Being the manager of Maple Valley, being a wife, having kids and grandkids — one would come to the conclusion that Laura Philpot has no time to run a 140.6 mile triathlon.
But Philpot is not your average city manager. She participated in and trained for the Ironman triathlon that took place May 12 in Santa Rosa, California.
Ironman is a triathlon that consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run, according to the Ironman website. The competition takes place all around the world and in many different states in America. There are different age groups for the competition, Philpot is in the 40-45 year old age group.
Philpot said she started running marathons in 2007, but in 2011 or 2012 she wanted to try something new so she started doing triathlons.
“Eventually in 2015 I did my first Ironman, so this was No. 5, last weekend (May 12). It’s kind of addicting — the idea of seeing what you can train and accomplish is super rewarding and the people I have met through the process just has been so much fun,” she said. “I mean everyone that you meet through the triathlon community is supportive and awesome and cares about health. It’s not about how fast you do it. It’s just about doing it.”
To train for a triathlon as rigorous as the Ironman, Philpot said she runs every morning before work and gets up at around 4 or 4:30 a.m. She said she will even run two times a day if she can. On the weekends, she will sometimes train for six to eight hours.
To get in shape and stay in shape, the assumption is to eat healthy too. Philpot said this is her weaknesses.
“I should (have a diet). Every article you read, everything they tell you — you should fuel your body and you’ll perform better. But gosh when I’m training and doing those 100 mile bike rides on the weekends, all I want to eat is cheeseburgers and milkshakes and lots and lots of simple carbs,” she said.
During the actual competition, Philpot said it gives her a lot of time to let her mind wander and allows her to lose track of time.
“It’s a lot of time to think. So the swim for me is the hardest. I just focus on getting through the swim and then once you’re on your bike, you’re on your bike for many hours, last weekend it was like 6 hours and 40 minutes,” she said. “(I) try to take in the scenery and make sure that I’m staying in the moment and thinking about appreciating what I’m doing at the particular moment and then towards the end of the bike it gets kind of intense. Now it gets a little mental. It’s about continuing even when things hurt and you know you still have a marathon to run — just keeping your head positive, that’s the biggest thing. If you start thinking negative thoughts, it just destroys your day.”
To stay positive, Philpot said she refers back to what her training coach once told her — “Race with a grateful heart and you’ll never go wrong.”
Another positive aspect in her life that helps her achieve greatness is her family cheering her on.
“My husband has been on the sideline cheering for me and supporting me for everyone one of them. My now 20-year-old son attended my first one and then my kids watch me from afar, so they’ve watched me finished. All of them are great cheerleaders for me,”she said. “I could not do this without the support from my husband. It’s very time consuming, so he ends up picking up a lot of my slack in order to make it possible for me to do this.
At the end of her last triathlon, Philpot said she finished with a time of 13 hours and 8 minutes, but she said her fastest one during a previous Ironman was 12 hours and 21 minutes.
“I’m not super fast. I’m not super slow, but I’m not winning in any of my age groups,” she said.
After Philpot finishes a triathlon she said she feels a sense of accomplishment.
“It’s so emotional, it’s kind of funny. It’s hard to describe, but it’s almost like a high, like you feel this euphoria — like I can’t believe I just finished that, even though I’ve done it multiple times,” she said. “Each one (triathlon) has been a little different. Like my first one I finished and I wanted to eat everything in sight and I stayed up all night, I couldn’t sleep I was so jacked up. This one that I did this weekend (May 12) I couldn’t eat anything when I finished. The thought of putting food in my mouth made me want to vomit and I was in bed by 9 o’clock.”
The week following her big accomplishment, Philpot said she tries not to workout, especially run so that her body can recover.
“It’s been kind of weird this week because I’ve been sleeping in and not exercising. Normally I’m up at 4 a.m. to get my workouts in before work and it’s kind of a weird week, I feel a little lost. It’s almost like somethings nagging like I’m forgetting something,” Philpot said.
Her next goal is to make it to Ironman Kona, which is the Ironman World Championship and it takes place in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
She said there are two ways to get into the world championship. One is to qualify by being the fastest in your age group, and the other way is to enter into the “Legacy Lottery,” in hopes of being picked to participate. Philpot said she hopes to enter into the Legacy Lottery.
If Philpot makes it to the Ironman World Championship, she said she is done racing after that.
“I’m hoping that maybe I can get enough full Ironmans completed so I could do Kona in that 2025,” she said.
Now, Philpot and the city of Maple Valley are trying to get Ironman to come to town.
She said the Ironman Company want to put a competition in Washington or Oregon in the near future, so “Why not Maple Valley,” Philpot explained.
Maple Valley is trying to partner with Renton. Philpot said Renton seems very supportive, but nothing has been finalized yet. The reasoning to partner with Renton is because it has all of the hotels.
The proposed course of an Ironman if it came to Maple Valley would be two loops around Lake Wilderness, biking toward Ravensdale and then running the Cedar River Trail.
“I think it would be great for both Renton and Maple Valley’s economy (and) I think athletes would really, really enjoy racing here and our climate is awesome,” Philpot said.