Ironman competitor hopes third time’s the charm

Sheila Hiestand
Sheila Hiestand

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The things people will do, to be called an Ironman. Sheila Hiestand trains in a pool so short, she has to turn every seven strokes. She is tackling the marathon by speed-walking, because both of her knees are blown out.

"I played college basketball, then got married, 3 meals a day, then 3 kids, got over 300 pounds, looked in the mirror one day, didn't know who I was," Hiestand said this week during a training timeout.

The attorney lost 125 pounds through triathlon training. Then she tackled the 140 mile long Ironman. Things went fine for 136 miles.

"At the very end of the marathon, my knee blew out, and I didn't get to finish. I came home, my then 11-year-old son said 'mom, I thought you'd cross the finish if you had to do so on your elbows and knees.' When you put a lot of heart and effort into this and as an athlete you want to complete your goal and that gets denied, it felt so unfair. At that moment I was devastated, cursing and swearing I would never do this again. But then the next day I was like, we're signing up for next year," she said.

The following year, she again failed to finish Ironman Louisville.

"It was like 102 degree heat index. I got to the marathon and I couldn't keep anything down. Couldn't get anything in, by mile 11 they said you're not allowed to do this anymore. At that point I was ashamed. That was my fault. I hadn't trained enough," she said.

So she's back at it again, with a bigger hill to climb this time. She's not much faster than the slower moving vehicles in her neighborhood because both of her knees are shot and she can't run. But while Hiestand knows the agony of defeat well, she has a better attitude than most.

"If I fail, I'm going to feel like I'll sign up the next day and finish the darn thing. I don't want to fail but if it happens, yeah, I'll sign up the next day," she said.

She needs to hurry. Ironman Louisville is not an open-ended event. Participants have 17 hours to be counted as an official finisher. The fairy tale ends at midnight.

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