This is a printer-friendly version of an article from Zip06.com.Article Published September 12, 2019
When Grace Lindell was 12 years old, she watched her father Dean compete in an Ironman Triathlon. Grace remembers seeing all the training and preparation that went into it and then cheering on her dad on at the Ironman, which includes a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a marathon—a 26.22-mile run.
“I was infatuated by it, even at a young age,” says Grace. “I even wrote my college essay on how it’s impacted me and how most of my significant childhood years centered around that.”
This summer, Grace followed in her father’s footsteps when she completed her first Ironman Triathlon in Lake Placid, New York. Grace came in third place for her age group and was the youngest female to finish this year’s 140.6-mile race through the Adirondacks, clocking in with a combined time of 11 hours and 47 minutes.
“It was the best day ever and super emotional,” Grace says. “Everybody was so helpful and so kind. It’s such a magical event and people who are there help you and get you back out on the course or get your head focused if you have a mental weak point.”
Grace is no stranger to running after having spent four years as a member of the girls’ cross country squad at Haddam-Killingworth. She also played lacrosse for the Cougars, captaining the team during her senior season. While Grace saw plenty of success at H-K, she admits that she wasn’t the “most enthusiastic runner” at first.
“I didn’t like it that much. I got stressed out by the competition and that made me a little bitter toward the sport, and I definitely gave my coach a run for his money,” Grace says. “But then I hit junior year and decided I’d race my hardest.”
The change in mindset led to better results for Grace. She went on to compete in a half-marathon and, by her senior year, the H-K girls’ cross country team was performing at its peak. The Cougars won the Shoreline Conference title, claimed the Class SS state crown, and then finished fifth at the State Open to qualify for the New England Championship for the first time in program history. This led to Grace setting bigger goals for herself.
“We’d had individuals go and the boys always qualified, but it was our first time as a team, and it happened because we all just worked so hard,” says Grace, who recently began her sophomore year at Western Colorado University, where she is studying environmental science. “Seeing everyone support each other and be fully dedicated helped me see I could do this Ironman. After that season, I thought, ‘I’m ready for it,’ and knew I could commit to something big.”
Following her senior season with the cross country team, Grace decided that she was ready to compete in an Ironman Triathlon like her dad. So, she registered for the one that took place in Lake Placid this July.
In the meantime, Grace graduated from H-K in June of 2018. Soon after, she left Connecticut for Colorado, knowing that she had to spend much of her free time training for the Ironman during her freshman year.
“It was tough, but all of my friends here do ultra marathons, trail races, and are super athletic, so I’m surrounded by a great group of people who were all really supportive,” Grace says. “I had such a big support group on this side in Colorado and back home in Connecticut. It would’ve been much harder without that support.”
Grace relied on coaching from her father, who offered advice from halfway across the country. She followed the 30-week training program outlined in Don Fink’s book Be Iron-Fit: Time-Efficient Training Secrets for Ultimate Fitness. This regimen included 10 weeks apiece of base training, build training, and peak training. Grace balanced all of her training while handling her freshman courseload at Western Colorado.
“I didn’t miss any of my classes and finished the year by making the Dean’s List,” says Grace. “I learned the swimming and biking out here, and a lot of it was trial and error, but there were a few people at the pool who would give me pointers.”
Grace continued to train throughout her freshman year, continuing when she returned home to Killingworth for the summer. Grace’s father knew how hard she had been training, but with his firsthand experience in the Ironman, Dean still felt concerned as the race drew closer.
“I worried about things you can’t necessarily control—injuries, a mechanical failure on the bike during the race—and about the mental fatigue that she would inevitably face. But on that day, watching her prepare, and then as the race progressed, seeing her strength as she passed through the first bike aid station that had so many of her friends and family, I finally began to relax and take in the moments,” Dean says. “I cried a ridiculous amount as I received her at the finish line as I was overwhelmed with feelings of joy, love, relief, and pride.”
Grace says that she never could have completed the Ironman without the support of everyone in her corner. After she finished, her emotions were sky-high.
“Everyone that was supporting me, in person and from across the country, I felt them all in spirit, and they helped me put one foot in front of other to cross that finish line. Nothing really prepares you for when you’re on your last mile, totally gassed, and everyone is cheering,” says Grace. “When you hit the red carpet with the Ironman symbol, you can’t describe the feeling. It’s so much cooler and more life-changing that anyone can prepare you for.”
While Grace is still riding the wave of her achievement, she is already looking forward to doing another Ironman Triathlon—this time with her dad. Grace and Dean are planning on competing together in Lake Placid in 2022 with a goal of qualifying for Ironman World Championship that takes place in Kona, Hawaii.
“The Ironman has brought us together a lot. Me being across the country as the first kid in our family off to college was a big shock to our family, but having his support and guidance, plus my mom [Carolyn] always calling to check in, made it so much more possible and so much more personal for me,” Grace says. “Having my family in so deep and so readily accessible if I needed anything made it that much easier for me.”
Grace’s parents feel proud about what she’s accomplished. They know that the experience of training for and competing in the Ironman helped prepare Grace for any future challenges that will come her way.
“Carolyn and I learned how athletic and mentally strong she is,” says Dean. “All we can hope for as parents is to have a positive impact on our children and their friends. Whether as an athlete or a volunteer helping athletes, the hope is to show how everyone can have an incredibly positive impact during this type of event. Not to mention, it really can be fun.”