She’ll be competing in every contiguous U.S. state, plus beginning and ending her journey with a race in Haiti.
Photo: Camille Marie Images
Many people would never even consider completing two Ironman triathlons back-to-back. (Heck, a lot of people may likely never do one.) But Ashley Horner has made it her goal to compete in 50 Ironmans in 50 days. To raise money for the Maison Fortuné Orphanage in Haiti, she's setting out on what she's dubbed her "Woman of Iron" mission to complete one Ironman in each of the contiguous U.S. states (which excludes Alaska and Hawaii) and two competitions in Haiti during a 50 day period—that's one Ironman competition every single day with no breaks. If she succeeds, she'll be the second person but first woman to pull off 50 Ironmans in 50 days. (ICYMI: This journalist became the first woman to complete six Ironmans on six continents in a year.)
Believe it or not, Horner is not superhuman. Before her first ultramarathon in 2014, she didn't really think of herself as an endurance athlete. "After I was done I was like I'm never doing this again," she tells Shape of the experience. "My body is not built like a typical endurance athlete's. I am a strength athlete through and through." Despite the initial struggle, she continued competing in ultra-endurance competitions and eventually became hooked. "It was in a different way than the strength training pushed me," she says. "It pushed me to grow mentally and pushed me to grow physically. I almost became addicted to it."
In 2016, Horner found a way to use her love of ultra-length competitions to benefit a cause she cared about. She'd already been supporting Maison Fortuné Orphanage Foundation, which funds an orphanage and school in Hinche, Haiti, and wanted to help raise more funds. She ran 230 miles around the western border of Haiti, raising more than $64,000 for the foundation. (Related: How Ironman Triathlons Helped This Domestic Abuse Survivor with Her Depression)
Photo: Camille Marie Images
Two years after completing that run in Haiti, Horner was eager to raise more money for MFO and challenge herself in the process. She'd done plenty of lengthy runs, swims, and bike races, and decided to push herself in a new way by stringing together triathlons. "Honestly from the beginning I felt like it was doable, only because I've taken my body and mind to the place where my body starts to give and I have to mentally power through," she says. "I think I've simplified it so much that I haven't once felt intimidated by the feat that's in front of me." (Here's more on what it's really like to train for an Ironman.)
Her confidence going into the experience may have to do with how hard she's worked to prepare. In the leadup, she's been training anywhere from four to eight hours per day, sometimes fitting in three-a-days. (She's also a mom and owns a couple of businesses, NBD.) "I'll put my weighted vest on, I'll go for a really long walk fasted, anything to really kind of simulate tiring out my legs," she explains. "Or I'll do heavy weight training sessions, anything to cause that preset fatigue to set in before starting my endurance training for the day."
Horner starts her journey on Sunday with her first Ironman in Haiti. This is also where she'll end her journey with the last race, after completing 48 in the states. (You can contribute to Horner and her Woman of Iron cause at mightycause.com.) Going into it, Horner says her biggest worry isn't the aches and pains she'll experience, but the logistics of driving from state to state, she says. Some of her supporters—"Ashletes," as she calls them—will be meeting up with her along the way to help out by doing laundry, providing food, etc.
Horner says meeting kids at MFO during visits to Haiti is what's driving her to take on such a daunting challenge. She says she hopes to inspire other women to conquer a serious feat in the process. "If you're sitting there right now thinking wow I've always wanted to do an Ironman or wow I've always wanted to run my first 5K, or my first 10K, or try something, just do it," says Horner. For real, if this badass woman can complete an Ironman every day for 50 days, what's holding you back?
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