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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Grinnell’s Iron Woman

Ana Kozjek ’17 biking 100 miles for the Ironman in Italy. Contributed photo.
Ana Kozjek ’17 biking 100 miles for the Ironman in Italy. Contributed photo.

This past Saturday, Grinnell graduate Ana Karin Kozjek ’17 swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles and ran a marathon back-to-back-to-back. This impresive feat marks the completion of her first ever Ironman.

Relatively close to Kozjek’s home in neighboring Slovenia, the strenuous day-long triathlon took place in Italy for the first time. Kozjek wrote about the experience as being for people who are “eager for adventures and like the challenge and the thrill of the journey into the unknown,” in an email to The S&B.

In addition to training all summer, some of Kozjek’s athletic past helped prepare her for the Ironman. For instance, she finished a half Ironman during the summer of 2015. Back at Grinnell, she had been an athlete for the swimming and diving team, and spent a semester running for track and field team.

“What truly helped me,” Kozjek wrote, “were the distractions in the form of my awesome training buddies and also taking the long workouts as adventures or journeys. Once, for example, I biked to the gas station in Kellogg just to buy my friend a Four Loco.”

Having supported her mom in over twenty Ironman races all over the world, Kozjek decided to register one day during a Midwest Swimming Conference. Kozjek wrote that the decision was impulsive, “an example of how euphoria can profoundly obscure your rational decision-making abilities.” Kozjek, however, would live up to her decision.

She arrived at the event as an “Ironman virgin,” as people who have never completed the race are commonly referred to. “The location was perfect,” Kozjek wrote. “We swam in the Adriatic Sea, rode our bikes on the relatively flat terrains of beautiful Italian province of Emilia Romagna and ran through the historic city of Cervia.”

A genuine Ironman, there was not a moment of the race when Kozjek thought about quitting. In regard to those dire moments of which anyone who has run a race knows about, Kozjek wrote, “If my morale started to deteriorate and I didn’t feel like pushing any more, I pushed some more for my people.”

One of the hardest points of the race occurred when strong head winds blew at Kozjek during the bike ride. Another difficult moment occurred after she decided to run the marathon faster than as planned in order to finish the Ironman in under 12 hours. Her time was 11 hours and 54 minutes.

“My body was not too pleased with that,” Kozjek wrote. “It is still being rather salty about it today, four days after the race, but I find it all worth it.”

Besides being “both physically and mentally overwhelming,” Kozjek was fortunate to have not experienced the many things that can go dreadfully wrong during an Ironman. She credits this to her mom for giving her good advice.

On the bright side, “such an atmosphere can be truly uplifting,” Kozjek wrote about her run through Cervia. “I indeed had fun … running through the crowds of supporters in the town and hearing all the cheering and loud music,” she said.

Certainly then, the Ironman has moments of hardship as well as inspiration.

“[It is] much more than just an athletic event — it is a journey, with athletes traveling to and from every part of the world just to participate, and a celebration of what is humanly possible and how far our grit and determination can take us.”

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