Four years ago, an Ironman competition wasn't something Dana Locken of Bath would have considered, much less thought was possible for her to complete. At that time, she and a friend had simply started running.
"We wanted to be able to run 3 miles," Locken said.
For Locken, 55, this was her first introduction to athletics. While each of her four children have had opportunities to join athletic teams in school, Locken said those opportunities weren't available when she was going to school.
After she started running, it wasn't long before Locken was invited by her daughter to start swimming, and soon she was competing in her first half Ironman contest.
That event featured a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run, but it had to be completed in 8.5 hours. She completed her first half Ironman two years ago, then a second last year.
"I never thought I could do a full Ironman," she said. That event is twice as long and requires participants to complete the course in 17 hours.
But after her second half Ironman and an improved time, the wheels started spinning for Locken. She watched the television broadcast of the Ironman World Championship event, which is held in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
"That's the Holy Grail," she said. "There's regular people finishing in 16.5 hours. That makes you think, 'Maybe you can.' "
The closest competition was in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, on June 23, but it was a challenge to prepare for, given less than ideal weather conditions this year.
Because of the cooler spring, Locken said she was a little apprehensive about the temperature of the lake during the swim portion of the competition, but with a full wetsuit and fitted swim cap, the 64-degree water was just fine.
The day of the event, Locken was one of 2,700 competitors, 20 of whom were in the 55-57-year-old age group. Being at the young end of her age group, she thought she'd have a chance at finishing in the top end of her age group, but she actually finished last in the group. Her finish time was 16 hours and 48 minutes, which put her across the finish line around 2 a.m.
Admittedly, Locken said, there are any number of Ironman participants in the area who have faster finish times. She couldn't help but feel like a rock star, however, with a crowd cheering her on to the finish.
"It's really cool when winners come and watch the finishers," she said.
Everyone who crosses the finish line in their allotted time is singled out with the announcement of their name followed by "you are an Ironman," she said. Even those who finish past the deadline receive a special announcement saying "in our hearts, you are an Ironman."
After she finished, Locken said she told her family never to let her register for another Ironman again. But by the next day, thoughts of another one started creeping to mind. She's now registered to compete at her second Ironman contest next year in Boulder, Colo. She's hoping she can quickly acclimate to the altitude.
What’s in an Ironman?
112-mile bike ride