Categorized | Multi-sport, Sports

Ironman: Defending age-group champs are Kona bound

(Gaylia Osterlund profiles some of the 2010 age group world champions)

The Ironman World Championships is, no doubt, the pinnacle of our sport. To qualify is an accomplishment in and of it self.

In this installment of “Kona Bound Age-Group Women,” you will be introduced to some of the ladies who actually punched their tickets by winning their division in Kona last year.

Tatiana Vertiz (W18-24) may be the youngest of the age-group champions, but she trains and races with wisdom well beyond her years.

She shared in an email that her training and focus was side tracked during the first few months of 2011 when, “after a lazy off-season, I came back to California and began to push the volume too early. I got caught up with friends training for early season Ironman events and, suddenly, I was participating in long, unusually slow, runs and rides with diminishing motivation.”

In March, Vertiz took a step back and made the decision to head home to Austin to be with family for a few months and regroup. The end result netted fitness and clarity equal to that of “a tri-geek training for their first Ironman.”

Clearly her plan is on track because she set a personal best time of 4:39:26 at Vineman Ironman 70.3 on July 17. This will be the last time we see her at the start of any Ironman event for a few years because she has decided to train for distances that will allow her to work on her speed.

The heart of a champion is sometimes most visible on all of the days between the races. I would say this is the case for Germanys’ Beate Goertz (W40-44).

Her job requires her to travel 50,000 miles per year by car. As a result, when she leaves for work, she is prepared for all her training as well. Bike, shoes and swimsuit in hand, she often stops “in the middle of nowhere” to get a run or ride done. She proudly admits to knowing where to find just about every pool in Germany.

With her workouts all having a speed component, I will be really curious to see if she is able to better her 3:17:49 marathon split from last year.

This October, Lisbeth Kenyon (W45-49) will be heading to Kona for her fifth start at the Ironman World Championship. Although her training had to be adjusted due to being busy with work and kids, Kenyon feels the change “has been good for my body and mind.”

Each year she has managed to better her time on the Kona course. Her time last year was 10:01:30. Her goal this year? “To go 90-seconds faster.”

Laura Sophiea (W55-59) is one of the most-liked athletes on the Ironman circuit. She has been at the top of her game for many years and age does not seem to be changing that fact.

Sophiea was forced to delay the start of her 2011 season due to injuries from a bike accident in February. She actually just started running again in May and raced Hawaii Ironman 70.3, where she won her division despite not being able to train her run for months.

The road to Kona has been one of bumps and bruises for Cherie Gruenfeld (W65-69). A few months back she hurt her foot while out running and was forced to focus on her swimming and biking.

Then, on her last training ride in preparation for Vineman Ironman 70.3, Gruenfeld hit a boulder that had fallen into the bike lane and suffered severe injuries. The road rash delayed the surgery to place several plates and 10 screws to put her collarbone back together.

Gruenfeld has pulled out of the Marine Corps Ironman World Championship 70.3 so she can focus on her rehabilitation. She plans on being at the start line in October, even though her doctors are not as optimistic.

Harriet Anderson (W75-79) is pretty easy to spot out on the race course. She is always sporting the latest tri attire, which she color coordinates to her bike. She has a smile and kind word for every athlete in her path.

Make no mistake though, Anderson is one tough lady. One year in Kona, she crashed on the Queen K and got back on her bike to finish the ride. Once she made it to the transition tent, she asked for a makeshift sling so she could finish her day.

This year will be Anderson’s 20th appearance at the Ironman World Championship, and she will have 17 family members in tow to celebrate and cheer.

(Reach Gaylia Osterlund at gaylialynn@ironman.com)

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