As if teaching young children isn’t already a special feat, Stephen’s Elementary teacher Kate Woodham is also a two-time Ironman Triathlon finisher, something only a handful of people around the world can boast. Ironman consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a marathon (26.2) run, all in one day. Many attempt this trio of long distance races, not everyone completes it, and some haven't lived to tell the tale. Woodham recently completed her second Ironman in Louisville, Kentucky.
How long have you been teaching?
This is my first year back. I was a stay-at-home mom before, so this is my second or third year of teaching.
What do you teach?
What drew you to education?
My mom was an educator, too. I decided I wanted to be a teacher when I was in college working as a lab assistant in an entomology class, teaching children about insects.
When was your last Ironman?
Oct. 13 in Louisville, Kentucky – that was my second Ironman.
What was your first Ironman?
Arizona in 2017.
Hardest leg of the race?
The hardest part of training was getting in a bike ride, finding a place that was safe and where I could refuel. It’s harder to get in my longer rides while working full-time. In the race, running was the hardest part; I’m not a strong runner.
How’d you get started with Ironman?
It started after I had kids. I decided to lose weight, and I have a friend who got me to go running with her. I also started eating better. I was encouraged to do a 5K – the Plano Firefly was my first 5K. Then I decided to do a half marathon, got hooked and did a marathon. I lost 60 pounds in the process.
I was getting burned out from running but wanted to do something to keep active. I wanted to do an Ironman race after seeing a few friends do it and I knew I had the mental drive to train for it. I started with a 70.3 (half Ironman), and then spent a year of training for my first full Ironman. I was working part-time at the time so I had more time to train. I also did Escape Alcatraz in San Francisco to train for the swimming portion.
My first Ironman, I used a coach who gave me specific workouts and guidance. The second time, I used a computerized training program, but I modified it to fit my busy schedule.
How did it feel crossing the finish line for the first time?
First race finished in 14 hours and 27 minutes. The first time running through the finisher shoot was epic. They literally roll out the red carpet for you. The lights, the energy from the crowd, and the announcer calling your name saying, "You're an Ironman" is an uplifting experience.
What drives you do something like this?
The challenge and ability to do it. Being able to make your body do that – coming from where I was – a stay-at-home mom and overweight. Now I’m confident and want to be a good role model for children, and it’s addictive.
I also enjoy being able to teach and still participate and share my training and experience with my students.
How do you juggle a full-time job and training for essentially three distance races?
It’s hard. I wasn’t able to train like I did for the first race. I did my longer training when I didn’t have the kids and spent a lot of time on the trainer at home.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
Every day is different. I like being able to engage with people, teaching children how to be good citizens and good communicators, and they love you.