Ever since Barbara Polehoykie started competing in triathlons, it’s been her dream to go to the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.
This month that dream comes true, as she will be heading to the big island for the event on Oct. 13, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
“I’ve never been to Hawaii. My husband and I are going to make a holiday after the race,” she says.
In the weeks leading up, it hasn’t been much of a holiday, as Polehoykie has been busy training for the event, which will include a 3.8-km swim, a 180-km bike race and a full marathon of 42 kilometres. She has been putting in about 12 hours a week of training in the pool, on the bike or running, slowly adding on more time to her training sessions. Sometimes that even means riding her bike all the way to Nanaimo to watch her grandson play hockey. However, this past week and in the time right up until the event, she will slow down to let her muscles recover.
Something else that is both challenge and motivation for Polehoykie is her multiple sclerosis. She started experienced symptoms several years ago, but it wasn’t until a brain scan four years ago that the diagnosis was confirmed. The training helps her symptoms as well as the emotional strain of having MS.
“I needed to do something,” she says.
She finds the running the most difficult leg of triathlons and says the physical aspect is only part of the challenge.
“You have a lot of things go through your mind when you’re out there,” she says. “It is mental too. You’ve got to stay focused.”
The climate, she expects, will also be an adjustment as she is not used to competing in such damp heat, though she did a run in Mexico once and found it to be a challenge. She is leaving for Hawaii on Oct. 7 to help get acclimatized.
Polehoykie started competing in triathlons almost 15 years ago and competed in her first Ironman event in Penticton in 2006. She qualified for the World Championships after winning her age bracket for women in the 55-59 group at the Whistler event on July 29. Basically, the top finishers can accept or reject the chance, but Polehoykie was more than happy to accept.
“My goal for the last 14 years has been to go Hawaii,” she says.
Whistler this year did help prepare her some because of the unusual hot, dry weather in July. With her coach constantly telling her to stay hydrated and her family and friends cheering her on, she found the extra motivation to get to the finish line in a race where many were dropping out from exhaustion.
As far as Hawaii goes, some scoffed, telling her she should wait until she reaches 60 to be at the younger end of the next age bracket. As well, she knows some of the competitors have been competing in Hawaii before, so she is not expecting the competition to be easy.
“There’s people from all over the world,” she says. “It’ll be like doing my first Ironman all over again.”