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GRIT, PAIN, SACRIFICE: 4 ATHLETES SHARE THEIR JOURNEY TO THE 70.3 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

What could possibly motivate someone to wake up and decide they want to train for a grueling race consisting of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and 13.1-mile run?  With IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship less than two weeks away, we got the WHY from a few of the incredible athletes heading to Chattanooga. From taking control of their health, to honoring those they’ve lost, read about these four athletes and their source of encouragement to be an IRONMAN.   

DREW CRUZ: “IT TOOK 10 YEARS OF BUILDING TO THIS POINT.”  

It’s bittersweet that this all began during an unhappy time. I first became involved in triathlon in New York City after one of my closest friends, John Peters, lost his father after he battled non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in December 2006. John’s father was an incredible man and always such a positive influence on all our lives. Having lost my own father in my early 20s, seeing my friend struggle with this difficult time really hit me and our collective group of friends hard. We were all inspired when John came up with the idea of us getting a group together to raise money in John Sr.’s memory by joining Team in Training in preparation for the New York City Triathlon. Two months later, 20 of us were jumping in a pool to begin training. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows in training those early days. I had absolutely no swimming background. I distinctly remember a lifeguard at a local pool the first time I tried to do laps jump off his chair, concerned for my safety, asking, “How are YOU going to finish a triathlon swim?”  In July 2007, I crossed my first finish line. A year later, triathlon gave me the biggest gift of all: I met my wife through TNT in February 2008 and we’ve been together ever since. We went back to raise money and complete the same event for multiple years, while helping coach and mentor other first-timers. I loved giving back to a sport that had already given me so much.

After a few years, I started to realize I was becoming increasingly more competitive in my age group. However, I was disappointed after years of not reaching my potential in half IRONMAN triathlons, consistently cut short by a nutrition issue or serious cramp on the run — just missing out on podiums and punching my ticket to 70.3 Worlds many times. The turning point happened after I joined QT2 in 2015 in preparation for my first IRONMAN in Lake Placid. Dialing in my nutrition and coaching through the team was a game changer. However, I still would struggle with cramps during longer events in my calves and hamstrings when race conditions were hot. After a year of disappointing results in 2016, including a blowup in the heat of IRONMAN Texas, I didn’t really know what to expect heading into my 2017 season. Then one day in late May 2017, I listened to Tim Reed on a podcast talking about HOTSHOT and how his strategy for usage during races helped him overcome similar cramping issues he had experienced for years. I took his advice and started to introduce it in the lead up to Syracuse 70.3. On a hot, tough course on that race day – popping two HOTSHOT bottles on the bike and one on the run was the recipe for success. I experienced no cramping at all and I held on during a day where a lot people were struggling. I knew heading into the finish I was probably going to finally punch my ticket to a World Championship event based on how I was moving through the field…but I couldn’t believe it when I crossed the finish line that the announcer said I had won my age group! I never thought that was possible on that day. My wife and I had an awesome moment at the finish line I’ll always remember knowing how much work and sacrifice we had both made to finally achieve a bucket-list goal. 

I am looking forward to crossing the biggest finish line yet at 70.3 Worlds on September 10th to celebrate with my wife and mom who have been there to cheer me on through this journey.

REBECCA KIMBLE: “WHEN I DREAM, I DREAM BIG!”  

In 2010, six months after giving birth to my second child, I decided to take control of my life and my health. I was tired of being overweight, tired of struggling to feel good about my body, and tired of all the stigmas and stares that come with being “big.” Since I had always been active growing up, being fat was new territory for me, and I hated it. I wanted to get in shape, and find a hobby that would help keep me motivated as I regained my fitness. I also wanted time for myself. Time where I could decompress from the day’s events and find that balance in my life.  At 5’3″ and weighing in at around 200 pounds, I knew this was not going to be an easy endeavor.

In the beginning, I found that running did this for me. I pushed myself to train hard and lose weight so that I could run a 5K, then a half marathon and finally a marathon. It was shortly after running my first marathon that I found myself being drawn to triathlons. As soon as I started training for triathlons, I was hooked! I fell in love with the local tri community and the challenge of these races. I worked up to longer distance races, and each time I started a new training season I would dream a little bigger and work towards a new goal.

