Mother-Son Ironman FL 2017 to Remember Two Family Members Lost to Suicide


A wish….70.3 IM Puerto Rico and Ironman Boulder 140.6- Josh and I did together. Josh Shadle is a 4x All American triathlete. Being in the same big triathlon events with him has been a thrill. Only I couldn’t finish the IM Boulder run. A DNF- did not finish for 2015. IM Cozumel in 2016 was next. Another DNF on the run. In 2017, I had to ask…. “Josh, think you could go along with me (like right nearby) at my next (and last) IM effort? I picked IM Florida. I really want to finish. I’m not sure I could pace you right,” he says delicately. “You mean, go that slowly?” I asked him.  “Yeah, kind of.” But maybe, just maybe, we can make it happen. He had retired from triathlon. Sold his time trial bike and much of his TRI stuff. But he said “yes”. Josh is Tim O’Donnell’s massage therapist. He struck a deal with T.O. and Mirinda Carfrae to buy one of Rinny’s retired bikes for me. I will be riding Rinny’s 2015 Felt bike I’ve named her GLO- short for Gloria. This year, we’ll finish. Josh has borrowed an older Specialized bike from a good friend for his ride. I am excited. I think it would be the coolest thing (prob cooler than getting GLO bike) to have Josh for company and support. And that’s even with him calling me “Grandma” the whole way. Everything depends on my getting through the swim and the bike with enough time to walk (not that I intend to walk it all) the whole marathon if I’m too beat up to run. GLO bike forces me to be aero more. My other two IM races were on a road bike. IM FL is mostly flat. Finishing IM FL is gonna happen. Finishing really matters. This is our story of why an IM finish matters so much.

The expression here is in much lighter terms than how it actually felt. In 1999, my husband, Josh’s Dad, David Austin Shadle took his own life. Depression is hard to comprehend. Losing someone to suicide makes grieving all the more complicated. We knew he was sad. We knew he was troubled by addiction. We did not know, he wanted to die. It was a dark time for us all and it would only get tougher. In 2004, my first born child, my son, Josh’s brother, Jacob Austin Shadle, took his own life. It was Jacob, at age 25 that found his dad’s lifeless body. One horrendous tragedy is enough! Not so. Like his dad, Jacob also suffered from depression and addiction. Losing his dad was more torment than he could bear. Jacob died by suicide in 2004. He had run his Dad’s business for more than 5 years. That must have been his ironman. He had no more will. So much sorrow. So much tragedy for all of us.


Our family of four was now only Josh & me. Life was nearly unbearable for a long time.  A seriously, long & dark time. The world carried on without me. I watched it go by. Lived through its days without living just existing. Grief had a hold on us both. Eventually, we began to rebuild. Josh and I had always been physically active. Being athletes helped us. Josh took the first leap of faith and started competing in triathlon. Watching him, inspired me. Before long, I found my way into TRI’s as well. In 2005, I became a USA Triathlon certified coach.


Things began to fall into place as a way of life. We embraced helping others through fitness, health, and nutrition. We were workshop presenters at grief groups like The Compassionate Friends. We opened up and broke the silence on surviving the trauma of 2 suicides in our family.  We realized there’s a whole world of hurt out there and it doesn’t have to be that way all the time.


Twice, I signed up for IM TX, 2015 and 2016. A broken foot bone one year and bronchitis another year necessitated that I choose different IM races: IM Boulder in 2015 and IM Cozumel in 2016. In both races I made it through the swim and the bike. With a few miles in to the run, I called it quits. I was hurt. I am 2 for 3 in my IM quest. This is it. No more DNF’s. I think I’ve even promised, no more Ironman races to family and friends. I can’t tell you have much I want to finish- how much I want Josh and I to carry our flag of remembrance for Dave and Jake across the IM FL finish.

It’s nearly impossible to believe that there are big pay-offs in being an athlete, including grief relief. It’s not just about a fit body. Pretty sure putting sport in our spirit saved us from long-term despair.


It’s easier said than done, trust us, we’re not saying it’s easy. But we took the first step…and then another…and another. GRIT is of course a great expression for endurance, toughness, perseverance. But, for my son Josh Shadle (bib #1703 IM FL) and me, Susan Kelly (bib #1424 IM FL)- it’s Grief Relief In Training.

“Be who you are and be it well.” St. Francis de Sales

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