By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Casey Moore, USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) Public Affairs
“I had just finished the 112-mile bike ride and was starting the marathon portion of the IRONMAN. That was the first time in my life that I remember thinking ‘I can’t do this, I don’t know if I can keep going.’ Every step was painful and I could feel that my body had used up all my energy stores. That’s when I remember watching the sunset and just telling myself ‘there’s something inside me, I just have to find it.’ I kept repeating that mantra to myself mile after mile for the rest of the race. I still tear up to this day when I think about it.”
For Lt. Cmdr. Natasha Ried, a Fort Collins, Colorado native and the Meteorology and Oceanography (METOC) Officer onboard USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), becoming an IRONMAN athlete was a life-changing experience, but it took several years and a lot of training for her to get there.
“I didn’t start out training for IRONMANs,” said Ried. “I ran my first marathon my junior year of college in 2008. Didn’t train for it at all, hated every minute of it, and swore I would never do it again.”
She didn’t run another race until five years later.
“I was going through a really tough time in my life and I just needed to find something to do just for me,” Ried said. “So I signed up for another marathon, and decided to actually train for this one.”
Ried cut an hour off her marathon time during that race and slowly began working her way up to facing her next challenge, a short distance triathlon.
“I hated swimming,” said Ried. “But I got in the pool, bought a cheap road bike, did my first short-distance triathlon, and I absolutely fell in love with it.”
After completing her first full triathlon, Ried stood on the sidelines cheering on a friend at an IRONMAN race and knew that’s what she had to do next.
“I thought, ‘this is the pinnacle of endurance sports’,” Ried said. “So before I had even done a half IRONMAN, I signed up for my first full one in 2018 and started training.”
A full IRONMAN triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and a full 26.2-mile marathon, for a total of 140.6-miles. Participants have 17 hours to complete the race with a competitive time being around 11-12 hours.
“Completing my first full IRONMAN was empowering,” Ried said. “There’s something inspiring about breaking down your physical body to the point where you have to find something inside yourself that you never knew you had in order to keep going.”
Since then, Ried has completed two more full IRONMANs, five Half Distance IRONMANs, also known as the 70.3, and qualified for the 70.3 World Championship in 2020.
Qualifying for the IRONMAN World Championship this year was an unexpected accomplishment for Ried, but staying focused and training for a race during a pandemic has presented a completely new set of challenges.
“I didn’t expect to qualify for World’s, and right now, due to COVID-19, I’m training for a race that I’m not even sure will happen,” said Ried. “There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the sport right now. Even if the race does happen, I’m not sure I’ll be able to attend due to travel restrictions. So staying motivated when it would be so easy to take a break from training has been difficult.”
In spite of some of the changes that have come about due to COVID-19, Ried has managed to stay optimistic and find the positive aspects of the pandemic.
“I’ve seen more people getting outside and being creative with their workouts,” said Ried. “It’s really cool to see other athletes still training and finding their own ways to stay motivated and being able to be a part of that inspiration.”
One person that Ried has helped to keep motivated during this challenging time is Senior Chief Information Systems Technician Lauren Boulay, a fellow triathlon runner onboard Kearsarge.
“Lt. Cmdr. Ried has had a lot of great tips, tricks, and motivation to offer me since I’m interested in doing an IRONMAN myself in the future,” Boulay said. “She’s very passionate about being an athlete and responsive as a mentor. The changes in the world which have occurred over the past few months have had a big impact on my training, but talking with Lt. Cmdr. Ried has definitely helped keep me motivated.”
Regardless of the challenges in her environment, Ried still holds on to the inspiration she felt during the completion of her first IRONMAN to continue pushing herself forward.
“Completing my first IRONMAN, was the first time in my life that I felt like I could do anything,” Ried said. “I learned that you can show up for yourself no matter what is happening around you. Everything that you go through and endure during a race is worth it when you finally get to cross that red carpet at the finish line and hear your name announced, ‘Natasha Ried, you are an IRONMAN.’”
The next Ironman (Ironman 70.3 in New Zealand) was previously scheduled for November 28-29. It has been postponed as a result of COVID-19. Go to their website for more information and updates about the next race. www.ironman.com/im703-world-championship
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