Name: Susan Wallis
Occupation: Retired High School Teacher
1982 - A 29 year-old Susan Wallis runs a local 5k with a group of women from the school where she teaches high school math. She’s hooked.
1988 - Susan qualifies for the prestigious Boston Marathon (26.2 miles) with a time of 3 hours and 19 minutes (7:35/mile pace). Qualifying in 1988 was tougher than in 2012. Today, a 35 year old woman would “only” have to finish in 3 hours 40 minutes or better (8:23/mile).
1991 – An experienced training buddy tells Susan that she is in shape to do an Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run). What a great friend! With little knowledge of swimming or cycling, Susan signs up for the first Great Florida Triathlon, a brand new “iron-distance” race.
2012 - Susan is 59 years old, a mother of two, and a retired school teacher. I’ve come to learn that Susan is as humble as she is talented and I can thank her daughter Chrissy for nominating her for Fashlete of the Month.
Since her first triathlon in 1991, Susan has completed AT LEAST one ironman per year, and at most THREE. Her total to date is 36 Ironman/iron-distance races. That’s 86.4 miles of swimming, 4,032 miles of cycling, and 943.2 miles of running… and that’s just the racing part. Imagine the ground she has covered in training!
Training is an interesting topic when it comes to Susan’s athletic history. Prior to 2009, she was doing typical long distance endurance training…. lots and lots of miles with little strength work. She added CrossFit workouts to her training plan in 2009 but did not stray from her long distance training plan until being introduced to CrossFit Endurance in 2011. She was ready to try something new.
“CFE has totally changed how I do my workouts. At this point last year, (with Kona in my plans for the fall), I was running 3 times a week, swimming twice and biking 2 times with long rides building over the summer. Now I am in the gym 4 times a week, swimming once, and biking twice. I am working in more running now (as I am recovering from some knee issues). “
Susan is coached by Doug Katona (managing partner and head coach at CrossFit Endurance). He has no doubt that Susan will get to Kona again this year with tremendous success by following CFE programming.
“We have had a few issues to contend with (knees) so focusing on "re-setting" her systems have been a priority. She has the engine, it just needed to be revved up and given a power and speed overhaul. We have focused on the fundamentals of squatting and pressing while dosing in the precise amount of midline progressions to expose her weaknesses as we piece together a program that allows her to continue getting faster running/cycling/swimming…. We've also adjusted her nutrition to accelerate recovery and metabolic burn. In just a short amount of time, Susan has made tremendous strides” –Doug Katona
Susan has not only continued to improve her endurance, she is also becoming quite a serious CrossFit athlete. She finished 27th in her age group in the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Open and plans on attacking it again in 2013 with even more strength and better technique. She is definitely one to keep your eye on!
Ironman competitions have brought Susan to places like Australia, Brazil, South Africa, and most importantly – Kona. Susan has qualified for and competed in the Ironman World Championships in Kona 6 times. As Susan puts it, this is the “Super Bowl” of triathlons and “the island has a way of sucking the life out of you with the winds and heat coming off the lava fields”. She also points out that at this stage you are racing against the best of the best… everyone at Kona is a winner from another Ironman.
Kona holds both a special and painful spot in Susan’s heart for a reason other than the tough competition or harsh racing conditions. In 2001, full of excitement and anticipation, Susan made her first trip to Kona with her husband Mike. Three days before the event her husband went fishing off the lava rocks behind the Natural Energy Lab. He never returned.
“Search and Rescue looked for four days, with nothing other than a broken fishing pole lodged in a blow hole, and the rental car to be found. I participated in that Ironman, but with numb feelings. With the exception of 2002, I have been back every year, to either compete or to volunteer. On the Big Island, in Kona, is where I belong every October, just to be near where my husband was last seen. Chrissy, my son John, and I have moved on, but we miss him daily. He was my rock.”
“That year I lost Mike, I did three Ironmans in 5 weeks. Kona was three days after, then two weeks later Great Floridian and then two more weeks was Ironman Florida. I had to keep doing these and keep active. My students back home and my cross-country team were all behind me and helped by just letting me get back into a regular routine. I needed the consistency.”
Susan is grateful for the support of her friends and family but I think by now you can tell that Susan is a fighter in her own right… always has been, always will be. She is as fierce of a competitor at age 59 as she was at age 29.
“The last thing I look at is her age. I see an athlete. I see a woman who attacks life and welcomes the opportunity to humbly learn. She is a joy to coach.” –Doug Katona, CrossFit Endurance
Susan has proven to be as fierce of a competitor at age 59 as she was at age 29. Every Fashlete of the Month receives a customized sterling silver necklace engraved with the word or phrase of her choice. Susan chose “Wahine Koa” which is Hawaiian for “Warrior Woman”.
Some people are born warriors who seek out challenges and competitions that allow them to test their will, strength, and fortitude. Some people are made into warriors because they are forced to confront unforeseen obstacles or events that they did not invite into their lives. Susan is both, a true Wahine Koa in every sense of the phrase.