By Denise Hazlick Entertainment editor
updated 7/1/2005 12:54:21 PM ET 2005-07-01T16:54:21

Anything can happen on the road to Ironman. You can be cruising along with the music turned up, going full speed when suddenly you get a flat tire. Or run out of gas. Or hit a detour. Anything can happen. I learned that at the Vancouver Marathon. And the lessons continued at the Pacific Crest half Ironman triathlon in Sunriver, Ore., on June 25.

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To put it bluntly, it was a bad day. Two major mistakes right from the start. First, I should have gone down to Sunriver on Thursday not Friday (it's about a 6 1/2 hour drive from Seattle). I didn't get there until 6 p.m. and raced at 9 a.m. on Saturday (after getting up at 5:30 to eat, get all my gear together, etc.). Second, I didn't hydrate nearly enough. I wasn't drinking a lot of water before the race and not much at all on Friday because I didn't want to have to stop a lot to use the facilities on the drive down. Sunriver is in the high desert, 4,000 feet, so hydrating is very important. Two big strikes right from the start.

The swim was 1.2 miles and I got to just past a mile in 62 degree water (thank goodness for wetsuits) before my legs started to cramp. I was swimming at a good pace for me (on pace to finish in about 50 minutes) but was toward the back of the pack. When the cramping first started I stopped kicking, thinking that would help. It did, temporarily, but then all of a sudden I got the chills (at that point in the swim I should have been warmed, not getting colder) and then my legs cramped up big time. From my toes to my thighs. Since I was toward the back of the pack, the support crews were close by. I yelled out from the cramps and was thrashing a bit, trying to shake the cramps out and one of the support guys on a Jet ski saw me and pulled me out of the water — end of the race.

I know I could have done the distance and finished that race. I would have been sore and nauseous but I would have done it. Needless to say, I was frustrated and upset, but not nearly as upset as I should have been.

You see, over the past few weeks, I figured out that Ironman distances aren’t my cup of tea. In my training, I realized that I don't like being on a bike for 5 hours, and for Ironman it would be more like 7-8 hours. It’s boring, it hurts and it’s not fun. Two, three hours, no worries. That’s enjoyable. Not 7.

Stomach issues aside, I hated the marathon and really don’t want to do 26 miles again. The past few weeks of training have been long, lonely and I haven’t enjoyed it. Work demands and some recent health issues have forced me to push my training sessions to later hours, which is not optimal since I have to be up at 4 a.m. for work. The workouts were beginning to feel more like an obligation rather than something I really wanted to do.

I knew in my head Ironman training was going to be long, monotonous and hard, but knowing it intellectually and knowing it actually are two different things. Whatever spark or fire I had for this when I started it is gone. I finally had to ask myself: why am I continuing to do something that I’m really not enjoying anymore?

I met with my trainer Jeff on June 27 to talk about all of this. We both decided that it was time to take the detour off the road to Ironman. When you put this much time into something it should be because you really want it. I don't want it badly enough to make the time commitment right now. Perhaps next year, or the year after that. Or never. Regardless, this is a decision I can live with.

I love triathlon and will keep training. I can't imagine not having this in my life. I will continue to do sprint and Olympic distance races. I want to get better at those and continue to feel good about myself, physically and mentally. I wanted to see what I was capable of mentally and physically and I have learned that I am capable of far more than I thought possible. I am in the best shape of my life and feel strong.

And while Ironman is no longer my goal, continued good health and fitness are. I have appreciated all the feedback — good and bad — I have received from readers. Many of you have shared your stories with me, and I am honored. If I did anything to help some of you to get moving and make a commitment to getting in shape than I have been rewarded with a prize far more valuable than any Ironman medal. Regardless of how ambitious your goal is, please keep trying. After all, it's on the road that we find ourselves.

Thank you, and good luck.

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