Racing Kona for Lori With Effort, Pride and Commitment

By Shannon Scovel | Oct. 09, 2018, 2:20 p.m. (ET)

Shannon Scovel

Racing an IRONMAN was one of those things that I had always talked about, something I said I would like to do “in the future.” I had competed in triathlons for nearly a decade: tons of sprints, some Olympic-distance races and two 70.3s, but never a full IRONMAN. It sounded like an interesting idea, but I never made the commitment. Not until October 2017.

My IRONMAN journey actually begins before that, three years ago, in October of 2015. It was then that I learned that a member of my community suffered a tragic accident and was hit by a car while riding on a road near our home. She was immediately taken to the hospital and fell into a coma.

The rider, Lori, was an active triathlete, a multiple-time IRONMAN finisher and the most positive person you would ever meet.

The news of this incident rattled me and my parents; hearing that she was in critical condition in the emergency room, well, I just couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know what to do. Yet, I had to go to class, go to swim practice, be a normal college junior that day. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t stop thinking about Lori.

I remember my mom calling me that day, both of us upset about the news and wondering if we should ride outside again. Is this sport safe? Are we putting ourselves at risk? And then I remember my mom saying, “You know what? I either need to give up cycling entirely or do an IRONMAN for Lori.” 

She chose the Ironman option.

I was in Scotland studying abroad when my parents raced IRONMAN Louisville together on Oct. 13, 2017, the weekend of their 28th wedding anniversary. They had both been athletes in college, and they had both done a couple dozen triathlons as well. They were familiar with the event, but this was their first 140.6. Like me, they had talked about “maybe, someday, hopefully” doing an IRONMAN and committing to the intense, time-consuming training required to prepare the body for such a challenge.

Signing up for a 140.6 race wasn’t a priority for anyone in my family, until we realized that we had a reason to race that was bigger than ourselves. We had to race for Lori.

Because of the time difference in Scotland, I had to set my alarm for 3:30 a.m. to watch the livestream coverage of my parents crossing the finish line in this epic event. Together, holding hands, Curt and Kathryn Scovel became "IRONMEN." I listened via livestream to the announcer call their names, and I started to tear up. To this day, I don’t know why that moment generated such emotion for me, but I do know that the very next day, I woke up with a new goal — I was going to be an IRONMAN too; I was going to race an IRONMAN for Lori.

My background as an athlete is in swimming, and I swam collegiately at American University for four years with effort, pride and commitment. Representing my university in the sport I loved is one of the greatest honors I have ever had, and I craved that feeling again.

I missed racing, but more than that, I missed training, and I missed training for a goal. IRONMAN racing gave me that feeling, and, once again, I knew I was racing for something bigger than myself.

IRONMAN Bolton became the new goal, and I dove into training with the same effort, pride and commitment I devoted to my college training. I obsessed over workouts and mileage, and I aspired to join my parents in the IRONMAN club. I just wanted to finish, and I wanted an M-Dot tattoo that matched my mom’s.

Despite my fears and anxieties about the new distance, IRONMAN Bolton was incredible — everything I could ever want in my first IRONMAN. The race was by no means easy, but the training paid off, and I loved every second of it (except those last six miles of the run when the pain really set in).

I reveled in the opportunity to participate in this event, to challenge myself and to fight for that finish line glory. I swam, biked and ran through Northern England with enthusiasm because I knew I was racing for Lori. And it was with Lori on my mind I punched my ticket to my first Ironman World Championships.

Now, exactly one year after my parents raced in their first IRONMAN and twelve weeks after my first IRONMAN, I will race my second. I will stand at the start of the swim on the Big Island thinking of my parents who inspired me, my coaches who guided me — and I will think of Lori, the ultimate inspiration for my entire community.

I will think of Lori’s strength as I ride 112 miles up and down Queen K, and I will think of her grit as I grind through the final marathon. I will think of Lori as I race for the first time at the 2018 Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, and I will be grateful for every step that I take on this crazy, meaningful, powerful triathlon adventure.