Local triathletes unable to complete Ironman Texas, meets fundraising goal
On May 16, Spanish Fork High School senior Gabrielle Heywood found herself in the outskirts of Houston, Texas. She was 11 days away from graduating from high school, but that milestone was far from her mind. Gabrielle was competing in Ironman Texas with her father, Dave Heywood. The Ironman is a triathlon that begins with a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run.
Ironman requires its competitors to be at least 18 years of age and Gabrielle had turned 18 only 32 days before, making her the youngest female in the field of over 2,800 triathletes. The Ironman is an event that requires months, if not years of preparation. Gabrielle and Dave logged thousands of miles of swimming, biking and running over the year leading up to the race to be prepared for such a challenging undertaking.
In addition to the training, however, the father/daughter team wanted to something more than just gaining fitness. They wanted to make a difference in the
world. They signed up with wellknown relief agency Save the Children, which had a team of fundraisers competing in Ironman Texas. As members of the team, they committed to raise at least $10,000 for the organization. Save the Children supports children everywhere by providing education programs, food, shelter, medical treatment and relief during natural disasters.
On race day they both entered the waters of Lake Woodlands and started swimming toward their goal. They were quickly separated in the crowd of swimmers. Gabrielle had recently learned that she could suffer from sports-induced asthma and on race day she discovered that she could only control her breathing if she used a backstroke instead of the freestyle stoke she had used for training.
Dave, who had come out of the water a few minutes ahead of his daughter, was worried because he didn’t know where she was or how she was doing. As he got on his bike he pushed forward with his own race, knowing there was nothing he could do at this point to help her. He remembers feeling very relieved when a young lady passed him on a bike 11 miles into that portion of the race and said, “Hi Dad.”
“She didn’t wait around for me,” he said. “She’s a strong biker and she quickly was out of sight.” After Gabrielle passed her father they both settled in for what promised to be a seven- or eighthour bike ride through the rolling hills northwest of Houston. Things appeared to be going according to plan for the next hour and a half for Dave. Suddenly the plan changed. As Dave crested a hill just before the 30-mile aid station and began to pick up speed in the descent, a mechanical malfunction caused his bike’s chain to come off the rear wheel. This caused his rear wheel to lock up at a speed of about 20 miles per hour. Heywood went into a fishtail skid and finally lost control and crashed the bike. He was not seriously injured, but he claims his only trophy from this race “is the road rash on my elbows and knees.” With more than 80 miles still left in the bike portion of the race and his bike no longer able to function, the race was over for Dave.
Trouble was ahead for Gabrielle too. About 90 miles into the ride, she began to experience numbness in her shoulders, neck, and jaw. Post-race evaluation caused Gabrielle and Dave to wonder if the 2.4 backstroke had caused those muscles to fatigue in a manner she wasn’t accustomed to. Gabrielle pulled into the medical tent at the next aid station and described her symptoms to the medical personnel there. In addition to the numbness (which they all agreed was not normal at all), they discovered she was severely dehydrated. They made the decision to not allow her to continue for her own safety.
“I was very disappointed,” she said. “I didn’t go to Texas to not finish. There is no doubt in my mind that I will go back and I will finish this race.” Both father and daughter agree on that point.
In spite of the fact that they didn’t accomplish the goal of finishing the Ironman, the both look to the positive things that happened and consider the overall experience a great success. “We learned a lot that will help us prepare for the next time. And more importantly, we raised over $11,000 dollars for Save the Children. That money provides real help to children and relieves real suffering. We are very grateful to the many people who generously donated to Save the Children as a result of our fundraising.” In addition to the many individuals who donated, the Heywoods would like to also thank the local business that supported their efforts. Generous donations were made by Heritage Builders, LLC; Wasatch Land & Title; Larson Certified Public Accountants; Big O Tires; Rock Canyon Bank; and McKell, Christiansen & Wise, PLLC. Without their support, the fundraiser would not have been nearly as successful. For anyone still interested in making a donation to Save the Children, the Heywoods’ fundraising page will be open through the end of the year. Simply go to “savethechildren.kintera.org/ironmantx/im_gabie_and_dave” and click the “give now” button.
Dave and Gabie Heywood meet with six-time world Ironman Champion Dave Scott.