By Sharon Robb
KAILUA-KONA, HAWAII—October 13, 2017—“Look out, I’m just getting started. I am more motivated than ever.”
That was Evelyn Herrmann Salama, then 36, eight years ago after competing in the May 20-23 U.S. Masters Short Course Nationals at Georgia Tech Aquatic Center in Atlanta where she swam five lifetime-best times.
On Saturday, the 44-year-old Pembroke Pines wife and mother of two will compete in the Ironman World Championship, the granddaddy of all triathlons.
Ever since she earned one of the 40 qualifying slots for her first Kona appearance at Cabo Ironman 2016 in Cabo San Lucas, Salama has been focused on “checking another one off my bucket list.”
It will be her fourth Ironman distance event that features a 2.4-mile swim, 112-bike and 26.2-mile run in challenging winds and hot conditions.
“It is overwhelming,” Salama said from Kona. “I am happy I have such an incredible supportive husband and sponsor to let me come out two weeks ahead of time to get acclimated to the time change and weather. I am a bucket of nerves.”
Salama has been able to get in some pre-event swims, bike rides and runs along the course as well as trying out the local cuisine and now is resting and surrounded by her family including husband Jason, son Gustavo and daughter Eliana, and friends leading up to the big day.
“I am overwhelmed by the athletes, everyone looks fitter than the last person you saw,” Salama said. “I have taken a week to marinate in that and convince myself I belong here. I know now I have earned my spot and I am ready to go.”
Eight years ago, SOFLO age group coach Rose Lockie was Salama’s mentor when she decided to compete in masters swimming. Now she is working with her son Travis Lockie in swimming and her coach Dirk Smeets of West Palm Beach. Smeets of the Netherlands has played an integral role in Salama’s progess and success.
Her proudest accomplishment was representing Team USA in 2015 in the ITU World Triathlon Championship in Chicago in her 40-44 age group.
Her progress has been remarkable in eight years.
“I grew up a little bit,” Salama said. “I came to realize despite all of Rose’s efforts and my tenacity and stubbornness I was never going to compete with people who have been swimming all their lives.”
A friend suggested she try triathlons. Her first was a reverse triathlon on a Huffy bike.
“I got out of the water and I thought I got this easy and then everybody passed me on the bike,” Salama said with a laugh. “I crossed the finish line feeling humbled.”
Now Salama is in Kona eyeing that finish line with a different mindset.
“I didn’t know my mindset at first,” Salama said. “When I qualified I was thinking Top 10 in my head but now I have adjusted my goals. A good friend said to me when I qualified for Kona, it was like being the valedictorian of my high school. Now I am in Kona and it’s like Harvard, everyone is a valedictorian. It’s quite a thing to get here and another thing to compete here. It’s really humbling.”
Salama has become an example for those with very little experience or background in sports to start training and competing. When she started masters swimming she had only swam in fifth, sixth and seventh grade. It helped that Academic Village Pool was less than an hour from her house when she decided to train with Rose Lockie for the masters meet.
The rest, as they say, is history. After Kona she wants to spend more time with her family.
“I will hang up my full Ironman shoes, my kids have had it,” Salama said. “I didn’t expect to get this far. But I also don’t want to look back and see that I was a detriment for my children. My family comes first. I told my daughter, who is a soccer phenom, that this is my World Cup, this is what I trained for.
“I am very lucky that I am checking off everything I had as goals. I qualified for 70.3 worlds. I competed in the Olympic distance at worlds. And now I am here at the mecca.
“At this point I just want to do my best and cross that finish line knowing I gave it everything I had. I will be happy with that. I don’t want to put a time out there. This place is so powerful. I just want to do the best of my ability that day.”
For those wanting to follow Salama on the Ironman website tracker, her number is 1618.
Salama will be among 2,400 age group athletes. The largest international athlete field in race history will have 66 countries, regions and territories on six continents represented.
Athletes ranging in age from 18 to 84 earned their championship opportunity by having finished among the best at one of more than 40 qualifiers around the world.
41st IRONMAN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
WHEN: Saturday, 6:35 a.m., (HST).
WHERE: Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
COURSE: 2.4-mile swim starts at Kailua Pier and finishes at Kamakahonu Bay; 112-mile bike along Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway from Kailua-Kona to the turnaround in Hawi; 26.2-mile run winds through the town before heading out to Ali’i Drive.
DEFENDING CHAMPIONS: Daniela Ryf, Switzerland and Jan Frodeno, Germany.
TOTAL PRIZE MONEY: $650,000 pro purse distributed to the Top 10 men and women finishers.
LIVE COVERAGE: Race coverage can be viewed on Ironman.com. For live tracking, real time results and instant notifications, fans can download the Ironman Tracker app on Google Play and the iTunes App Store. In addition, NBC will air an event special on Dec. 9 at 2:30 p.m.
MEN’S TOP PROS: Jan Frodeno, Germany; Sebastian Kienle, Germany; Benjamin Hoffman, U.S.; Patrick Lange, Germany; Timothy O’Donnell, U.S.; Frederik Van Lierde, Belgium; Kyle Buckingham, South Africa; Tim Don, Great Britain; Pete Jacobs, Australia.
WOMEN’S TOP PROS: Daniela Ryf, Switzerland; Sarah Crowley, Australia; Kaisa Sali, Finland; Sarah Piampiano, U.S.; Heather Jackson, U.S.; Michelle Vesterby, Denmark; Susie Cheetham, Great Britain; Anja Bernek, Germany; Michaela Herlbauer, Austria; Linsey Corbin, U.S.; Leanda Cave, Great Britain.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com