Jessica DeShaw remembers not crying despite not finishing her first ever Ironman triathlon in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho.
She got pulled off at mile 17 of the run because she didn't make the marker in time.
"I did not know how to train in the heat and that was something that held me back," DeShaw said. "I remembering not crying because when they pulled me off I realized I had not earned it yet."
An Ironman triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run in that order. To put that in context, a regular triathlon consists of a 0.93-mile swim, 24.8-mile bike and a 6.2-mile run.
DeShaw, a Brainerd mother of three sons, started training for Ironman after going through postpartum depression after having her third son. After losing weight she ran in her first 5K run in 2015 and then competed in the Baxter triathlon a year later. After swimming the first leg of the Baxter triathlon, she told her husband she would never do a triathlon again. She finished the bike leg in last place, but as she crossed the finish line and completed her first triathlon she felt great. A few days later, DeShaw was hooked and wanted to sign up and train for an Ironman triathlon.
After failing her first Ironman race in Idaho in 2017, it did not take DeShaw long to sign up for the Ironman triathlon in Madison, Wis. She trained harder and smarter for the Madison Ironman triathlon in September of 2018, hoping that time she would finish.
DeShaw remembers the first time she swam across Whipple Lake to train for the Baxter triathlon, she realized she did not know how to swim. She held onto the kayak that followed those training the whole time. Near the end of the swim her trainer barked at her to just count 20 strokes without holding onto the kayak. After she successfully did 20 strokes her trainer barked at her to do 20 more. Because she was an inexperienced swimmer she swam face down with no vision of her surroundings. Before long she crashed her head into the buoys.
Fast forward to the Madison Ironman. After not knowing how to swim and failing her first Ironman triathlon, DeShaw had tears in her eyes 1 mile away from the finish line.
"I felt such a great deal of accomplishment," DeShaw said. "My friends and family were there and it was awesome to cross the finish line and have Mike Reilly (Ironman announcer) say, 'Jessica DeShaw, you are an Ironman.'"
DeShaw then had her Ironman friends, Josh Duda and Mike Hushagen, approach her about doing the Ironman Canada in Whistler, British Columbia, on July 28.
"They did not exactly have to twist my arm very hard," she said. "I love the training of it and the camaraderie of it and it's just fun. Without the support you cannot do these things because they keep you mentally in check."
For Josh Duda, Ironman Canada will be his fifth Ironman triathlon and he has already signed up for his sixth in Madison later. Duda said he loves DeShaw's passion in her training and notices how well she deals with adversity.
"She took a failure, like what happened in Coeur D'Alene, and made it fuel the fire for her in Madison," Duda said. "And with a little peer pressure Mike and I got her to do Canada with us."
Like DeShaw, Duda also remembers having low points during training. He is now in his 13th year of doing triathlons and remembers having doubts after finishing his first swim in the Baxter triathlon.
"A lot of us are like that," Duda said about triathlon athletes having doubts. "However, the community around us are able to push us to finish."
The hardest part of doing all these Ironman triathlons for DeShaw is the time spent away from her family, especially her boys. The sense of accomplishment she feels from training and finishing these races keep bringing her back.
"Crossing that finish in Madison was amazing," DeShaw said.
Hopefully, crossing the finish line in Canada has a similar feeling because she's earned it.