Sometimes, Motivational Words Can Change Your Life.  In fact, some specific words of encouragement totally transformed my life and my journey to better health.Motivational Words Can Change Your Life

Motivational Words Can Change Your Life

If you haven’t already begun reading about my 100-pound weight loss journey, you may want to begin with my weight loss motivation post. This journey took time and wasn’t easy, but motivational words and my journey as a triathlete are a huge part of how I have kept the weight off for years.

My weight loss journey continued. After completing my first triathlon, I fell in love with the sport and threw myself into learning all I could. I loved the people, the atmosphere, and racing. I still didn’t love swimming, but 2 out of three sports was good enough, and the swim is the shortest leg of the race.

After a year of racing at the Sprint distance (.5 mile swim, 12-mile bike, 3-mile run), I moved up to the Olympic distance (1-mile swim, 24-mile bike, 6-mile run). It felt like a tremendous leap at the time. This is now my favorite distance.

jan sara hug triathlon

Support from friends is so huge during this journey! Jan met me with a hug at the finish line after I finished my first Olympic distance.

Sara Bike

How did motivational words make a difference?

On a cold, snowy day in January of 2011, I sat at my computer contemplating a decision. I had typed in my name to register for the Boulder 70.3, a Half Ironman distance event in August. This is a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike, and a 13-mile run. My finger was poised over the button, but I wouldn’t quite make myself hit SEND.

Would I be ready to do this? I had never trained for any event of this magnitude and had no idea of my body could handle it. The entry fee was $350, which is a huge investment for our family.

I was about to chicken out when Mike came over and offered encouragement. He said, “Just do it. Regardless of what happens on race day, you are paying for the motivation to train.”

That was the push I needed. I typed in my credit card information and pushed the button. I was committed. This coming from someone who used to hate exercise. If you do too, learn how to love exercise as I did.

Following through on commitments

All through that winter and spring, I trained. Most of the members of the triathlon team were gearing up for shorter events, but a small group of us were training for the 70.3 together. We became close. We began biking together for long miles, swapping advice, and sharing our worries and victories. The team coaches continually offered guidance and emotional hand-holding.

I purchased a magnet that said simply 70.3, and I stuck it on my refrigerator. When I got up at 4:30 am for a swim workout in the dark and cold, I would look at that magnet. When I got up early to go for a long, solitary run, I would look at that magnet.

I reminded myself that when I accomplished this race, I planned to take that magnet off of my refrigerator and stick it on the back of my van as I symbol of what I had accomplished — not because I had done some great thing, but because God had made so many great changes in my life. I was motivating myself through this journey.

You could also use our printable weekly exercise log to track your routine and help stay on track when training.

My Ironman 70.3 Race Experience

Boulder, CO – August 7, 2011

The wake-up call came at 4:00 am. My friends and I arrived at the crowded reservoir to set up our transition areas. I grabbed my wetsuit, goggles, cap, and the pre-race bag I had prepared with a water bottle, Clif bar, and electrolyte pills. I left the transition area (a bit nervous that everything was prepared) and headed for the long bathroom line.

I watched the pros come in from the swim with times of 25 minutes — amazing! I had just enough time to dip into the swim beach to get wet and make sure the goggles were not leaking, and then I saw the sign for my wave, #10, lining up. I was nervous but not overly so. I had done all the pieces and parts of this before. I knew it all. Let’s do it!

Breakdown of my first Ironman

Swim, 1.2 miles (57 minutes):

The swim went well for me and I never once got off course. (This has to be a record). I was pushing my pace, but I also wasn’t going too fast to where I was out of breath. I am one of those weird people who doesn’t mind the fray — I use it to my advantage. I found someone to draft off of by sticking my hand into the bubbles from their feet and tried to keep up with them for a few strokes. That person swam past me pretty quickly, so I found another. I felt the current of other swimmers pulling me along.

Rounding the 3rd buoy to come back into shore, I was ready to be done swimming.

I remembered how one of our coaches told us that three fourths of the way into every sport, it’s normal to hit a low. Remembering these motivational words helped. I kept going and soon enough shore was in plain sight. Hooray, oh so glad to be done with the swim!

I ran up to the transition (4.5 minutes), and as usual it’s fairly easy to find my bike since it was one of the last ones left. Ah, well!

Bike, 56 miles (3 hours, 25 minutes):

I headed out on the bike feeling good. I was thankful I wasn’t wearing one of those super-hot aero helmets. I’ll take my well-ventilated Target one. I didn’t feel too over-heated during the bike ride, but I chugged water like crazy because I knew I couldn’t get behind with the hot day facing me. I stopped at every aid station and refilled my water bottle and tossed the bottles aside.

