Let’s cheer on Fellow Flower Erin Byrge as she races the Ironman World Championship tomorrow in Kona!!! (She is bib #1480.) Read more about Erin’s incredible and inspiring journey to Kona.
So Erin, where do you live?
I live in Macomb, MI, which is a suburb of Detroit.
How long have you been a Fellow Flower?
It has been about 2 years.
Where/how did you find out about Fellow Flowers?
Since I started doing Triathlons in 2012, I have always set 3 goals for each race. I called (and still do) the biggest goal my ROCKSTAR goal. At the 2014 Detroit Goddess Expo, I saw the Rockstar Statement Tee from across the room – I had to have it. I reached my Rockstar Goal at that Race and proudly wore that shirt every chance I got. I did not buy a flower that day, but the seed was planted.
Soon after that, Erica Hill did a story on Fellow Flowers in conjunction with a race she was racing in. I cried watching that story. I was on vacation with my family, but I called my best friend immediately after that story and we jumped online and ordered our first flowers. Mine was green for courage.
Tell us how your Kona journey came to be?
Since I started triathlons, I have been ADDICTED to racing. I race a lot, I talk about racing a lot, and I am around others that race a lot. Because of this, I have been fortunate enough to share my story with many. What makes my story “special” is that there is really nothing special about it. I am just like every other working mom and wife that is trying to do the best for her family and herself. Like many of us, I thought that meant I always needed to put others first. Putting my son first is how I found running. He wanted to run a 5k at the age of 9. Even though I hated running, I trained using the couch to 5k app on my phone and signed us both up for a 5k. On May 11, 2011 I ran my first 5k (my son left me in the dust) and I realized that I had found something that required me to take care of myself first, and that was a good thing. Since I didn’t really love the running part, but I had enjoyed swimming and biking my whole life, I ultimately found triathlon. I learned how putting myself (and self-care) first made me a better wife, mother, and person. This was inspiring to me, and I wanted to share this realization with everyone. Apparently, Women for Tri (a non-profit effort of Ironman and Life Time Fitness) thought that this was inspiring too, because they chose me as one of their two Kona Bound Inspiring Women for 2016! As a Kona Bound Inspiring Woman, I was tasked with raising $25,000 in 100 days for Women for Tri and their efforts to increase female participation in the sport of triathlon! I am proud to say that I was able to reach that milestone in about 75 days!
What will you tell yourself when you cross that finish line in Kona?
I will be carrying many people with me on that course! Several of them I will carrying symbolically with flowers that will also be wearing. My best friend will be the hope flower, she gets to see the vulnerabilities that I hide from most. My friend Kristine Frost will be the purple flower, because her no excuses attitude is contagious! My friend, and fellow flower, Abby Prout will be the hot pink flower, because like her #iamworthy of that finish line. When I cross that finish line, I will tell myself “we did it girls” because each of these three amazing women were pivotal to my fundraising efforts. I could not have done it without them.
How long have you been training? And how has it impacted your life?
I have been training for this moment since 2012… But, I did not know that it was for this race until June 15th of this year. My original plan for this summer was to stick to short races and improve my run speed. With the addition of another long course race, I had to spend the majority of my waking hours this summer running, biking, or swimming. While it has impacted my life by taking up time (which means I have weeds as tall as me in my garden) it has mostly had a positive impact on my life. I am sponsored by an event company called Tri To Finish and I belong to a Club called Infinite Multisport Triathlon Club. My increased training demands meant spending more time with people from both of these groups – this is a good thing
What has been the hardest thing/moment you have endured during this training?
The hardest thing that I have endured this the training was making the decision to train vs. fundraise. Thankfully as a teacher, I was able to focus on these two tasks for the summer months, but both were of equal importance. If I didn’t fundraise, I would not get to the start line. If I didn’t train, I would not get to the finish line. I hope I struck a good balance between these two tasks.
In thinking about your Ironman journey, what would you tell a woman who wants to chase a big dream but fears she won’t be able to do it?
It is all about setting goals. The big dream – that is your rockstar goal. For me that is usually a new distance or a PR. It could be a promotion at work or a size of clothing. Realizing that getting close is still OK, is part of my goal setting process. After the rockstar goal, I set a super happy goal. The super happy goal is still a stretch. For me it usually a time goal that I know I will have to have a pretty good day to hit. Finally, I set a happy goal. This happy goal is a safe goal, one I am fairly sure I will hit. This way at the end of the race (or the journey) I will have a goal that I reached, that I can celebrate. When I did Lake Placid last summer, my rockstar goal was 14 hours, my super happy Goal was 15 hours, my happy goal was finishing before midnight. I finished at 15:16:39, and I felt AMAZING! I did not hit my big dream goal or even my super happy goal, but I did hit that happy goal. Having 3 goals has made all of the difference in the world for this recovering perfectionist. It so important to be proud of yourself and to set yourself up for that. Setting the goals, working towards them with all of your ability, and then truly being OK if it is not exactly as you dreamed. Once you have that once, you will be braver with your next big dream!
What’s one word to describe you in this moment:
What flower have you found yourself reaching for lately?
Since Lake Placid, when I lost my original green flower (twice), I always reach for my black Rockstar flower. It has crossed 90% of the finish lines with me. It is worn out, it has been accidentally washed and glued back together, it is MY flower. I also often wear my orange fiercely united flower on the bike, because I am fully aware that I would not be me without my friends, they are with me – even when they are not.
What has this journey required of you?
Grit… because I said I would. I said I would raise $25,000. I said I would train with all of my ability. I said I would cross that finish line and hear Mike Reilly tell me that I am an Ironman (again.)
Favorite quote that inspires you?
Sometimes good enough is just that.
I don’t know who said it, or when I first hear it, but it an important statement for a recovering perfectionist. That quote makes me brave enough to accept that my good enough can be really awesome!
Any people in your corner who are inspiring you on your journey?
This list could be exhausting. The three women that I mentioned above have gone above and beyond in terms of supporting me. My husband and kids have been beyond supportive and patient throughout this journey. Their support and love inspires me to get the training in when it is not easy. It will inspire me to push on the run, when I know I will have the most difficulty. I will have my silver, purple, and hot pink flowers on my race belt to remind me that they are with me every step of the way.