Gayla Chambers, Ironman
71 year old Austinite completes Ironman
Photography by Tom Merek
Spectators at the finish line of any Ironman are treated to an inspiring spectrum of ability, emotion, and excitement, especially those who witness the last of the official finishers who cross the line before midnight. In 2011, finish line spectators at Kona, the Ironman World Championships, saw Austin-area triathlete, 71-year-old Gayla Chambers, come in with just 81 seconds to spare. It was such a dramatic finish that Chambers was the subject of a story, complete with photos of her finish, on the official Ironman website. This gutsy lady, who came to triathlon at age 58, toughed it out through three falls (first on the bike, and then twice on the run—one of which required six stitches). Those in Austin who train with Chambers were not surprised at either her fortitude or her finish.
Currently, Chambers works out with Tri Zones Training as part of the Peak Performance group, led by Coach Jen Reinhart, which focuses on long distance triathlon. AFM asked a few questions to find out how this “Fit After Forty” athlete approaches her training and what she has in store for 2012.
Q: What made you decide to start training when you did?
A: I was going to a gym and there was a woman there who did triathlons and I thought that was something I would like to do. That was in 1998.
Q: Why triathlons? Why this training group?
A: One year I was at the Danskin Expo and Tri Zones had a booth. I thought I would like to train with a group of ladies, so I joined Tri Zones.
Q: Describe your favorite workout.
A: I guess my favorite workout is a running workout.
Q: What's a typical training week for you like?
A: My typical training week is:
Monday – (rest day) roller, stretch, 20 minutes of core work.
Tuesday – morning training bike with Peak Performance for an hour and a half.
Wednesday – morning swim for an hour and afternoon strength (free weights) for an hour.
Thursday – run with Peak Performance for an hour and a half.
Friday – morning swim for an hour.
Saturday – long bike ride followed by brick run.
Sunday – long run and swim for one hour.
Q: How do you fit in training around work and family?
A: My children are grown, so there is only my hubby and me at home. I do my workouts when I can. Sometimes that means getting up at 4 a.m. to swim. My hubby is very supportive and does not complain much.
Q: Which events are you looking forward to in 2012?
A: The only event I have (that means “paid for”) on my calendar is a half Ironman in Branson, Missouri, in September. I will do some sprints but don't know which ones for sure yet.
Q: What athletic goals do you have for the future?
A: My athletic goals are to stay healthy and to do triathlons as long as I can.
Q: Compare your first triathlon times to last season's.
A: My first triathlon, I was scared to death of the swim. It was a lake swim and I had never swum in open water before. Now, lake swims are not so bad. My latest swim was 2.4 miles in the ocean, and I had never swum in the ocean before, so I was scared to death again. I really liked my swim; it was the best part of the Ironman for me.
Q: How do you feel physically on an everyday basis?
A: On an everyday basis, I feel good physically. Sometimes, I get a little tired but that's all.
Q: What's your diet like? Do you take any supplements or medications?
A: I mostly eat lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. I do drink a protein shake for my snack twice a day. Yes, I do take supplements.
Q: Is there anything I didn't ask that you'd like to tell me about?
A: I would like to thank Coach Jen; if not for her, I would never have gotten to Kona. Thank you, Jen!!