I got started in tris in 2010 after having been a longtime endurance athlete, mainly focused on marathons. My husband had done a number of triathlons and I was envious when I would watch him do Ironman, wishing I could be one of the women I saw cross the line. The first time I saw Ironman was in 2003 in Madison and I remember standing at the finish line all choked up, completely in awe of the athletes.
In 2010, I decided to register for Ironman Coeur d’Alene a mere 6 months in advance of the race, which seemed like plenty of time to turn myself into a swimmer and biker (it wasn’t). I had a good experience at my first Ironman – which was also my second triathlon ever – but I knew I was capable of so much more. I competed in Ironman Cozumel later that year, taking an hour off of my finishing time from Coeur d’Alene and first qualified for Kona the following season at Ironman Canada with one of the luckier roll downs in Ironman history.
My first time in Kona was a huge eye-opener and I felt like I wasn’t ready as an athlete to handle that race. It can be very intimidating as a relatively new triathlete. After 2011, I set my heart on going back to Kona, and after a number of attempts, I qualified again at Ironman Boulder in 2014. 2014 was considered a windier-than-usual bike year, and I rode well over an hour slower than I had at Boulder just a few weeks before. Despite my slow swim and bike, I ran one of the faster run splits in my age group and actually qualified for the Boston Marathon at Kona, which is one of the only Ironman run courses certified for Boston qualification.
Last year, I set out to do a final Ironman before turning my focus and energies to other pursuits. I left it all on the course in Louisville last October and ended up winning my age group and accepting my slot to return to Kona this year. In the meantime, I decided it was time to reinvent myself professionally and I resumed practicing law full time last March. I am now practicing family law in the foothills and enjoying the opportunity to help people through a very challenging time in their lives.
My training this year has been more scaled back than ever before and for months I wasn’t even sure if I would have enough fitness and courage to start the race, but I have gotten in enough solid training sessions in the last six weeks that I feel like I am going to be ready. I won’t be the fastest one out there on October 8th, but I hope to make my family and everyone who has supported me proud and just enjoy the experience. I am especially grateful to my husband, Mark, and our 11-year old twins, who have made a lot of sacrifices for me to compete in Ironman and have gotten me out the door to train more times than I can count. I am also super thankful to Coeur Sports and my Coeur Sports teammates, who have lent an ear and provided encouragement when I didn’t think I had it in me to press on with my training this year.
Our favorite thing about Kona is the diverse natural beauty of the island, and I expect we will enjoy a lot of snorkeling, some hiking, lots of swimming, and, of course, a ton of Hawaiian shave ice!
By Jessica McWhirt February 2, 2024--Imagine stepping outside in the morning. In March. In bib shorts and a...