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Her Turn: Sarah Crewe

By brenda barrera | June 06, 2013, 12 a.m. (ET)

Each triathlon is unique and can be rewarding, revealing, and memorable for a variety of reasons.  We checked in with some seasoned triathletes and asked them to recall some of their memorable races. This is Sarah’s Turn.

Sarah Crewe, 52, has been racing for more than 20 years and says she cannot recall how many races she has done, let’s just say it’s well over 100 and includes eight Ironman races and she’s a two-time Ironman World Champion finisher.  With several USA Triathlon Honorable Mentions throughout her career in the past two years she earned All-American honors and was ranked 8th in her age division in 2012. 

Crewe and her husband Patrick Connor live in Ruidoso, N.M. with their 10-year-old twin daughters. She is a USA Triathlon Level I coach and certified USA Triathlon Youth and Junior Coach. In addition, she teaches Body Flow ™ plus coaches a local age group swim team and triathletes online. At the time of this interview, she was also busy as the Race Director of the Ruidoso Youth Splash & Dash scheduled for Saturday, June 8.

Below are some of her most memorable races.

Sarah with her daughters. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Crewe)
SARAH CREWE, 52, Ruidoso, NM

USA Triathlon - Rocky Mountain Region
Break the Tape Race – 1998 Muncie Endurathon (Muncie, Ind.)

My first “Break the Tape” race was Muncie Endurathon (which was a half ironman). I won overall first amateur non-military female, but that isn’t why it wasn’t the best “Break the Tape” race. I remember being petrified before the start because no wetsuits were allowed and the water had whitecaps. Somehow I hammered the swim, powered through the bike, and nailed the run.  I was so focused, I do not remember feeling any pain. I’ve been trying ever since to recapture that feeling!

My Toughest Race – 1999 Ironman Lake Placid (Lake Placid, N.Y.)
All races are tough. I don’t care if it’s a sprint or an Ironman, but they are tough in different ways. For the inaugural Ironman Lake Placid I was in the best shape of my life and had grand plans. Well, in the swim I was literally pulled under (by my feet) by some Frenchman from whom I could not escape for the entire first loop. I missed my swim goal. I tried to hammer on the bike only to become insanely ill during the second loop. I started the run completely ill and while going down the first hill, I proceeded to projectile vomit and get this – spectators cheered and "drank to that" with each hurl

Most Emotional Race – 2011 Ironman Cozumel (Mexico)
By loop three of the run I had to focus and dig deep. My legs felt like stubs with shooting pain. Every muscle in my body hurt, even my stomach muscles. My ankle was raw from the race chip/strap. And by now my feet had blisters on top of blisters. I told myself, “Do not walk. Do not give up!” I thought of that rot foot the Vietnam Vets got while fighting and if they could run through muck for months, I could do it for another hour. I thought about my Dad and how much he suffered the last years of his life, this was nothing compared to what he went through. I thought about all the amazing people I’d met over the past week, like Peter who had suffered from brain tumors and decided to forego drugs and chemotherapy and conquer his goal of completing an Ironman. I thought about all my friends in Ruidoso and Chicago, everyone who had supported me throughout this journey. I thought about all the sacrifices Patrick had made, and I thought about the girls. I just wanted to see them. I missed them.

Sarah at Ironman Cozumel (Photo courtesy of Sarah Crewe)

Once I made that final turn I had over 4 miles to go. My mantra the entire way back into town was, “Anyone can run 4 miles.” I finally crossed the finish line in 11:02:46. Two strong men whisked me away as soon as I crossed and it was clear, I had nothing left in the tank. After resting and drinking ramen noodles I walked out into Patrick’s arms. He was bawling: “You won!” he cried. “What?” I couldn’t believe it at first but it sunk in when I stood on the podium for winning my age group and I had a Kona slot in hand.

Equipment Issues – 2013 Atomic Man Duathlon (Los Alamos, N.M.)
I think I’ve raced more races with equipment issues (before or during) than without. This spring, a half hour before the start of the Atomic Man Duathlon in Los Alamos, my bike got stuck in one gear. Veteran triathlete Clay Mosley miraculously fixed my bike a few minutes before start.

I’ve forgotten wetsuits many times and I’ve had to borrow goggles, wheels, and socks. At numerous races my fingers have been so frozen after the swim that I’ve needed a volunteer to help me buckle my helmet, put on my shoes, and sunglasses. I think I’ve made every equipment mistake in the book.

Scariest Race – 1996 Ironman Lanzarote (Spain)
Growing up and training in Chicago (where highway overpasses are considered hills) did not prepare me for climbing the mountains in Lanzarote. Attempting to navigate the switchbacks back down was positively the most white-knuckled bike experience ever.

Exotic Location – 1996 Ironman Lanzarote (Spain)
I’ve been lucky, having the opportunity to travel around the world to train and race but this has to have been the most exotic location. Getting there was a serious adventure: Landing was tumultuous to say the least due to the high winds (which should have been a warning, see above), watching the waiter saunter over to the sea to catch our "fish of the day" at a local restaurant was a highlight. The awards banquet was the most amazing of all: Set in a cave lit by candles, we feasted on a fresh bounty of fish, legumes, fruits and vegetables, and best of all, the local wine. The age group awards were pieces of lava secured to a small platform, and because of its uniqueness, it is the only trophy that I’ve kept in all my moves. 

About the USA Triathlon Women’s Committee
The USA Triathlon Women's Committee is focused on creating a resource for female athletes of all levels and socio-economic backgrounds by mentoring professional growth for women in the sport of triathlon. The Women's Committee is concentrating on the quality of training as well as opportunities available for women in positions of authority and decision-making within associations that govern the sport.