September 21, 2005 - When the letter arrived in her mailbox down the road from her Gladden Farms home, Jennifer Lynn was beside herself with joy. Like any jazzed up athlete, the 32-year-old mother of three did what any great runner would do: She sprinted home to share the good news.
The letter was simple: Pack your running shoes, swimsuit and bicycle. You're invited to compete in this year's Ironman Triathlon World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii - arguably the toughest test in the world of any athlete's resolve.
The Hawaiian Ironman is a three-part, all-day race, which combines a 2.4-mile open ocean swim with a 112-mile bike race and tops that off with a full marathon on foot that is 26.2 miles. The arduous race in the unforgiving Hawaii elements begins at 7 a.m., and athletes have 17 hours to complete it.
Lynn's husband brought his excited wife back down to reality, however, when she told him about the event, which was scheduled for Oct. 21 of last year.
"He's like, 'Don't we have something else going on in October?'" Lynn said. "Well, I was pregnant and my son was due Oct. 28."
Race officials understood the predicament and allowed Lynn to roll the invite to this year's race, which will take place Oct. 15 on Hawaii's big island.
A week after she could have competed in Hawaii, Lynn gave birth to the family's third child, Ryan. Shortly afterward, she was back on the trails and in the pools of the Northwest, this time with a new goal to train for the ultimate stage.
To prepare for the grueling Hawaiian race, Lynn works out 17 to 23 hours a week, often biking from Gladden Farms up into Oracle, where the winds are stronger and more like those found in Hawaii. During the week, she tries to have three solid workouts in each field.
Her friends and neighbors know Lynn as the hyper one, said Lynn, a former schoolteacher and physical conditioning officer for the Naval Academy.
If it's insane to wake up at 3:45 a.m., drive to Vail to pick up a training partner and head to Lake Patagonia for an early morning swim, then consider Lynn crazed.
"A lot of people that I know thing I'm crazy," Lynn said. "Not necessarily because of the Ironman. I mean doing an Ironman is crazy enough, but doing it with three young kids is kind of insane trying to juggle everything."
Swimming, biking and running the race on Lynn's shoulders, but not weighing her down, will be the memory of her mother, Jane, who passed away from a brain tumor around the time when Lynn was pregnant with the couple's second daughter, Cody, who is now 3. To honor her mother, Lynn is raising money for research through the National Brain Tumor Foundation. This year, her annual fund-raising quest has raised $875 of the target goal of $5,000. All donations go through her webpage at www.justgiving.com/pfp/strainforjane.
With Ryan only 10 months old, Lynn will step down from the Ironman circuit for a while. She vowed not to return until he is much older.
Among the 1,800 competitors competing in this year's event is Karin Bivens, a 61-year-old retiree from SaddleBrooke. To prepare for the 27-year-old race, Bivens will occasionally team up with Lynn.
The two met while training and competing with the Tucson Tri-Girls, a local triathlon team composed of more than 100 women.
Whereas Lynn got her invitation through the Ironman lottery - each year 200 athletes are randomly selected from a pool of more than 4,000 to compete in the championship triathlon - Bivens got her spot in the race the old-fashioned way. The SaddleBrooke resident qualified for her first Hawaiian Ironman by winning in her age group at this year's Ironman New Zealand Triathlon. Bivens finished the March race, all 140.6 miles of it, in 16 hours and 14 seconds.
"People say you're an iron-woman," Bivens said. "No, I'm an Ironman. It implies I did the same course."
By qualifying for Hawaii, Bivens avenged her performance in the 2004 Ironman New Zealand in which she missed qualifying by one minute and 40 seconds.
For good measure, Bivens also qualified for Hawaii by winning in her age bracket in Ironman Canada in Penticton, British Columbia, doing so in 15 hours and 55 minutes.
In Hawaii, Bivens and Lynn will share the same goal: finish before the midnight cut-off. Crossing the end line even one minute after 12 a.m. is considered a non-finish.
Despite a difference in ages, Lynn and Bivens have a commonality other than training 20 hours a week. Their friends think they are certifiably crazy.
Bivens' 'insanity' runs, or swims, just as deep.
On June 12 of this year, Bivens completed the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon in San Francisco in four hours and 18 minutes.
The hardest part of that meet was swimming the first leg in the shark-infested waters of San Francisco Bay, said Bivens, who added that she got through it by putting her head down and trying not to think about the potential predators lurking below.
Bivens' routine is similar to Lynn's. The 61-year-old puts in 20 to 25 hours a week, often practicing for two events a day. That's known in the sport world as a "brick workout" because of the way your legs feel when you are done.
Like her counterpart, Bivens, too, competes for a cause. Her running is geared towards raising awareness of the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society.
For now, the searing lava rocks and high-powered winds of Hawaii's big island await the Northwest duo.