HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - This is a news release from USM.
Setting goals is one thing, but relentlessly pursuing and achieving them is another.
Susan Dobson, undergraduate coordinator and instructor in the Department of Public Health at The University of Southern Mississippi, proved hard work pays off in September when she completed her first Ironman triathlon in Chattanooga, Tenn.
“For me, competing in an Ironman was a natural progression after having competed in triathlons for the last few years,” said Dobson. “I never considered competing in an Ironman until after competing in a 70.3 event (half Ironman) the year before in New Orleans.”
Dobson said she was not an athlete growing up and only started regularly exercising after having her second child. “I just wanted to get in shape and have more energy,” she said. “I started running in 2007. I had never run before.
“At that time, I did not know how to swim at all. I had never swam and was somewhat afraid of water. I started taking swimming lessons in 2008. My first lesson was how to hold my breath under water.”
When she realized she could possibly compete in an Ironman, she couldn't pass on the opportunity.
She started officially training June 1, requiring 10 to 15 hours and minimum of two swimming, biking and running sessions per week. Most weeks she ran and biked three to four times, often fitting in two training sessions a day. Dobson also committed to practicing yoga and scheduling regular deep tissue massages, as she believes they were important to stay healthy during training.
“The training process requires a high level of commitment,” said Dobson. “You must make sacrifices to train for an Ironman, so it is very important to be sure you want to do it badly enough to make those sacrifices on an on-going basis.”
Her sacrifices and commitment paid off. Dobson completed the Ironman triathlon, consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run.
“I intentionally did not track my pace,” she said. “I wanted to enjoy the experience and listen to my body. I believed I was prepared and planned to rely on my endurance and training.”
Conditions for the swim portion were ideal with a cool water temperature, a downstream course and few encounters with other swimmers.
“The swim exit was crowded and people were swimming over one another trying to exit quickly,” she said. “Just before I exited, someone grabbed my leg and my calf muscle cramped painfully. I had some trouble with it for the rest of the race.”
The hilly bike route was four miles too long due to a last minute route change, making the bike course 116 miles rather than the standard 112.
“I enjoyed the first loop and had no issues,” she said. “The second loop of the bike was a bit more challenging. The same hills seemed steeper. I dropped a chain going up a hill and was flustered.”
After mile 80, the crowds thinned, fatigue set and it started to lightly rain, which she said usually is not a problem but was concerned about wrecking on slick roads. “Once I passed mile 100 I was energized again and the miles just flew by,” she said.
She transitioned into the run, also a double loop course, excited to see her family on the sidelines. “At mile 21, I saw my family for the last time before the finish line,” Dobson said. “I knew it was going to be a long 5 miles, but I was encouraged and knew I was going to finish. It started resonating that I was going to be an Ironman.”
“My favorite part was the finish line,” she said. “I couldn't have imagined how happy I would be. I was overwhelmed by all the sights and sounds at the finish line. I made sure I listened very carefully when Mike Reilly (“The Voice of Ironman”) announced me at the finish. It was a special moment that came and went so quickly after such a long day.”
Dobson said her Ironman experience was fun overall – although not all fun - and went better than expected. She is not sure when, but said she knew almost immediately that she wanted to do another Ironman.
“Although it wasn't my initial reason for starting in triathlon, I hope this sets a positive example for my children,” she said. “I want them to understand that I am an average person with an above average work ethic and work pays off. I want them to spend their time and talents on things that are worthwhile and not waste precious hours and days. I want them to discover something that is important to them, set a goal and then work to achieve it. I want to set a healthy example for them.
“I do triathlons because of close friendships I have made through the sport, to stay healthy and active and for fun,” she said. “I encourage everyone to be physically active on a regular basis. Do it for yourself. It matters.”