Thursday, November 12, 2009

A perfectionist's pretty perfect 1st Ironman

Last Saturday, Huntersville's Kelly Fillnow ran a marathon in 3:23:47, a time fast enough to qualify her for Boston by more than 16 minutes.

Oh, and did I mention she did that immediately after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112?

The 26-year-old finished Ford Ironman Florida (her first Ironman competition ever) in 10 hours, 16 minutes, 12 seconds to win her age group; she also was the No. 5 amateur and the 18th overall female ... out of more than 2,400 athletes who competed in the Panama City Beach race.

A former tennis player at Davidson College, Kelly decided to start training for the Ironman competition a year ago, after winning a Half Ironman in September 2008. "I had more fun competing in the triathlon than a typical road race," she says, "so I decided that I should follow my passion."

"I've constantly strived to find new challenges, whether it was skateboarding in kindergarten or deciding during my junior year of college to take up cross country while simultaneously playing collegiate tennis."

Because of her Type A personality, Kelly says, she was "always be the last one off the court [at Davidson tennis practices]. I could never allow myself to get off of the court until I ended with a perfect shot. I constantly asked my coach for an extra lesson." (After four years of tennis and two years of running at Davidson, she got a full scholarship to do cross-country and track for a fifth year at Duke.)

Her perfectionist attitude persisted after college. "During the first six weeks of my first job, I did not allow myself to leave my desk from 9 to 5 even if I had to use the bathroom, in fear that my boss thought that I was not working hard enough. I needed to find something to quench this state of perfectionism."

And that's what led to Kelly standing on a Florida beach last Saturday morning -- standing on the beach, sobbing.

"I knew that I was in God’s hands, yet I was still petrified of what lied ahead," she says of her brief breakdown. "So I started in the back of the pack next to a below the knee amputee. He inspired me to take that first dive into the water, and so the day began.

"My coach had warned me that I would go through many periods of ups and downs, and gave me a few cues on how to get back into my rhythm. I listened to his advice and never really raced outside of my comfort zone. I tried to maintain a pace where I was pushing myself, yet still remained in a controlled aerobic state. I kept wondering when the pain was going to start, but my body never got to a state of unbearable pain.

"Don’t get me wrong, I was not comfortable for 10 hours, but I had prepared my body for so much more physical pain that what I experienced. I believe the reason I never felt that intolerable pain my friends have described was because of the state of my mind. Your body can achieve anything you set your mind to accomplishing. But you have to have the right mental frame of mind.

"As soon as I crossed the finish line, my body stopped. I could not walk another step let alone think about running another 7:45 mile. I could barely walk to the massage table without assistance. ...

"I could not have gotten through the day without the strength from my God. I was able to experience His power in a completely new way. The day enabled me to see that all things are possible with Him, and that you should never put limits on what your body can do and what you can achieve."

Kelly's incredible performance qualified her for the world championships in Kona, Hawaii, set for Oct. 9, 2010. She plans to accept the invitation, and train even harder next time around. But for now?

"I am looking forward to making banana pancakes with friends on Saturday morning instead of waking up at 6:30 a.m. only to spend the next three hours on my bike!"

Kelly Fillnow is a certified personal trainer, lifestyle fitness and nutrition coach for Upgrade Lifestyle, Inc.


Anonymous said...

Simply amazing! We were tracking you the whole day. So happy for you and can't wait to watch you on TV!!!!


Anonymous said...

Congratulations Kelly. You rock! Need an assistant in Hawaii??? :-)

- Alana

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Kelly - and congratulations to the two other women from charlotte, Jenny Leiser (4th age group) and Tonya Houghton (2nd age group) who both also qualified for Kona in Florida at their first Ironman.

chupacabra said...

Very cool. Just watching an iron man makes me tired. Does this count for Boston? Not that the Kona isn't enough.

You lost me at the sobbing on the beach part. Was that pre-race jitters?

Anonymous said...

Another achievement of note: earlier this fall, she won her age group at the World Duathlon Championships held at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Way to go Kelly!

aaron said...

Your performance frightens me as I still have trouble getting my head around an Ironman! Congrats on not only just finishing one of those things but being so intensely competitive in one as well!