Throwback Thursday: our first Ironman

Although Ironman Arizona took place this past weekend, in 2010 it was held on November 21.

That just happened to be the day Kelly and I completed our first Ironman.


Ironman Arizona 2010

We nervously signed up a year prior, sweated for thousands of miles together, reached new distance milestones, and encouraged each other along the way.

It was a day I will never forget.

The unforgettable swim

The swim is in the canal in Tempe and I’ll never forget the nerves before jumping into that cold, black water in the dark with the buzz of thousands of athletes all around.


I also won’t forget looking up at the spectator-filled bridge and seeing our families, who had supported us on our journey and have continued to in the years since.

I remember treading water beside Kelly for 10 or 15 minutes, taking in the music and nervous chatter all around.

I’ll never forget the first open water beats I took to my head and calf at that first turn. (thanks to those I swim super wide in every race now!)

The unforgettable bike

Getting out of that water and onto my bike, I remember shivering but being so happy I survived. Seeing Kelly and my family on the various loops on the bike was incredible.


I will never, ever forget the winds on the third loop of my bike that almost knocked me over, and the other athletes I stopped beside to wait out the gust.

The unforgettable run

I’ll always remember starting that run, in disbelief that the day was going so quickly.


I still remember how great it was to see our families, hear their encouragement, and get updates on Kelly. Oh, I’ll also never forget the lady who snot-rocketed on me and then proceeded to laugh about it. (just so you know- that is never funny.)

I won’t forget walking through an aid station at mile 20 and hearing Kelly’s voice, walking with him for a few minutes, and stopping for a kiss before finishing our races.

The unforgettable finish line

I don’t think any finish line has ever matched the noise, bright lights, and fanfare. I’ll never forget running blindly to the finish and blocking everything out, including the infamous “Abby Kokolski you are an Ironman!” from Mike Reilly.


I am SO thankful Kelly talked me in to signing up for an Ironman. It was something I was terrified to commit to and uncertain I would be able to finish. I have amazing memories from the past four years, both with Kelly and on my own. I have pushed my body further than I thought capable.

It’s a great lesson to not let fear stand in your way of going after your goals.

Click photo for credit

Click photo for credit

What memories stand out most in your mind from your first big race? 

38 responses to “Throwback Thursday: our first Ironman

  1. The longest distance I’ve ever raced, and therefore my first and only big race to date, was a half marathon this past October. I also felt it went by incredibly fast! I loved the feeling of no pressure and being so sure of myself as a result of the training I did. And it’s because of that feeling that I plan to do many more half marathons in the future 🙂

  2. Wow, this is amazing and it’s great that you and Kelly have each other for encouragement. I would love to push myself and try an Ironman one day once I’m back in Canada for good 🙂

  3. Runner Girl Eats

    I love hearing about everyone’s IM experience bc it is something I could never dream of completing. I enjoy living through everyone 🙂

  4. Awwww… gosh what a cool, cool post! I keep telling Adam that I want to do an Ironman together. It make take me a few years to convince him (and me), and save the money/make the time for it with him in residency. So it’s more something in the 5-10 year goal range, but I think it would be such a neat neat experience to do together. Before your first Ironman did you do other triathalons? Did you have experience in other races? At this point I really am only a runner so I know I would have to train probably for 1-3 years to get my swimming and biking to a comfortable place. Oh and buy a bike haha.

    • That’s a great long-term goal to do together! I hope to read about it one day!
      We did one other tri before that- a half Iron in August. We had started road cycling the year before, or maybe even two? And I had been a swim instructor and lifeguard but never really swam until we signed up! Kelly knew how to swim but couldn’t go much further than 50m without stopping.
      I think that anyone who wants to do it can!

  5. Awesome!
    My first marathon left me bloody (see my post from yesterday) and hobbling, but it also made me smarter and hungry for more!

  6. You are INCREDIBLE! I can’t ever imagine doing something like this. Simply amazing. 🙂

    I’m very new to all of this so right now that my first half marathon is still fresh in my head. I think no matter how many races I run it will always be one of the most special though.

  7. Well, now I completely have a knot of nerves in my stomach. What did I just sign up for?! I loved reading your memories about IM AZ, however, having just signed up for next year’s race, I’m feeling rather intimated by your swim description, the winds on the bike, and that snot rocket too! 🙂

    • Ha ha- bad timing for you to read this! I am so happy you and your hubby signed up!
      The swim was super cold that year because the canal drained and they had to refill it really close to the race! The weather that day was totally unheard of for Arizona (it rained, and I think even hailed a little on certain parts of the course!) You’ll be GREAT!

  8. I loved reading your reflections on your first Ironman – so cool that you and Kelly both did it!!! And – I think it is so awesome the way they announce your name and say you are an Ironman – I cry just watching that I think if it were my name I would probably sob!!!

  9. So many great memories! Good and Bad!!! 🙂 I loved IMAZ. I had such an epic race there!!
    I remember thinking what have I got myself into but also enjoying every minute of my first IM! The swim was beautiful! The bike was great. The run was hard but I got to see all my friends on the out and back!!

  10. I love this! I really enjoy reading your Ironman recaps and I’m so glad you did a throwback one. I’ve enjoyed doing that this fall, too. IF I were to ever do an Ironman (which I seriously doubt I will), I can’t imagine saying, “’ll always remember starting that run, in disbelief that the day was going so quickly.” Did the run seem to go quickly, too?

  11. This was so fun to read! I was going to ask what made you sign up for the race, but it turns out it was Kelly. I think I would have peed my pants treading for 10 minutes before the race…lol!

  12. What a great flashback post! You really have some great photos from the day, and of course some even better memories!

  13. Made me nervous just reading about it!! Love your great pics! Snot rocket? Really? How rude! I hope you beat her to the finish. 🙂

  14. I appreciate how much you thank your family/friends in this post. In hindsight, they make all the difference and deserve medals at the finish too! My parents drove me from Regina, SK to Calgary, AB for my first 70.3. I am 33 years old and it was such a relief, and such an honour, to have my mom and dad with me. It is like being a kid again and having your parents come to your basketball game or swim meet. As adults we can much better appreciate this gesture. I am thinking of doing the Wisconsin Ironman… and will invite my parents for sure! It wouldn’t be the same without them.

    • That is so kind of your parents to drive you and cheer! What year did you do the Calgary 70.3? It was our first tri in 2010!
      I’m sure your parents wouldn’t miss it for anything!
      My parents actually drove our bikes from Edmonton to Arizona so we wouldn’t have to deal with flying them out!

  15. What an amazing place to run your first Ironman! My dad lives in Arizona and my sister and I visit once if not twice a year. I just love it!! Perfect weather in November!

    • I remember your AZ posts from last year! Where in Arizona does he live? So lucky you have a reason to go there a couple times a year! I always say I would LOVE to live in Arizona, Colorado, or Oregon if I could work in the States!


    A friend of ours was over the other night for dinner and the three of us (he, Glenn and I) were discussing Iron Man races. His wife worked Arizona’s race last weekend and works KONA also (she performs Active Release Techniques). He said watching people finish is amazing… I’m in awe of what you’ve proved your body can do! Rock on!! What an awesome accomplishment!

  17. So fun! I wish I would have signed up for IM sooner than this past year! I still have to look at pictures to remind myself that Canada happened 🙂

  18. i love this!! what a great walk down memory lane. And you know i love all things ironman. dang, you rocked it woman!

  19. Pingback: Dream finish line | Change of Pace

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