“Am I a typical sister? Well, it depends what you call typical; we are all individuals with different talents – mine might be very different from those living in a Convent. I’ve done almost 380 triathlons, 45 of which have been Ironman distances: that’s a 2.4 mile swim, followed by 112 miles of biking, followed by a marathon. I’ve done 22 Ironmans just in Hawaii! I’m 87 presently, and I discovered triathlon when I was 52 – although really, it discovered me.
“I entered the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in St Louis in 1953 when I was 23 years old, but transferred to a newly formed group in 1986 called the Sisters for Christian Community. All I’ve ever wanted to do is the will of God. It’s not easy to read God’s mind of course, but I try to follow his lead, even if it seems a little out of sync with the rest of the norm! God has a tremendously divine sense of humor – if this is what he wants to do with my life, why not give it a try?
“When triathlon was first suggested to me, I rejected the idea. But sometimes, the more you reject something, the more it hangs on to you.”
“When triathlon was first suggested to me, I rejected the idea. But sometimes, the more you reject something, the more it hangs on to you. Now triathlon is just a way of life for me, and the triathletes are like family to me – it keeps me in the running, so to speak, preventing me from becoming isolated when living alone as I do presently.
“The Ironman 80-84 age group category didn’t exist until I did it when I was 82. In the process of time, I’ve opened five or six age groups for the women. So far, I’m the only one that’s been able to push into the 80s – I don’t know how long it will take, but someday, somebody else has to try, it is there for the doing.
“In 1982 before my first Ironman, I’d just come back from running the Boston Marathon, which I thought was the epitome of foolishness at age 52 for a woman. I was first introduced to the idea of running at 47 by a priest who explained how it harmonizes mind, body and soul – that struck a chord with me so I decided to experiment. Just five weeks later, I’d completed my first race, Bloomsday, which was 8.2 miles long.
“I didn’t have a pair of regular running shoes back then, they weren’t in vogue yet in the early 1970s! My sister-in-law gave me a pair of hand-me-down tennis shoes to start training with, but little did I know about shoes. By week four, my body was trashed! My knees were so tight I could hardly bend them and my calves were as hard as rock – even my breathing was affected. I was in such a bad state that I considered giving up, but my resolve remained strong, even though I had started crying, lying on the library floor doing my accustomed yoga, realising that I had promised God I would do this. I hoped he would transfer my will to endure to one of my brothers who needed the will to conquer alcoholism, but at this point, I felt I couldn’t carry through with it.