A pair of former Abington Heights athletes proved to have mental and physical strength and an iron will.
Megan Gibbons, of Clarks Summit, and Victoria English each won their respective age division at the 40th Ironman Competition at Lake Placid, New York last weekend.
Gibbons, who competed in swimming and track and field at Abington Heights, had a time of 11 hours,
43 minutes and 5 seconds, and captured the title in
the female 25-29-year-old
division. She was 237th
overall and 37th among female athletes.
English, a former volleyball and softball player with the Abington Heights Lady Comets, captured the female 30-34-year-old division with a time of 10:43:33. She was 77th overall and the 12th female finisher and the second female amateur overall finisher behind only her training partner, Leah Roberts (10:37:25).
“I am still in shock,” English said. “I put in a lot of hard work. Seeing how well, (Leah) was doing, I think we were feeding off each other.
“It was a surreal moment when we finished 1-2 among the female amateurs.”
A graduate student at Misericordia University, Gibbons, who was an All-American swimmer at Hamilton College, and an All-Region swimmer for the Lady Comets, dedicated herself to finishing the grueling event that tests an athlete’s abilities, endurance and resolve in three events: swimming, biking and running.
She put in long hours each day, building up her conditioning.
“You have to be out there three to four times a week on the bike and three or four times you run and you have to swim in the open waters,” said Gibbons, who trained at times in Harvey’s Lake. “You build up your long rides and your long runs. You swim and then go out for a run and you bike.
“You really have to be
Having run the Chicago Marathon in honor of her late mother, Kelly, who died from cancer in 2013, Gibbons, 28, found herself fighting through fatigue and unstable footing at times throughout the challenge.
But she felt the presence of her inspiration, especially when it appeared she would fall short of her goal and her body could barely move another inch.
“I really didn’t like how I was feeling over the last couple of miles,” Gibbons said. “I almost fainted about a half mile to the finish line. I thought, trying to win my age-group got the best of me. I think I had stress shock. I had to sit on a curb for about a minute. I got my heart rate down, walked a few steps and jogged into the finish line. I had blacked out on my time.
“I really feel close to my mother because she never missed me compete once. Because she was such a big part of my life during that time, competing in this Ironman helped me feel better while still mourning her loss. She was with me, I just know she was.”
Gibbons completed the 2.4-mile swim in 54:44, a time that had her leading the age group and 10th among female athletes.
“During the swim I just wanted to spend the least amount of energy,” Gibbons said. “It’s my strongest event, so I wanted to stay calm.”
Late in the 112-mile bike race, Gibbons’ bike got a flat tire. With some assistance from spectators, she changed the tire and finished the stage in 6:37:17, which put her total time at 7:38:28 and landed her in third in her age group.
“On the bike, I hit a rhythm on a challenging course,” Gibbons said. “There was some rain and a head wind, so I just kept saying to myself, I was going to be fine.”
Finally, Gibbons took on the 26.2-mile marathon.
“On the second loop of the run, for about 8 miles, I was running on peg legs,” Gibbons said. “It was a very weird feeling. It’s why you spend so much time training. You have to constantly eat and drink properly. You gotta work through every bit of the pain.”
Gibbons won her age division in the run with a time of 4:00:53, and with the win in the age division, qualified for the world championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii on Oct. 13.
“I really want to go,” Gibbons said. “My spot is secured. I just have to make sure everything is good with my schedule and that I can raise the money to travel.”
English, who has competed in Ironman events since 2010, studied at Gwynedd-Mercy College, where she ran cross country. She earned her degrees at Thomas Jefferson University.
In the swimming portion of the challenge, English battled choppy waters and feisty competitors and finished in 1:12:55. She stood in 19th place in her division and 586th overall.
“I’m not a swimmer,” English, 30, said. “There was some very aggressive swimming this year. I got punched and kicked quite a bit.”
She followed that with
a strong bike ride, covering the 112-mile distance in 5:51.36 which vaulted her to third in her division and 162nd overall.
Then, in her strongest part of the three stages, English raced to a time of 3:31:58
for the 26.2 miles, which earned her first in the stage, first in her division, 12th among female athletes and 77th overall.
“I had my best running year,” English said. “I felt good and I just started picking off the runners and it was a lot of fun.”
At her last Ironman at Lake Placid in 2016, English finished in 11:30:42 and finished 274th overall and 54th among females.
It was the eighth Ironman for English, who will be competing at the world championships.
“I am super excited because I have always wanted to compete at Kona. It’s a super challenging course.
“I’m looking forward
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