My IRONMAN Challenge: From Five Simple Words to Mission - Kona

We’ve all done it. Inadvertently or prematurely sent a post on social media and then later thought twice about it. Most of the time there isn’t a significant consequence. In my case, there was.

It was really quite innocent. A friend of mine, a board member for Women For Tri, made a Facebook post announcing the application process in their search for a woman who embodies the spirit of their foundation. The honor: a spot at the 2016 IRONMAN World Championships in Kona, Hawaii (everyone else has to qualify for the prestigious event). The challenge: the selected woman would be responsible for raising $25,000 to support the organization’s mission.

Despite the incredible challenge, I was intrigued and inspired. I love the non-profit organization whose passion is offering women a chance to participate in the sport I love. Not only do they raise awareness and boost involvement of women in the sport, they also support local tri clubs with grants and offer scholarships for college female student/athletes.

As I thought about the post I let my heart and emotions get the best of me and I posted back five simple words that changed everything:

“Wow, I want that bad.”

Responses to my gut-level instincts started flooding in: some telling me I’d be perfect for this, others encouraging me to apply, even my friend who initiated the post said she was glad I responded. My immediate thought: What?! Who me?! Supporting an organization is one thing, accepting a challenge of this magnitude is totally different. I started to regret my initial enthusiasm – and my Facebook announcement to the world! – and I kept thinking that raising that amount of funds would be next to impossible.

A few days later – and, yes, I was still wrestling with the Women For Tri opportunity – when I was at IRONMAN Texas, my friend who sent the initial Facebook post told me she had talked to the board about me. She said they were impressed that I naturally demonstrate leadership in Women For Tri and support for its mission, embodying its values of being encouraging, respectful, patient, and knowledgeable while inspiring more women to participate in triathlon. 

They were also impressed with my history of raising funds for charity and that my current fitness level would enable me to cross an IRONMAN finish line safely. So they offered me a greater challenge: If I could raise $40,000 (that's $15,000 more than the other selected representatives), then I could race on behalf of Women for Tri in the 2016 IRONMAN World Championships in Kona. They really believed in me and that I could pull off the challenge, motivate women with my story, and make a more impressive impact than in raising $25,000.

The incredible just became unbelievable!                                                                                            

After three weeks of serious soul-searching, receiving feedback from everyone I knew to ask, and almost talking myself out of it a thousand times, I finally decided that this was exactly the challenge I needed to accept at this point in my life. From the perspective of what I’ve gone through in my life, what I stand for now, and what I want to become, this was a challenge I couldn’t afford to pass up.

The What

So I’ve accepted the offer to be a sponsored athlete of Women For Tri, raise $40,000 to support their foundation, and compete in the 2016 World IRONMAN Championships in Kona on October 8. The course is the standard 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run.

The How

Essentially, my strategy is to raise as many funds as fast as I can. This will be accomplished through my network of friends and associates, hosting triathlon clinics, participating in area fundraising events, and utilizing social media to help raise awareness. Here is the fundraising site I’ve created that tells more of my motivation, goals, and progress:


In the end, this isn’t about my running in a prestigious race or seeing if I can raise a large amount of money. It’s about stepping up to the starting line and entering the race of a cause in which I deeply believe. Triathlon has changed my life and given me the confidence, self-respect, and identity that makes me who I am. This is one way I can give back and help others experience this wonderful gift as well.

Certainly I still have some fears – this will be the biggest challenge of my life in so many ways. But I have the confidence and am blessed to have the team in place to help make this happen. I can't wait to take as many people as I can on this roller coaster ride with me!

Unlike my initial reaction, I now have no regrets in accepting this challenge. I know this was meant for me and I’m going to do whatever I can to make it happen. Sometimes when your emotions get the best of you, they bring out the best in you.

Jessica Baxter is a TriDot Coach, IRONMAN Certified Coach, Metabolic Efficiency Level 1 Training Specialist, and six-time IRONMAN. Having completed over 100 races of various lengths, including two 100-mile ultras, she is founder of Baxter Performance, which specializes in metabolic efficiency and optimizing nutrition for optimal health. She is also on the board of directors for Real Life Angels and Competing For Hope and is a three-time race director of Race for the Halo. A resident of Houston, Texas, she and her husband, Keith, have two boys, Austin and Ashton.

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