People celebrate their birthdays in many ways. Some hang out with family and friends in a nice relaxing setting, maybe with a good meal or music.

Panaca resident, Kathi Hunt, celebrated her birthday in a life- changing way. At the end of the day, she heard, “Kathi Hunt, it’s your birthday, and you are an Ironman!”

That voice came from the announcer of the Ironman triathlon in Northern Colorado where Hunt completed a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and a full marathon run (26.2 miles). Yes, all in one day. Hunt was among 1,705 athletes who competed in the Ironman and 1,181 who finished. She earned a time of 16 hours and 27 minutes.

Beyond the grueling race itself, a lot of preparation is required prior to such an event, including a 20-22-week training plan averaging 7.5 hours of training per day. Some weeks Hunt worked out five to six hours a day, and some days, she trained for upwards of 10-11 hours.

“It takes dedication and persistence to train for something like this,” Hunt said, “day after day, week after week of following the training.”

She trained the swim portion at the Panaca Springs. With 1,700 people in the same water on race day, getting used to people bumping into her, splashing around her, was the mental toughness training.

“The hills and wind in Lincoln County helped training too. After you are physically ready to compete a race like this, then comes the mental toughness. To be able to keep going and push through fatigue or (various other factors), you just don’t give up and keep going. One foot in front of the other,” she said.

Hunt added, “It also takes a lot of time commitment and time away from family. My husband was so supportive in the extra help in order for me to train and race. The support of my sister and parents that came with me to race and be there for me was so appreciated.”

Hunt also praised the people in Lincoln County for their support. When riding her bike on the highway, she especially appreciated people who moved over and gave her plenty of room “knowing that wind, or a rock, or the rumble strips can throw you off balance, causing a possible major accident.”

In talking to other triathletes, the key to finishing a race of this kind is “trust your training.”

Hunt said, “Train hard and race easy. Enjoy the scenery, enjoying the experience is so important.” Starting a healthy lifestyle with exercise as a key ingredient has been a huge blessing for the athlete. “Starting out is the hardest. I started slow and built up, going just a little farther the next day than I did the day previously.”

Hunt will next run the St. George Marathon on October 6, and a week later will participate in the Park-to-Park 100-mile bike ride in Lincoln County.