These dreams and goals help keep me motivated, as do the incredible group of athletes I train with, and my super supportive family. Looking back on where I started and what I have been able to accomplish, I am so proud of my journey. I have lost over 70 pounds. I am an athlete — a Boston Marathon qualifier, a 2014 Boston Marathon finisher, placed 7th in my age group at IRONMAN Chattanooga, and now I have qualified for the 70.3 IRONMAN World Championship.

I am looking forward to competing in the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship and having the opportunity to share the course with the world’s best athletes. I am also excited to show my family, my coach and my teammates how much all our hard work is paying off. I would not even think about dreaming this big without their support. They all have done so much to help me become the athlete I am today.

JEFF SANKOFF: “I HAD A CHOICE TO GET BUSY LIVING, OR BUSY DYING.”   

Triathlon changed my life. I say that without hesitation or equivocation. 

In 1999, I was completing my training as a critical care fellow after an emergency medicine residency. As I neared the completion of that six-year journey, I realized that over that time I had allowed myself to become dangerously overweight and desperately out of shape. Here I was, a doctor, caring for others and yet somehow I had forgotten to take care of myself. I remember with absolute clarity the warm spring day when I realized that I had a choice to make: ‘get busy living or get busy dying’. Fortunately, I chose the latter. At first I just ate better and did a rough exercise regimen, but soon I met a colleague who suggested that I try triathlon. I laughed because I literally could not swim. But I was up for the challenge. I hired a swim coach, bought a bike and began to run. A year later I completed my first Olympic-distance triathlon. A year after that I did a half IRONMAN and two years later, my first full IRONMAN.

For more than a decade, I trained and raced contentedly as a MOP’er until 2012 when I learned that I had a torn labrum in my hip and significant degeneration of the joint. The surgeon thought I was in need of a hip replacement but I begged him to consider a repair instead. He went along with my request and in the end the procedure was a success and I seized that second chance as a new beginning in the sport. I doubled my efforts in training and made more sacrifices to get where I wanted to be, and in 2014, I qualified for the 70.3 World Championship for the first time. Two days before the race in Mont-Tremblant, I crashed my bike and broke my scapula. Undeterred, I trained harder than ever, and in my first race back, qualified for the 2015 worlds in Austria. 2017 will be my fourth qualified worlds and now I will set my sights on Kona.

GARRETT BROWN: “TRAINING HELPED ME GET IN SHAPE AND OVERCOME AN ADDICTION.”   

My triathlete journey began three years ago. I was about one year into recovery from an addiction that had consumed me for a long time. After a year of strong cycling, I got back into shape and began looking for something new.  That’s when a friend introduced me to triathlon. I had never been a runner, and not much of a swimmer, but I stepped up my training and my first IRONMAN was Austin 70.3 in November 2014. I was immediately hooked. To date, I have accomplished eight 70.3’s and two 140.6 IRONMAN events. I approached my first IRONMAN (Louisville 2016) well trained and with an attitude to just finish strong and have a good race. It was an incredible surprise to qualify for Kona with a second place age group finish. A month later, I qualified for Chattanooga Worlds at Austin 70.3. Anything is possible. Believe it!

Triathlon is the perfect tool for keeping me on the right path and away from my negative, addictive behaviors. I have long-term goals that require daily discipline, so I’m motivated to not only see, but to also feel the results.  I have learned how to run well and swim better. I have lost 60 pounds in the process. The triathlete community is so strong in support, sharing, and accountability. I love this family!

Sidenote: At Monterrey 70.3 in 2015, I experienced full lockup leg cramps at the beginning of the run. Since then, I have always carried HOTSHOT with me to treat the onset of cramps. It works!

 

 

 

 


 

MORE ON THE HOTSHOT BLOG 

Train Smarter:  5 things every triathlete should incorporate into their IRONMAN training plan. 

Carbs and Protein: 7 tips for proper intake for optimal fuel. 

Crowie Alexander: Tips on training for IRONMAN, how to conquer obstacles and why he trusts HOTSHOT to keep cramps – and limitations – out of the picture.  Click here

6X Ironman Finisher Karel Sumbal: Read about his training mantra, goals for the World Championships and more.  Click here

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