Never Say Never

I never, not ever, not in a million years, thought I would be training to become an Ironman at 47 years old. I was completely un-athletic my whole life. Being picked last for teams in gym class may be a cliche, but in my case it happens to be true. I didn’t do sports, period. My sole attempt was the year my parents signed my sister and I up for our town’s youth softball program: I played right field and missed every fly ball that came my way.

Me and my Dad, the ever-patient and encouraging assistant coach. Off the field he privately complained to my mom that I “ran like a girl”.
Me and my Dad, the ever-patient and encouraging assistant coach. Off the field he privately complained to my mom that I “ran like a girl”.

My un-athletic youth turned into an equally un-athletic adulthood. Then, as my 40th birthday approached, my cousin, brother and sister-in-law signed up for the “Warrior Dash”. Sucked in by visions of jumping over fire and feasting on giant turkey drumsticks, I signed up too. Then it sunk in that there would be 5k worth of running between those obstacles. And I had never run before. Crap.

I started doing the couch to 5k program. When I reached the workout where I had to run for 20 consecutive minutes, I was sure I was going to die. I just prayed for the end to come quickly. Amazingly, I survived. I finished the Warrior Dash, and did a lot of other 5ks with good friends who had also recently gotten into running. After finishing the 5k New Haven Road Race, we watched the 20k runners finishing. We were awestruck, as these runners seemed to be a different species from us altogether. “Can you imagine running that far, for that long? Never.”

Warrier Dash
New Haven Road Race

Well, “never” turned out to be the following year. I did the 20k and the first of what turned out to be many half marathons. In 2012 I finished the Hartford Marathon – I had wanted to do just one, for my bucket list. It was hard. Everything hurt. Never again, I thought.

Maraton Mar del Plata

I was wrong about that ‘never’ too. In November, I ran marathon #5 – my third this year – in my mom’s hometown of Mar del Plata, Argentina.

Also in 2012, I decided to try a triathlon. Two friends who had never done one either joined me. It wasn’t pretty. My contact lens fell out and had to be re-inserted just as my swim wave took off, and I sidestroked the whole time to avoid putting my face in the water. Which had nothing to do with the contact lens, and everything to do with being scared. I kept my new road bike in the same gear the entire time because I didn’t know how to work the gears. And I walked part of the 5k because I was unprepared for my legs turning into jello when I got off the bike. But I finished and I had fun.

I did some more sprint tris – I was hooked, but had no ambition beyond sprint distance. After completing the Title 9 Tri in MA in 2014, I was tracking some friends of mine (including this cute guy I had recently started dating) as they did the Pumpkinman Half Iron in ME that same day. I remember thinking “these people are NUTS….I’ve already finished a triathlon, come home, showered and am eating lunch and they are still on their bikes with a half marathon to go!!!” I knew I would never be that crazy.

You’re seeing the pattern here, right? This past summer, I did Litchfield Hills in CT as my first Olympic distance, and Pumpkinman as my first half and HAD THE TIME OF MY LIFE.

Litchfield with Zane
Pumpkinman T2

So now I am in training for Ironman Lake Placid 2016. I’m busy counting miles, laps and my blessings. That I’m alive, healthy and moving. That I will be training for and racing IMLP with awesome friends. That I have the best training partner / life partner ever in Chris (the aforementioned cute guy). That we’ll be saying “I do” and celebrating with our families in Lake Placid the day after we do IMLP. And the icing on the cake – thanks to TriEqual and the coaches who volunteered for Equally Inspiring – I now have a coach! I am so honored to be working with Karen Smyers. I look forward to learning a ton, and having her kick my butt into shape over the coming months. I am also looking forward to following and being inspired by the other athletes and coaches.

Do I believe I have it in me to do 140.6 miles? Yes. Am I 100% sure I will finish? Heck no. But I will give it my all. Because there is no better feeling than accomplishing something you were sure you could “never” do, and learning that you are stronger than you thought. For me, that feeling has transcended triathlon and has been a positive influence in my life generally. And I am inspired every time I witness my kids, my friends and my family members conquer something they thought they could never do, in sports, school, career or other pursuits.

So…what’s your “never”??   


Susan Garcia Nofi lives in Connecticut with her sons Zane, 16, and Kade, 14, and is a member of HEAT (Hartford Area Extended Triathletes). Her day job, when she’s not training, is as Executive Director of New Haven Legal Assistance, a nonprofit legal aid organization. Susan is also proud to serve on the Advisory Board of the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven’s Fund for Women and Girls, which promotes the social and economic advancement of women and girls in the region.