by Laurel Leicht (former Fitness Editor for Shape Magazine)
I spent countless hours this year training for my first IRONMAN race—long rides on the weekends, early-morning runs, swims after work. Though I was devoting so much time to preparing for the race, it seemed surreal that I was actually going to attempt to cover such a long distance in one day. I’d only ever done Olympic-distance triathlons before; now I was going to try to do about four times that mileage within one 17-hour stretch? Was I completely crazy?
A month before I was supposed to travel to Panama City, Florida, for the race, I still hadn’t wrapped my head around what I was about to embark on. At that point, I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to interview several inspirational women who were about to race the IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Their stories were amazing because of all the obstacles they’d overcome: blindness, breast cancer, the loss of a husband in military combat. I was especially moved by their experiences though, because all these women seemed so real. They were all just regular people, like me, balancing work and family and squeezing training in somewhere in between it all. Mirinda Carfrae is a badass and incredibly inspirational, but almost super-human. Speaking with these female age-group athletes, I realized how you don’t have to be a world-class competitor to cross the line at an IRONMAN race; you just need to have the drive and put in the time.
That’s the message IRONMAN and Life Time want to extend to women across the country with their new nationwide “Women for Tri” initiative. By increasing awareness and interest in the sport of triathlon, along with providing content and training resources, the program aims to unite and empower female athletes of all fitness levels and help them reach their goals.
Love triathlon and want to get involved? IRONMAN and Life Time are looking for a select group of influential women from all walks of life who are passionate about triathlon to be a part of the Board of Advisors. Anyone with a passion for triathlon can apply, whether you are an age-group athlete, coach, pro or are otherwise involved with the industry. The board will work with IRONMAN and Life Time to research, brainstorm, create and put into action new steps to grow female participation. If you’re interested, contact Amanda Wregg or Lindsey Kurhajetz at [email protected] before January 1, 2015.
They’re putting together an Ambassador Street Team, as well, to mentor and help cultivate new athletes. Stay tuned for more information about how to join the street team in coming months.
I didn’t have this initiative while prepping for my own race, but I did have an incredibly supportive female coach and talked to as many IRONMAN-experienced women for their training and racing advice as I could. Still, come race day, I was a bit of a basket case.
Amid the nerves buzzing around the beach that morning, I just happened to run into one of my favorite women from my Kona interviews: Sister Madonna Buder. At 84, she’s the oldest female finisher of an IRONMAN race (IRONMAN Canada when she was 82), has finished upwards of 50 IRONMAN races, and looked cool as a cucumber that morning. We took a picture together and wished each other luck. Knowing that she and so many other strong women would be traveling along the course with me all day helped me walk to the start line with confidence and a sense of peace. That’s the kind of support I hope many female triathletes, both brand new to the sport and seasoned, will find in the new Women for Tri initiative.