Shandra Wrinkle, head coach of the Virginia Run Riptide Swim Team in Centreville, has qualified for the 25th Anniversary Ironman Triathlon World Championship on Oct. 18, in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Each year, more that 50,000 triathletes from more than 50 countries attempt to qualify for this endurance event. Once considered extreme, the Ironman has become the international standard for personal achievement and performance.
The Ironman Triathlon was born on the Hawaiian island of Oahu in 1978. During the awards ceremony for a Hawaii running race, a debate ensued among competitors about who is more fit — swimmers, runners or other athletes. One of the participants, Navy Commander John Collins, dreamed up a race to settle the argument. He proposed combining three existing races together, to be completed in succession: the Waikiki Roughwater Swim (2.4 miles), the Around Oahu Bike Race (112 miles, originally a two-day event) and the Honolulu Marathon (26.2 miles).
"Whoever finishes first we'll call them the 'Ironman'," said Collins. Fifteen men participated in the initial event held on Feb. 18, 1978; 12 completed the race, led by the fist Ironman, Gordon Haller. His winning time: 11 hours, 46 minutes and 58 seconds.
The event was later moved to the Big Island in 1981 to the town of Kailua-Kona. In 1983, race organizers implemented a qualifying system to accommodate the growing number of athletes wanting to participate in the race. The event field is now limited to 1,500 athletes who must complete the 140.6 mile course within the allotted 17-hour time frame. To develop the stamina and endurance needed to reach the finish line, competitors typically need to train 18-24 hours per week for six to eight months.
Shandra Wrinkle is a graduate from the College of William and Mary with a degree in education. She currently holds a 4.0 GPA in the Graduate School of Education at George Mason University. This past year, Shandra started her own year-round swimming program called the "Riptide Swim Team." She already has over 200 swimmers, both children and adults that have joined her program. Visit her Web site at: www.riptideswimteam.com.