Late bloomers can be pretty spectacular, as a 35-year-old single mother from Summerville demonstrated on Sunday at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort Triathlon.
Christa Irwin is one year removed from “newbie” status in traithlon, having started training for triathlons in July 2014 when a friend suggested that they do the Kiawah Island Golf Resort Triathlon. Still, Irwin proved she was a natural last year by finishing second in the women’s race.
On Sunday, she won the women’s race — and was fifth overall — with a time of 2 hours, 11 minutes and 44 seconds. The time was more than nine minutes faster than last year’s finish.
And while a win is rare for any second-year triathlete in her mid-30’s, it wasn’t the only win this season for the mechanical engineer.
Irwin won three Olympic distance triathlons in the Jacksonville, Fla., area, and qualified for the 2016 International Triathlon Union World Championship in Cozumel, Mexico, with a seventh-place age group finish at the USA Triathlon Nationals in Milwaukee in August.
Of triathlon, Irwin says “it’s a cool sport for old people.”
Irwin, who was not a runner before entering marathons, said she made a mistake by not incorporating biking and running into her training last winter. She instead focused on swimming and filled in the gaps with rollerblading and doing Zumba.
But she plans to be more sport specific during the off-season this year as she prepares for the World Championship.
As for Kiawah, she says she likes the race because it’s “top notch,” though she admitted to going off course twice on the bike and once on the run because of vague directions.
Other top female finishers at Kiawah on Sunday were Gail Kattouf, 42, of Greenville, in 2:14:46, and Isabel Driggers, 39, of Daniel Island, in 2:18:38.
Top male finishers were Patrick Armeen, 34, of Charlotte, N.C., in 2:03:23, Michael Mauhar, 25, of Greenville, in 2:03:53 and Brady McDonald, 22, of Charleston, in 2:06:26.
Sunday’s third annual event had 223 male finishers, 120 female finishers, eight female relay teams, six male relays and 14 male and female relays.