Ashley’s journey to Steelhead 70.3 Ironman

Is this your first Half Ironman Race?

This is my second Half Ironman race. My first race was in 2012 (almost 10 years ago!) in Tawas, Michigan. The 3Disciplines Festival of Races weekend.

Have you done other races leading up to this event to help you get ready for doing this Half Ironman?

I did an Olympic Triathlon at Deer Creek on June 12th leading up to my Half Ironman. This was my first triathlon in 10 years. I used it to help me overcome my fear of open water swimming.

What made you choose this location for the race?

I chose Steelhead 70.3 in Benton Harbor, MI because I am originally from Michigan. I love Lake Michigan and have swam in it before for a triathlon, so I kind of remember what to expect. Honestly, my biggest reason for choosing Steelhead was because of the swim. Being deathly afraid of seaweed or murky water, I figured Lake Michigan would be my best shot.

What made you want to do a Half Ironman race and do you eventually want to do a Full Ironman?

In 2012 my now husband got me to sign up for my first Half Ironman. It was a tough race. Mentally and physically taxing. I hated biking at the time. I didn’t do as well as I had wanted and really didn’t want to do another one, mainly because of the open water swimming, but also because I didn’t want to bike. After that race, I didn’t hop on my bike again for an outdoor ride for 8 years. I had planned to race Ironman Steelhead 70.3 in 2020 but because of the pandemic, the race was canceled. In 2021 I again wanted to race but we had a family vacation that was postponed to that same weekend so I opted to try again in 2022. I have always wanted to do another Half Ironman and redeem myself from my first. I am a totally different athlete than I was 10 years ago. I wanted to see what I could do with better training. One day I would love to do a full Ironman, but I think that will be a few years down the road when my boys are a bit older.

Which discipline do you find is the hardest?

I find swimming to be the hardest at the moment. I’m actually a decent swimmer because I swam when I was younger, but it is not the discipline I look forward to training the most.

Normally you train for marathons, how much did you change your running training to accommodate for adding in biking and swimming?

A lot of my training after Boston in April 2022 switched to a lot of biking and focused less on running. I did many brick workouts (bike then run, or swim then run). I dropped my running mileage to about 20-25 miles a week and my biking mileage got up to 100-125 miles a week. Swimming was 2-3 days a week, so my focus of running 5-6 days a week changed drastically once Half Ironman training started.

Do you find that cross training on the bike and swimming has helped increase your strength for running?

Cross training with biking has definitely helped increase my strength for running. When I ran the Columbus Marathon back in 2021 I was only running 4-5 days a week and biking at least 2-3 times a week. Even then, biking played a significant role in helping me get faster at running. I believe biking right now is the one thing that has kept my speed since Boston. I have not done any speed training since, yet my race times since then have been faster. Biking has a way of training muscles you don’t use as much for running, so it helps keep them strong while running.

What things are you most excited about and most nervous about for the race?

I am most excited about crossing the finish line and completing my second Half Ironman. I’m excited for my husband and my two boys to be there to watch me race. I’m also excited to see how well I do in all three disciplines in such a big race. That being said, I’m nervous for a large race. All the people, elite athletes, fast athletes. It can be intimidating at times. I’m also nervous for the swim, but I know I will be just fine come race day!