjoy. I’m certainly achieving that goal 🙂

      That said, I absolutely agree that working on my mental game is important. I’m looking at ways to try to learn to like the training (or at least not dread and hate it) I appreciate the advice about how the mental game is what carries you through the race and that’s something that I’m thinking about too – how do I keep going for 17 hours when I know that at times I’ll feel desperate to stop and there will be no distractions (I feel like the rule about no ipods during the run might actually be more cruel than the distances involved!)

      Thanks for the advice, I appreciate it and it’s always welcome. Enjoy your well earned rest and recovery and congratulations again on your IM!


      Liked by 1 person

      • Anna Michelle says:

        I don’t know the IMAZ policies, but just so you know, most races will tell you no headphones/music, but almost everyone still uses music!! Including big races like the NYC marathon. They say no, but no one is enforcing that rule – thank goodness!


  13. grrlpup says:

    I believe in you. You’re going to figure it out, do what works for you, and hear that announcer’s voice. Thanks for letting us share a little bit of the process!


  14. Mary J Weslow says:

    My thoughts go this way- I have always been so proud of you for even trying Ragen that having you there is a huge encouragement to me. What time you make is meh. Who cares, you are THERE. Your tenacity, your willingness your discipline to attempt this blows my mind.

    I think too you have forgotten the adrenaline, the 12th man ( or woman) and the power of good thoughts and prayer that will be thrumming through you as you compete.

    We have your back regardless of which way you go on this, but wow you are THERE with no regrets-

    Always admired, always loved!

    Mary J Weslow

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Mary,

      Thanks for this, it’s really lovely and super encouraging! Unfortunately to finish under the cut-offs I would need the 12th man to strap a rocket to my ass. I will be on the start line next year and I really appreciate your unconditional support!

      Big Fat Hugs,



  15. What a tough decision. I admire the grit it takes to put SO MUCH time into doing something that you don’t even enjoy. I race triathlon and I (mostly) enjoy all three disciplines. I can’t imagine training if I didn’t like them at all! You will make whatever decision is right for you. I look forward to hearing about your continued adventures in triathlon land.


  16. Rebecca says:

    I just wanted to comment to say whatever your decision, you are a magnificent human being, and someone I’ll continue to look up to. Your being in the world makes so much difference to so many of us. Hugs and high 5’s!


  17. Your honesty alone is an inspiration! I love how pragmatic you are about the challenges you face in your ironman struggles and they are written with such candor. I have no advice having never faced the decision type you are facing. I trust your reason and decision making though and I look forward to more updates and inspiration from the coal face of physical challenges. Xx


  18. Bernie says:

    thank you for all the ups and downs.. your downs are very helpful to me…. we are all successful at different things, but what you are sharing makes me realize that it is ok! we are ok. YOU Are OK.. in fact you are TERRIFIC….


  19. tehomet says:

    I think it’s a big decision and whatever you decide, I support your decision. Whatever it ends up being, it’s one I’d hope you’re going to make only on the basis of what you feel like doing, bearing in mind that life is short. The background of who is going to be pleased or displeased by your eventual decision is not the crux of the matter. The fact that you rightly considered yourself capable of doing an Ironman event at all is inspirational enough all on its own – if you were to actually complete the bloody thing, that would be the icing on the awesome cake. I hate to use the depressing events of recent American politics here but in a way, HRC not getting elected is neither here nor there – by getting to the point where she was a major party candidate and capable of being voted for to become president of the US has made the point she wanted to make. We’ve seen the very real possibility of awesomeness and that is world changing all on its own. *respectful fistbump*


  20. karenashg says:

    Whatever you decide, you are a total rock star for all the work you have put in and how much you have already learned and achieved!


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