Nothing gets in the way of this woman! Professional triathlete and cancer survivor Laurel Wassner has just completed her first ever Ironman distance, Ironman New York. Wassner says her decision to tackle the grueling event – a departure from her usual Olympic distance circuit – was probably a shock to her coach, sponsors and fellow competitors in the triathlon community, so she has penned a blog post explaining her motivations. “It seems like everyone has a different reason to train for months, devote four summer days, and lots of money to compete in a race that takes all day in heat and up and down brutal hills,” Wassner writes of the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run combination.
Wassner, who diagnosed with cancer 14 years ago as a young college graduate, revealed that she has long held a burning desire to compete in the Ironman competition. She recalls that in her senior year at George Washington University, when she was required to present a speech for a public speaking class, she opted to talk about her intention to one day compete in the Ironman competition.
Then in 2004, while spending what would be his last days with her grandfather in hospital, Wassner and her twin sister Rebeccah were enthralled by the Ironman competition that was taking place in Kona, Hawaii. The pair constantly checked computers for updates. "It was a distraction but it was also so inspiring to follow [winner Nina Kraft’s] progress," she writes. "We were cheering at the screen. In all that was happening around us, I remember thinking that my grandfather would want me to do that someday."
When the Ironman was announced in New York, the city where she now resides, Wassner says she "knew it was my chance." "I couldn't have asked for a better debut," she writes triumphantly. "I would have liked to place a bit higher, but in the end I felt great, enjoyed the entire day and got to high five my dad as I sprinted down the finish chute. Yep, sprinted - who does that at the end of a marathon? Remarkably, I wasn't even tired or sore when I was done. I know that probably means I didn't race hard enough or anywhere near my potential. But, what really mattered to me in this race was to finish with a smile and a fast run. I did both."
Wassner, who rides a Cervelo P3, ends her blog entry thanking everyone who had supported her, from family, sponsors, everyone who cheered for her, fellow competitors, and the volunteers who provided water and ice. "Everyone who does these races knows it's not a solo effort," she writes.