Carlene is 51, a mom of three, hasn’t done a triathlon in six years and never done a full IRONMAN until IRONMAN Cozumel in November where she finished 2nd in her age group out of 39 (which is phenomenal for her first IRONMAN race).
What really inspires me about her story is why she did the IRONMAN. She did it for her mom who has Alzheimer’s disease with the goal to to be an advocate and raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association. In this interview, she shares some powerful insights for both triathlon and life and the importance of answering the personal question “Why?”
Here’s the Q&A I did with Carlene. Enjoy!
Q: Why do an IRONMAN now?
Deciding to do this IRONMAN at 51 years felt like a calling to me. Not only as an athlete but most importantly for a purpose and a cause to make a difference in the lives of others … which ultimately became my “Why.”
My mother is currently living with and suffering from severe Alzheimer’s disease. I did IRONMAN Cozumel in honor of her and for “The Longest Day” charity cause through the Alzheimer’s Association. My mother has always been my biggest fan in all of my athletics growing up.
I did triathlon from 2009 to 2012 (I did Sprint, Olympic, and 2 x 70.3 distances then stopped the sport because I wanted to be a mother to my 3 daughters first and foremost). My mom came to most of my races and was so so proud and excited every time I did a triathlon – it meant the world to her to watch me race. In 2012, when I stopped triathlon I thought I would never do a triathlon again, but then when my mom was diagnosed with this horrible disease 1 1/2 years ago, I found my passion again in-swim/bike/run.
Swimming, running and biking took my mind off the sadness I was experiencing as my mom began to disappear before my eyes. It was then that I decided that I wanted to use my passion for triathlon to make a difference and to fight for my mom and the millions of others suffering from this disease.
The Ironman distance being such an enduring event seemed only appropriate to me to create awareness and increase the understanding of this horrendous disease in our communities. I became an Alzheimer’s advocate, began speaking publicly about this disease; it’s devastating effects on the individuals suffering from it as well as the hardships the caregivers must endure as their loved ones deteriorate literally before their eyes.
Q: What motivates you?
Setting goals and the feelings I get internally from setting goals motivates me. Achieving my goals motivates me. Having a purpose, a reason for being motivates me. Helping others motivates me. Being the best I can be motivates me. Being a role model motivates me. Being a Mother motivates me. Living life in alignment with my values motivates me. Inspiring others motivates me. Loving what I do motivates me. Being surrounded by positivity motivates me. Camaraderie motivates me. Love and kindness motivates me. Knowing I can make a difference in our world motivates me. Teaching others motivates me. Seeing joy in others motivates me. People who inspire me motivates me. Swimming, biking and running motivates me.
Q: What was your biggest takeaway from IRONMAN Cozumel?
The power of my “Why.” Literally that “anything is possible” as long as you have a goal, with a passion and a purpose. The IRONMAN distance has always been extremely daunting to me. This is the biggest goal I’ve ever set in my life mentally, physically, and emotionally. With your help and IRONMAN training plan at ENDURANCEWORKS, I was able to accomplish the goal of completing an IRONMAN. Six months of training and fundraising in honor of my Mom, sharing my “why” with everyone I know and came into contact with was the most rewarding accomplishment of my life.
Even though we all have physical limitations … I truly believe it is the mental and emotional limitations we place on ourselves that hold us back far more than our physical ones. This IRONMAN journey has taught me that with a passion, purpose and a “why” we are all capable of far more than we can imagine.
I have told my daughters, family and friends nothing can hold you back in life if you believe in yourself and have a purpose. I’m proof of this.
Q: Any lessons learned from triathlon that you can apply to rest of your life?
The sport of triathlon has taught me so many invaluable life lessons. Most of all to be the best version of myself. Training and racing for three sports takes motivation, discipline and commitment. These are attributes I carry over into my everyday life. Motivation keeps me going to inspire, help, teach and fuel a passion in life for everything I enjoy to do. Discipline keeps me focused, goal oriented and organized. Commitment empowers me to dedicate myself to my family, my friends to my “why” and to the causes I believe in.
Q: How has triathlon helped you?
Triathlon provides me with a great sense of being and a strong foundation for my life. More specifically, developing and living a lifestyle of consistency in respecting myself, in eating healthy, in exercising and in setting positive influences for my three daughters and their friends, my overall family and my friends.
Q: Funniest moment in triathlon?
The funniest moment happened in my first triathlon ever when I sat down to braid my hair and put on my pink chapstick after the swim during transition … I had no idea that transition time was part of the overall race time!
Q: What’s your favorite workout?
My favorite workout is any workout that involves swimming!! I LOVE to swim. Most specifically in salt open water, in choppy seas!
Q: Least favorite workout?
My least favorite workout – anything that reads Z4 effort in my training plan! It’s funny though because I will spend an entire “session” in my head just mentally preparing for a harder workout and then love it when I’m done. So the mental build up is really my least favorite part of a workout that I know will be hard – I get so wimpy!
Q: What advice for triathlon training would you give to triathletes with families?
As a recreational Age Group triathlete – I say keep triathlon FUN. Involve your family as much as you can in all of your training and racing. It’s certainly a tricky life balance in being a triathlete … training, racing triathlon, being a Mom, driving carpools, coaching town recreational sports teams, working, managing a family and home, having a social life and traveling. It’s all possible if you love what you do and surround yourself with people who exude enthusiasm, who are encouraging, supportive and positive. Don’t be hard on yourself because you can only do what you can do! If you’re not having fun then you need to re-evaluate your “Why?”
Q: What’s next for you?
I have decided since completing this IRONMAN that I am going to continue my “why” in triathlon training and racing into the 2019 race season. I am going to dedicate my 2019 training and race season to my Mom and to continue to fight The Alzheimer’s Disease by raising funds for the Alzheimer’s Association “The Longest Day” to help advance the care, support and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association … driven by purpose, fueled by passion. Ultimately, in 2 years my goal is to do another IRONMAN!
Q: Where can readers find out more about Alzheimer’s or get help?
The Alzheimer’s Association website (www.alz.org) is where you can learn the most about the Alzheimer’s Disease, the understanding of it and how to get involved and/or need a 24/7 support phone line to call.
Also, if anyone would like to contact me to learn more about this disease or just need support, help or speak to me as someone who has experience as I do as a caretaker in dealing with this horrendous debilitating disease – they can contact me. I am an Alzheimer’s Advocate and currently the Chairperson of The Longest Day Committee of the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Chapter of New Jersey location.
David’s Note: If you’d like to contact Carlene, please contact her through our website and we’ll forward the message to her. That way we won’t have to put her personal information on the web.
Coach David Glover, MS, CSCS has completed 28 IRONMAN distance triathlons, which includes two sub 9 hour finishes and winning Vineman Full twice. David’s passion is helping triathlete and other endurance athletes achieve their dreams through his online triathlon education and training company, ENDURANCEWORKS. David has an MS in Exercise Physiology and is certified as a coach by IRONMAN Triathlon, USA Triathlon and USA Cycling plus has his CSCS from NSCA. After six years of living, training and coaching in the triathlon mecca of Boulder, CO, David currently resides in Southern California.