CAZENOVIA — On Oct. 14, Cazenovia resident Jen Murphy, 36, competed in the 2023 Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
The grueling 140.6-mile race consists of a 2.4-mile ocean swim, a 112-mile bicycle race, and a 26.2-mile run.
Not only must competitors finish all three segments to complete the entire event, but they also must do so within 17 hours from their start time.
Ironman, which is widely considered the gold standard of endurance triathlon racing, also has cutoff times for each individual discipline.
Murphy raced against approximately 2,500 other women and described the experience as “the stuff dreams are made of,” noting that the event gives amateur athletes the opportunity to compete right alongside the professionals they idolize.
For the swim segment, each age group was assigned a specific wave start time, and each wave had approximately 200 swimmers.
According to Murphy, she and the other members of her group swam out to the start, treaded water for two minutes while waiting for the gun to go off, and then fought for space almost the entire length of the 2.4-mile swim.
“The swim start in the ocean is one of the only mass starts left,” Murphy said. “. . . The bike course is brutal with the heat, the headwinds, and nothing but highway and black lava fields all around. The run starts on Ali’i Drive with the awesome energy of all the spectators for about the first five miles and then sends you back out [to] the highway with nothing but you and the sun beating down. This day takes every ounce of mental toughness you [possess] to dig deep and remember what brought you here. Honestly, there is nothing like the Kona finish line. I crossed the finish with tears in my eyes and an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.”
The world championship is the annual culmination of a series of Ironman qualification races held around the world.
Athletes qualify for the event by finishing in a top position in their age group at a sanctioned Ironman held within the calendar year. Every race offers a certain number of qualifying slots per age category.
Murphy said that although not all races are allocated the same number of qualifying slots for women, an athlete generally must finish in the top 10 percent to make it to the world championship.
She completed her qualifying race at Ironman Mont Tremblant in Quebec on Aug. 20, 2023, with just under eight weeks remaining until the Kona race.
When not competing, Murphy is a personal trainer, running coach for Fleet Feet Sports, nutrition coach, and self-described “foodie.”
The athlete, who taught high school math for 12 years before leaving to pursue her passion for fitness, moved to Cazenovia with her husband in 2021 after falling in love with the area while training for triathlons and competing in the Caz Tri.
Murphy said she took up running in college for weight loss and overall fitness and fell in love with it.
Starting with 5K races, she gradually worked her way up to completing a full marathon.
“A friend encouraged me to try out her bike and the Fleet Feet triathlon program in 2016, and I’ve been competing in triathlons ever since,” Murphy said.
She completed her first half Ironman in Syracuse in 2017 after only one year in the sport and then completed her first full Ironman in Lake Placid in 2018.
She has also completed a full Ironman in Louisville, Kentucky, and numerous other half Ironmans, including the 2021 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Utah.
“I truly embrace [the Ironman] mantra that ‘Anything is Possible,’ and I set out to prove this to myself when I registered for my first one,” Murphy said. “I used to throw it out there that someday I would love to go to Kona, but I didn’t actually see it as possible until now.”
For more information on Ironman and the world championship race, visit ironman.com.