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Lama makes it double joy for island in Texas

Happy couple: Lama shares her age-group victory at the Ironman North American Championships with husband Giuseppe who also competed, finishing 20th in his age group

Cathy Gurret Lama, a Bermudian triathlete living in California, placed first in the 60-64 age group at the Ironman North American Championship in Texas at the weekend — where professional triathlete Tyler Butterfield came third.

Lama was competing in her first ironman and finished the gruelling race a time of 14hr 7min and 59sec.

She completed the 2.4 mile swim in 1:24.35, the 112-mile bike ride in 7:09.00 and the 26.2-mile run in 5:14.

The win qualified her for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, in October, although she revealed her participation is doubtful because of an injury.

“Four weeks before the race I injured my hip and couldn’t run,” she said. “Two weeks before I left [for Texas] I went and got a shot and they found the problem. I had no pain during my run but had to cut back on my running, so my running was not as fast as it should have been.

“I did much better than predicted, and the cycling was really hard because it was so windy.”

Still, to qualify for Kona is a big achievement for the 61-year-old mother of three.

“It’s very exciting, a dream that every triathlete wants to do,” she said. “If I don’t go this year I’ll just try another year, I’m going to be racing all my life, until I’m 80 plus!

“I won’t stop, it’s a way of life for my husband and me, we do it all the time. I was really thrilled with my time, I never did that [ironman] before. Going from half-ironman to a full is huge.

“It was a wonderful race, the people in the Woodlands, Texas, really get into it. This is the sixth year they’ve had it there and when you’re running you are doing a three-lap loop and they just cheer you which really helped me a lot.”

Husband Giuseppe is also an accomplished triathlete and also competed in the ironman, finishing 20th in his age group in an overall time of 12:43:30.

Lama was a PE teacher at Elliot Primary and Gilbert Institute before they moved to the United States 28 years ago when their oldest daughter, Sophia, was six months old.

They now live in Laguna Niguel, just north of San Diego. “That’s why we live in California, you can train all year round, it’s amazing,” she added. “And there are so many triathlons and triathletes here, it’s wonderful.”

Despite this being her first Ironman, Lama has raced in many Olympic-distance triathlons over the years, often finishing in the top three in her age group. The Olympic distance, while still tough, has shorter distances of 1,500 metres for the swim, 40k bike and 10k run.

“I feel quite good, I went for a swim today and my legs are still sore but I feel a lot better,” Lama said. “We hired a coach to help us prepare and had a great training programme.

“I started doing triathlons in the 1980s and won the national championship twice, so have been doing triathlons all along. My husband said to me, ‘Why don’t we do this triathlon thing’ and we’ve been doing it together for 30 years, over 300 races and I’ve always been in the top three in my age group and went once to the world championships.

“When I came to the US I didn’t have a work permit so my husband was the only one who could work. Then we started our family and moved so much, and as a teacher you can’t teach in just any state, you have to become recertified. So I never taught, just took care of my husband and family.

“Now my children are older, I have time now and can do the ironman race. My husband’s been wonderful, my cheerleader and coach and he races with me, too. He did very well [competing] in Bermuda.”

Gurret was a member of the Bermuda women’s team that won the 1984 CAC Cross-Country Championships which was held in Bermuda. Jennifer Fisher won the individual gold, with Donna Bean (now Raynor), the Bermuda National Athletics Association president, the other member of the women’s team that won the team event.