While most trips to Hawaii include sipping pina coladas on the beach and avoiding sunburn, Shea Rankin’s visit will consist of a 2.4-mile swim in the Pacific Ocean, a 112-mile bike ride, and then a marathon run—all in one day. The 40-year-old and four other women from the Indianapolis area will compete Saturday, Oct. 12, in the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. All in all, it’s a 140.6-mile journey around the Big Island that finds Rankin and the other four up against 2,000 other athletes. She found out that she qualified for the race just four weeks ago, so it’s been a mad dash to get everything ready for the biggest race of her life.
Between packing and a send-off party, Shea chatted with us the day before she left for Hawaii.
MICHELA TINDERA: When did you qualify for this race?
SHEA RANKIN: In the Ironman Louisville race. We swam in the Ohio River for 2.5 miles. There were a little over 200 in my age group and only two spots available to qualify for the championship. But I finished the race in 10 hours, 43 minutes, and 13 seconds.
MT: So if you’re competing for more than ten hours straight—do you get to eat?
SR: Sports drinks and a lot of salt tablets. No real food, because it can be very hard on your body.
MT: How have you been preparing for this race?
SR: The hardest part is trying to get ready. It takes about eight months and anywhere from 15 to 20 hours a week of training.
MT: You have a family (three kids ages 10 and under) and a job. How do you make time for everything?
SR: I’ve made my job my passion, which is triathlons, so I’m able to train during the day with clients at my studio [Cycle Studio in Carmel]. I do that during the day, and then I can be home at night with the kids.
MT: Why triathlons? Why not just stop at a marathon?
SR: You don’t get quite as bored when you’re training. If you don’t want to bike, you can run. If you don’t want to run, you can swim.
MT: What do you think about while you’re competing?
SR: You’re thinking about nutrition and your heart rate, but you have to stay engaged because there’s a lot to pay attention to on the course. So on a run, I’m thinking about what I’ll have at the next water station. “Am I going to have one cup of water, or two cups of water? Is it time for a salt tablet?”
MT: You’ll be swimming in the ocean for the race. How do you train for that here in landlocked Indianapolis?
SR: That’s a good question—you can’t. I’ll get there, and I’ll swim every day so I can get used to what the water feels like. The swim, it’s the craziest part of the whole race. Sometimes people get bloody noses because, when that cannon goes off, there are 2,500 people and they all go out at the same time.
MT: How are you expecting to place in this race?
SR: I’m trying to just have fun. I’m kind of at a disadvantage because I just raced, and it takes about five weeks to recover. I’ll be lucky to finish, but the hard part is getting there. And then after the race, I can barely walk. You’re just totally depleted. It’s more of an emotional and mental thing. So much happens. There’s no such thing as a perfect day.
MT: You dove headfirst into competing when you were in your early 20s, with almost no preparation. What’s your best piece of advice for us lowly couch potatoes who’d like to get in shape, too?
SR: Set a goal. Sign up for an attainable race, something short like a sprint triathlon or a 5K.
MT: What’s next for you?
SR: I can’t wait to cheer on my husband through all the crazy training that he’ll get to do. He races, too, and you really have to take turns, so next year will be his year to train and race. And I’m going to drink beer and eat burgers and heal a little bit.
Photo via lululemon
You can track the progress of these five women here to follow their times as they complete the Saturday race.