It had been 15 hours and 28 minutes of near-constant swimming, bicycling and running in Arizona when Nancy Ko rounded the corner and found her finish line on Nov. 20.
The San Marino mother of triplets said she managed to tap into something of a reserve tank as soon as she feasted eyes on what would become the end of her very first Ironman triathlon.
“When I saw the finish line around the corner, I had the most energy I had the whole day,” Ko said this week in a phone interview.
At that moment, Ko had completed the challenge of swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running 26.2 miles, earning a commemorative medal and a hug from the voice of the Ironman competition, Mike Reilly.
“It was all very surreal,” Ko said. “I’m still in complete shock.”
The competition also marked Ko’s graduation from regular marathons into the triathlon. She’s run more than 25 marathons and she now hopes to make Ironman triathlons her routine competition.
She finished 1,933rd overall and 116th in her division and had nearly 90 minutes until the deadline by the time she crossed the finish line. Ko had trained all last year, but a leg injury derailed her efforts and she worked hard to ensure she made the triathlon this year.
“It went by so quick,” she said, laughing. “I was so happy that it didn’t feel that long. I was just so excited to finally race after all of that training that it went by really quickly.”
Given a 2-hour-20-minute-window for the swimming portion, Ko completed that leg in 1 hour and 39 minutes. She admitted to pacing herself a little in anticipation of the remainder of the triathlon.
“I think I could have finished a lot quicker,” she said. “I didn’t want to push too hard so I conserved my energy and finished comfortably.”
After taking roughly 13 minutes to switch from swimming gear into cycling gear, she embarked on what would become a 6-hour-54-minute biking circuit that was at some points slightly uphill and at other points going against wind.
After another 13-minute transition, Ko got to the running marathon portion. After an admittedly easier-than-expected swimming leg and manageable biking circuit, she admitted the final portion caught her slightly off-guard.
“I think it was just a long day,” she quipped, making herself laugh. “I was going at a really good pace but after the hour-and-a-half mark, I started to shuffle my feet a little more.”
The success of her first Ironman triathlon aside, Ko said the previous day’s biking warmup was probably more “exciting” than the race itself.
Ko said she was unable to locate the preset area to practice biking, so she found a different road on her own. Unbeknownst to her, however, numerous large, fast and territorial dogs lived along that road and they weren’t leashed or fenced in.
“It was seriously the scariest moment of my life,” she said, describing how a few of the dogs had come close to biting at her bike tires. “They were just so angry and they were barking and chasing me.
“The day of the race was quite boring compared to that,” she added, laughing again.
Now back in her San Marino home and fresh off Thanksgiving festivities, Ko said she’s already got an eye on the next Ironman challenge, although she is unsure where.
“I can’t wait to find another race to train for,” she said.