Athletes overcome weather, health issues to finish race

By Kristen Tribe | Published Wednesday, November 9, 2011

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Disappointment dripped from Jo Beth’s voice Tuesday morning.

We were talking on the phone, so I can’t be certain, but it seemed to hang there, heavy on the line.

She and her husband, Mark Southard, were still in Las Vegas.

Jo Beth, along with Susie Bowers, competed in the 2011 ITU Long Course Triathlon World Championship Saturday.

Kristen Tribe

Kristen Tribe

The race had promised to be the pair’s most daunting feat yet, but race day presented an entirely unexpected set of challenges in bad weather and a case of bronchitis for Jo Beth.

They raced anyway.

In a rare move, race officials canceled the 4K swim when temperatures dropped into the 40s. Racers started with the 75-mile bike ride and finished with an 18-mile run.

Susie placed 14th out of 40 women in her age division, and Jo Beth finished 40th among 46. The course and conditions were so severe that three women in Jo Beth’s division couldn’t even complete the race.

A doctor told Jo Beth on Friday that she shouldn’t race, but she said that wasn’t an option.

“I didn’t do all this training and all this work not to finish,” she said. “Regardless of how I felt …”

Susie’s husband, and the pair’s trainer Mike Bowers, said he wasn’t going to be the one to tell her not to race.

“You weren’t going to stop her,” he said. “If she had to drop out because she just couldn’t do it, that’s one thing. (If she didn’t race), she might possibly spend the rest of her life wondering ‘what if’ I’m not going to be the one to tell her that.

“She’s tough,” he said. “She can reach down and do stuff that she’s not even supposed to do.”

And she did. Most people can’t finish that race when they’re healthy, much less if they’re fighting bronchitis.

Mike said he read somewhere that one half of 1 percent of people in the United States can run a half marathon, 13 miles.

These two ran 18 after biking 75 miles through the mountains.

“As far as I’m concerned, they did outstanding, and they both should be really proud,” Mike said.

Over the past few days he’s been continually reminding them that they are among the top 40 women in the world in this event.

“About a month ago, (Susie) did a race in Kerrville and got first place,” he said, “but that doesn’t mean anything compared to getting 14th at world.”

Susie admitted Tuesday morning that she really wanted to be in the top 10.

“The biggest challenge was the run,” she said. “And most of it was up hill.”

The end of the run, which was also the end of the race, was where Susie further proved her mettle.

She and another competitor had exchanged places throughout the event, each passing the other at different points.

Susie was leading her challenger at the end of the run when she heard footsteps. It became a foot race, a dead sprint to the finish that Susie won.

“That was exciting,” she said. “I just knew it was going to come down to that. I thought it was going to come down to the last bit. Was it important enough for me to keep that one place? Yeah. I thought, ‘I haven’t run for two hours and 50 minutes to drop a spot.'”

I admire the determination shown by both these women, and they should be proud. I wanted to reach through the phone line Tuesday and give them a high five or hug their necks.

Mike said he talked to Jo Beth Monday.

“What do I tell all these people?” she asked him.

“You tell them that you represented the United States, and you were proud to be there. And it was a great race.”

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