Our September Athlete of the Month, Darci Axmear was nominated by her coach (Martina) because she has learned to trust her training and her body. And that translated to her performance during the Pigman half IM where the weather was extreme (100 degrees), but Darci stayed calm, stuck to her plan (despite challenges with nutrition) and finished strong! Mental toughness is a key to success in long distance triathlons and she has learned to control her mind rather than the other way around. And to a coaches delight, Darci is extremely dedicated, analytical and enthusiastic which makes her not only an Ironman at the finish line but an Ironman in training as well. Martina notes that Darci’s journey is absolutely that of an Ironman with an Ironwill!”
We asked Darci to share her story about ‘Why Ironman’. Enjoy!
When I am asked, “Are you all about the destination or the journey”, I respond that I am all about the destination. It’s all about getting there. This is the perspective I hope to change by signing up for an Ironman. I want to challenge myself beyond what I think I am capable of and enjoy the process along the way. I am very analytical and I love the technical aspects of triathlon. I love the gear, the gadgets and the way the human body is able to adapt to stressors and come back stronger. In order to realize this, I have had to slow down and focus on the journey and not just on getting there.
My motivation for doing an Ironman is two fold. First, I hate cancer. Too many of my friends and family have been diagnosed with this ugly disease.
I train for them. They didn’t choose this diagnosis, but what they did is teach me to be strong in the face of adversity and push through the pain. Traits that come in handy when training for an Ironman. Second, I needed a goal that was bigger than myself. I decided if my friends and family can persevere through a diagnosis like cancer that they didn’t choose, I can certainly race 140.6 miles on my choice. I can stop at any time I think the pain is too severe. They didn’t get the choice to stop and it is for them that I get up every day knowing “I chose to” swim, bike and run.
Some friends and family think I am crazy. Some days I think they are right! Other friends consider the commitment and sacrifice required to train and race an Ironman and cheer me on. I chose Ironman because I want to push myself to beyond what I ever imagined possible. I can remember at the age of seven watching NBC’s Wide World of Sports coverage of the Ironman triathlon in Hawaii. I remember thinking how cool it would be to race an Ironman, but the thought seemed an entire world away. Fast forward to 2015 and what I thought was impossible then is coming true now.
Growing up on a farm in rural Iowa, my parents taught me the value of hard work, consistency, discipline and commitment. We were taught to get the work done first and then there will be time to play. Do things right the first time, so that you don’t have to repeat them. When you make a commitment to yourself or someone else, follow through. I carry these lessons with me every day no matter where I am, regardless of what I am doing.
My greatest weapon is my mental toughness. I recently raced the Pigman Long Course 70.3 in Iowa and by the time I transitioned to the run it was 100 degrees with little to no shade. I didn’t let negative thoughts enter my mind, I stayed calm and stuck to my race plan. I knew I couldn’t control the heat, but I could control how I managed it. I made sure I stayed hydrated, continued to consume calories and thanked all the volunteers. This allowed me to focus on something other than myself and the heat and discomfort I was experiencing.
I learned a lot during that race. First, control what you can and let the rest go. Stay committed to your race plan, but adapt as necessary. Last but most important, have fun. After all, this is something I chose to do.
I have several goals for Ironman Arizona. The thing I most look forward to is the thrill of hearing Mike Riley say, “Darci Axmear, you are an Ironman”!