Tracy Wanatowicz is an inspiration. She is a runner, triathlete and good friend. She has participated in over 50 running/triathlete events! Tracy constantly challenges herself, moving from running 5Ks to marathons to participating in sprint triathlons to her first Half Ironman last month! Tracy inspired me to dip my toe in the water of triathlons and her most recent Ironman experience has inspired me to explore possibly going further…She is a true inspiration!
This is her story.
A friend put a post on Facebook asking if anyone wanted to do a women’s sprint-distance triathlon (0.5-mile swim, 12.4-mile bike, 3.1-mile run) with her in June. I had been a competitive swimmer in high school and loved riding my bike but was never a good runner (I defined good as fast). I figured if I couldn’t run I could walk so I decided to tri.
I searched the internet for training plans and found one that fit my lifestyle, my current fitness level, and my desired fitness level. I completed all of my training in the gym (pool swimming, spin class, treadmill running). I remember the first day I ran an entire mile, just one. It was miraculous! Especially considering I had knee surgery on each knee many years earlier. Yes you can be a runner despite knee problems!
June arrived, my friend didn’t end up doing the triathlon but I did and I was hooked. My performance wasn’t flawless but I was amazed by what I had accomplished and couldn’t stop at just one so I ended up doing three sprint-distance triathlons that year and a few 5K runs. I was also very happy to lose the few extra pounds I had been carrying and to be in such good shape.
In the fall of 2010 I met Stacy. She was training for the Walt Disney World marathon in January 2011. I learned of her health and fitness journey and was inspired to go farther. If I could run 3.1 miles, I could surely eventually run 26.2, right? And what better place to run than Walt Disney World?! In 2011 I continued triathlons, started to go farther in my running (half marathon distance), and registered for the Walt Disney World marathon in January 2012.
As the result of an injury in the fall of 2011, I had to take a break from all endurance sports in order to allow my injury to properly heal. I did not get to participate in the WDW marathon, the lowest moment of my endurance sports endeavors.
It took six long months but I was back at it by the spring of 2012 and I was determined. I resumed training under the close supervision of my podiatrist and physical therapist. I put triathlons on hold so that I could improve my running and avoid any future injury. After a successful but slow 1/2 marathon in July, I felt confident enough in my healing and training to again register for the Walt Disney World marathon in January 2013. This time it was a success!!!! And I was fortunate to have two friends running it that day as well, Stacy and our mutual friend Christie through whom we met.
I still had many running goals in mind so for all of 2013-2014 I kept triathlons on hold and focused solely on running. The year 2014 was my best year yet for running and one of the most fun!! I also watched as other friends and acquaintances participated in triathlons (sprint, Olympic, half Ironman, Ironman distances) and was inspired to take it up again. In November 2014, I very silently registered for the Steelhead Ironman 70.3 triathlon (I think I told only two people, no Facebook post, no fanfare). A 70.3- mile or half Ironman triathlon is a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run. I was going to this from a sprint-distance and a 2-year break up to a 70.3-mile triathlon. I scared myself.
I searched the internet for training plans and talked to my trainer about the various plans and the cross training. I finally settled on a plan and a race calendar for 2015. I chose races strategically to complement my training and to get more experience in triathlons. I completed two Olympic-distance triathlons in preparation and spent a total of 16 weeks training. Eight workouts per week (2 swims, 2 bikes, 2 runs, 2 weight training sessions). The highs were high, the lows were low, but finally on August 9, 2015, I became a half Ironman!!
Healthy living and the great friendships I have formed via endurance sports is what keeps me motivated and inspires me to keep going. These events have taken me from one coast of the US to the othr with friends and family as both participants and spectators. I have received a tremendous amount of inspiration, support, and encouragement from other endurance athletes, friends, and family and make sure to pass that on to others. In the words of the Journey Into Imagination at EPCOT, “one little spark of inspiration is at the heart of all creation.” Dare to be someone’s little spark!