She’s a 19-time Ironman 70.3 champion, took the 2015 Ironman North American Championship in under nine hours (and was also under nine hours when she won Ironman Chattanooga in 2014). So why was Angela Naeth just happy to have simply qualified for the Ironman World Championship in Kona this year? For almost a year, Naeth had been suffering from Lyme disease, which was finally diagnosed in May. We caught up with Naeth as she was getting ready to head over to Hawaii’s Big Island for the race.
On qualifying for the Ironman World Championship
“I was just so amazed that we were able to salvage one of the most difficult seasons of my career. It is a bit bittersweet to have the opportunity to head over to the Big Island to race. I’m not even looking at it as a race. This time around, it is going to be a celebration. Quite honestly, being hit with Lyme disease and its co-infections, and going undiagnosed for several months, really threw me for a loop. I felt horrible for about four or five months, with
unexplained deep fatigue, muscle soreness, weakness, depression and who knows what else. I thought that I was going nuts. And, sometimes, I was. The treatments have been a journey. They are pretty aggressive, with several months of multiple antibiotics, which, while helping to make me better, leave my body wasted.”
Four full-distance races in three months – to qualify for Kona, Naeth embarked on a literal world tour of racing, finishing full-distance races in the United States (Boulder), the United Kingdom (Bolton), the Netherlands (Maastricht) and Sweden (Kalmar)
“Each race has been an improvement and a learning experience about how to train and race while on all of these different antibiotic medications. There were times when my body’s response to the different medications seemed quite unpredictable, and I just never knew what to expect from one day to the next. Because my health was so up and down, my training from May through mid-August was pretty fractured. I did what I could, when I could, and it was kind of all over the place. We decided to give qualifying for Kona a shot just because you only get so many chances. So, we mapped out a path, and decided that we would take it one race at a time. It really became one day at a time. And sometimes, one workout at a time. As a result, the races were hard single-day events, but I never got beat up by a
full-on training cycle. Tim [Snow, Naeth’s coach] has me hitting Kona in what he would call a mid-cycle of my training. Because it has been such a screwy year, Kona is not going to be the be-all, end-all. I am planning on a full set of races through to the end of the year.
The Challenges of dealing with Lyme disease
“The biggest challenge has been accepting each day and what it brings. At the same time, aside from one minor setback, September has been the most stable period over the past year. When first diagnosed, my symptoms kind of took over my life. I was struggling to get out of bed. Stairs were menacing, at best. The first couple of months were very difficult, because I just never knew what to expect from one day to the next. Some days I felt OK, and others I was sick in bed. The progression was very slow and often very difficult to see. But it has gone pretty much exactly as the doctor described it would be. Lyme made me feel deeply fatigued and consistently nauseous, like I had the flu for a much longer period than anyone should have the flu, but it would come and it would go. One of the co-infections, babesia, greatly affected my muscles, making it difficult to stand, walk stairs, get in and out of the car and more. My legs constantly felt like I had run a half-marathon the day before. The running that I could do was neither fast nor pretty. But, little by little, it got better and better. The progression was humbling. It taught me patience, and it made me appreciate both a healthy body and this sport more and more. I can’t thank
Tim enough. He went through the thick of it with me. Going from crying in the middle of the night because my body ached and my mind was depressed, to running intervals on the track with him last week. It has been quite a journey.
I Race Like A Girl
“I Race Like A Girl [Naeth’s endurance-sport team] is just opening membership for our third year. It has been such a great avenue to meet new females, and to help to support them in the sport and feel their support for me. It has been a great way for me to really dive into what this sport is all about: a community. The support we have for one another and the ability to meet members at races and to cheer for them on course has been simply amazing and fun. It brings me back to why I do this sport – the people, the community, the fun, support and inspiration that you get from others. My sponsors have supported us all along the way. It is my hope to continue to build these relationships in order to help our members in all aspects of triathlon, be it education, support and gear, as well as a global community of women all connected through the team. In the future, I plan to grow the brand and team into events and camps. We have our first camp coming up in January in Clermont, Fla., and it is already sold out. I would love to create a fund for younger athletes in the sport, as well as the beginners and mothers who need that extra support.—TMC