This was fun! A few times while I was speeding down fast downhills, I shouted, “Whooo-hooo, I’m doing a 70.3!” I was having a blast! I really do love riding my bike, and I was amazed at how good I felt. Finishing the bike leg of the race, a quick transition (2.5 minutes) and I felt ready to start the run.

Run, 13.1 miles (3 hours, 22 minutes):

Miles 1-5: I had planned to walk a good bit of the first mile, and so I set out at a brisk walk until I came to the first downhill. I started jogging downhill and wow, this really doesn’t feel too bad. I emptied my ziplock of run stuff into my back pockets, so I had my bag ready to use for ice. My goal for the run was to stay safe and finish. Period.

Mile 6: Quite a few cars were leaving and people were walking to their cars with gear and bikes…the Ironman security people had to clear the path for me to keep going. A few people were nice and cheered me on but I was thinking, “Am I the only one left out here?!” I knew I couldn’t surely be, because I had passed people on the bike, but it really felt like I was the only one.

Mile 7: As I rounded a corner I saw other runners. I wasn’t the only one, but it was getting lonely out there. There was a steady line of us moving very slowly forward. I missed having the faster people to pull me along mentally. I think those of us who are slower should get some type of handicap minutes. The pros weren’t out in the 3:00 pm heat and wind.

Mile 8: At each aid station there were still plenty of supplies, but tents were coming down and things were getting packed up. I know the volunteers put in a long day and I really appreciate them, but I cannot say how demoralizing it is to see things being taken down while we are still racing.

Mile 9: My whole lower body started to hurt. I don’t just mean some pain. I mean really, reallyhurt. I always have some pain on longer runs but this was intensely bad. My feet, my muscles, my joints — everything felt like it was on fire. Every step was like a thousand little knives going into me. Parts of me hurt that I didn’t know I had.

I swore I would never, ever, ever do this distance again. I had been doing quite a bit of walking, and I started more running just to get to the finish line and be done already. I figured it was going to hurt either way, so I’d might as well run.

The Motivational Words That Changed My Life

Mile 10: My salvation was that Mike and the kids had made little notecards for me for the run portion. They said things like, “We are waiting for you at the finish line,” and “I’ll give you a hug when you are done!”

At the aide stations I would take 2 cups of water. I would drink one and pour the other over my head. I realized my special notes were disintegrating in my pockets from my water pouring, and I needed them so much to keep me going! I desperately pulled the delicate papers apart to savor each one for the last miles.

Kids' Notes

My favorite is the one from Paul, “Mom You Rock?” with a question mark. He’s thinking about it!

Mile 11: I pulled out Kiersten’s note which said, “You’ve SO got this Mom! See you at the finish!” I was holding back tears.

Mile 12: Josiah’s note said, “Mom, I’m proud of you. I love you.”

The wind was powerfully strong by that point. I was so tired, and I worried it would blow me over. It actually did blow me sideways on the trail several times. I was muddy, wet, and exhausted. My legs and feet were screaming at me to just stop already. I had hoped to run the last mile and finish with a kick. HA HA.

I was thankful not to be crawling. I kept moving. I tried to run a minute, walk a minute, as often as I could, but I could not run even a full minute. I saw Mike, Rebekah, Kiersten, and Josiah waiting at the corner. They were screaming for me, and they had a huge pink sign that said, “Ironmom! 1106!”

I saw Mike’s face and he was yelling, “YOU.DID.IT!!!!” Seeing Mike’s excitement and pride, I began to cry. Everything-blurry-big-blubbering-crocodile-tears-crying.

Finish Line: I kicked it into high gear (which I imagine was barely a jog but it felt like a sprint at the time), and I heard the announcer calling my name.

My hands went up in the air, and finally I WAS AN IRONMAN 70.3!!!

Final time: 7 hours, 54 minutes, just under 8 hours.

My goal was to finish vertical and with a smile. Accomplished.

Mike and the kids with me at the Finish Line

Mike and the kids with me at the finish line.


I kept my shoes with the Boulder dust.

van with 70.3

My van with the 70.3 on the back. It’s still there today!

Motivational Words for those wanting to take on an Ironman

Although I didn’t finish last for this event, I have finished last in other races. The last finisher is still ahead of those sitting on the couch. I later learned the heat reached 98 degrees that day, and many people dropped out of the race or needed medical attention because of it.

7-.3 Finish LIneMy family, friends, and coaches gave me a gift. Their motivational words inspired and motivated me. They believed in me before I believed in myself. I’m incredibly grateful. If you are considering adding something like an Ironman to your journey, know that you can do it. No matter how much or how little you complete, you are still doing better than if you did nothing at all.

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Motivational Words Can Change Your Life

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