Estwanik falling in love with new challenge
Ashley Estwanik only took up triathlon to satisfy her competitive juices after an Achilles tendon problem prevented her from running.
It might not have felt like it at the time, but that injury has proved to be a “silver lining” for Estwanik, setting her on an unexpected path to the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Mooloolaba, Queensland.
She qualified for the championships after coming second in her age group at last month's Ironman 70.3 North American Championships in Utah — her first full triathlon — having “dipped her toe in the water” at the 70.3 Miami in October, performing the swim and bike.
“I had an Achilles problem this time last year and went to the [NatWest] Island Games [in Jersey] and couldn't run,” Estwanik said.
“A couple of my friends who I run with do triathlons and we signed up for Miami. I still couldn't run and I just did the swim and bike, and I loved it.
“Running will always be my first love, but the silver lining is that I've found something new and found new friends,”
It was not until her next race, the North American Championships in St George, Utah, when Estwanik began to toy with notion of reaching the World Championships.
The six-times Bermuda Half-Marathon Derby winner admits she struggled in the swim — her weakest of the three disciplines — and the bike, but found her groove in the run to finish second in the women's 30 to 39 age group.
Her time of 5hr 05min 59sec was the thirteenth quickest in the women's field.
“The World Championships weren't in my thoughts in the beginning,” she said. “But then one of my training partners qualified in Miami, so the rest of us were like, ‘maybe we can qualify in Utah'.
“I actually had a terrible swim and not a great bike, but my run was great.
“It was a really hard course, really challenging. The bike was just hills and hills, and hills forever. It was freezing cold, borderline hyperthermia, but it was a great experience.”
Estwanik continued her impressive form since taking up the sport in last weekend's Tokio Millennium Re Sprint Triathlon, crossing the line as the first woman in 1:06:26.
She intends to focus on her swimming and cycling during the summer in preparation for the World Championships on September 4.
“I think it's going to be a summer of lots of swimming and cycling, and getting up really early to at least try and avoid some of the heat,” said Estwanik, whose husband Chris is also a six-times May 24 winner.
“The cycling community is great here and I'll be doing lots of rides with them. I know how to do the running part!
“It's been really fun and it's a new adventure for me. I'm taking it seriously, but I'm looking to have fun as well.”
It is hardly surprising that Estwanik has taken so well to another endurance sport, given her family background.
Her mother Peggy Couper was one of Bermuda's top female road runners in the 1980s, uncle Jim Butterfield is an Olympic rower and former triathlete, aunt Debbie is a multiple May 24 winner, while cousin Tyler is a two-times Olympian.
Tyler, who won the Tokio Millennium Re Sprint Triathlon, said he has not been surprised by the ease in which Estwanik has transitioned to triathlon.
“It's pretty neat she's qualified for the World Championships,” Butterfield said.
“I think she will have a good shot. Australia will be competitive and it's a lot of travel from here, but I think she will enjoy it.”