GCC Students Run Ironman Triathalon

El Vaquero Staff Writer

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to swim 2.4 miles, ride a bike for 112 miles, and run a 26.2-mile marathon all in 17 hours or less?
Pain is the first word that comes to mind.

Petra Smookler and Laura Howard know exactly how it feels. For the past year and a half, Smookler, 30, and Howard, 23, have competed in the Ironman triathlon. In fact, the first triathlon was held in 1978 after a group of Navy Seals argued over who was more fit: a swimmer, a runner, or a cyclist. Commander John Collins figured the only way to decide was to do all three at once.

Smookler, who hails from Austria, began running about two years ago, and enrolled in Coach Tom McMurray??Ts running class here at Glendale. In the class, she met fellow runner Laura Howard, and the two quickly became friends.

They decided to try out for the track team; however, it did not work out.
Shortly after being turned down, they saw an article in Sports Illustrated about the Ironman triathlon.

??oI read the article in Sports Illustrated and figured we would give it a shot,??2 Smookler said.

After competing in their first triathlon, the girls were hooked.
??oIt was tough,??2 Smookler commented. ??oEspecially the swimming. The water was about 50 degrees and freezing.??2

Next on their agenda was to find a sponsor, so they sent their resumes in. Low and behold they received a response from the Degree Ironman Amateur Team.

??oThe team only holds 140 tri-athletes, and we made it,??2 Smookler said with a smile. ??oThey help us with coaching, fees, as well as clothing and equipment.??2

On April 5, Smookler and Howard competed in one of the eight Ironman competitions in North America, the Ralph??Ts Ironman in Oceanside, California. Smookler finished sixth followed by Howard in seventh in their respective divisions. The main goal for the girls however, is to place first in their divisions and get invited to the world championships in Hawaii.

??oThe competition is intense,??2 Howard said. ??oYou have to be mentally strong and have confidence in yourself.??2

??oOur training is paying off,??2 Smookler added. A usual week for the girls includes swimming five days a week, biking 200 miles, and running between 20 and 40 miles.

??oIt’s intense,??2 Howard groaned. ??oBut it’s a good way to stay healthy. We just want kids to know that there are other alternatives to sitting at home and watching TV all the time.??2

??oIt’s an up and coming sport,??2 Smookler added. Almost 100 colleges across the United States have triathlon teams including UCLA, USC, Cal-Poly, Stanford, and UC San Diego. In the 17 races across the globe, the competition pulls in more than 20,000 athletes.

Smookler, who is a pediatric nurse, would like to stay involved in the sport for as long as possible.

??oLaura and I would like to open a clinic one of these days to help kids get off the streets and get involved in something fun.??2

Howard, who is studying physical therapy, would also like to stay active. ??oIt teaches you how to be well trained and a balanced athlete.??2

Both girls agreed that they will never give up their goal of making it to the world championship, and when asked what it is like to compete in a triathlon, both girls responded simultaneously, ??oNothing beats finishing???Nothing.??2

For more information about the Ironman triathlon, log on to www.americantri.com.