WHEN DONNA ADAMS LINED UP TO START IRONMAN TEXAS THIS YEAR, SHE HAD A SCORE TO SETTLE. AND SETTLE IT SHE DID. DONNA TALKS ALL THINGS ATHENA RACING, DNF’S, AND WHETHER SHE FEELS SHE HAS LAID HER ‘NEMESIS’ RACE TO REST.
Story by Leah G
Tell us a bit about yourself Donna:
I am originally from Ohio and currently reside in Kemah, Texas with my partner, Dustin and our 2 boxer rescues, Stella and Kaleo. I have moved around a lot due to my career in higher education and then in meeting Dustin, who was in the US Coast Guard. I train before and after work most days of the week. I’m a parrothead at heart who really should be living on an island somewhere! (Note this is where our Aussie Editor had to Google ‘parrothead’).
How long have you been involved in triathlon and how did you get started?
When I met Dustin in New Orleans he was already competing in triathlons, so I went as his support team to a couple local races and the Oschner Ironman 70.3 New Orleans. it was that day, I decided I can do this. It doesn’t look that bad!
A short time after that in 2010, we found me a bike, I got all the gear and within 3 months, I was racing my very first triathlon at River Cities Triathlon in Bossier City, LA. It is still one of my favorite races and we go back every year.
What started as a Sprint distance; quickly became an Olympic, then a 70.3. A year later, in 2012, I was competing at the full Ironman distance.
Were you into any other sports before triathlon?
Before triathlon I was a runner and showed competitively on the American Quarter Horse Association circuit with my horse.
You recently competed in IM Texas – reports all round indicated the conditions were very trying that day – how was it for you out on course?
Living just south of Houston, I am always prepared for the weather, especially the heat. The swim was a bit weird as some point a light fog drifted over the water. I loved the bike course; it was fun and technical! It was definitely hot.
Shortly after I started the run, it started raining, and cooled it down A LOT! I thought, “This is great!” Then the lightening came and in Texas, we have some amazing lightening bolts – these were not disappointing! I was in one of the wooded pathway areas when we came to a stop.
They STOPPED the race!
I was stuck for 42 minutes in the trees, continuously trying to keep moving and warm. I was amazed at the wind damage! Because I was in a protected area, and about 20 feet from the opening, I had no clue what the conditions actually reached! It definitely cooled everyone off and for me, made for a really long remainder of the race as I never fully warmed up again and not knowing what I did, I proceeded with caution.
This was your third hit-out now at IM Texas and something tells me you had a score or two to settle. Can you tell us about your prior experiences at IM Texas?
In 2012, I had an injury from stepping off a golf cart wrong at work, so my preparation was heavy with physical Therapy and lots of pool running. With the injury pretty much healed up by race day, I was good to go.
I will never forget a guy who made the mistake of talking smack to me on the bike about how he knew he could pass me (it was a little meaner than that). Not only did I pass him, I smoked him on the bike. He caught me sometime on the run and apologized for what he said.
I ended up with a 16:32 for that IM. Not exactly what I planned for but was happy with it!
2015 was a tough one for me! I had put in the time but will be honest in saying I probably wasn’t at the fitness level needed. I was coming off a DNF at Puerto Rico 70.3 – that was a hot, hot day! Immediately after that, I decided to get a coach and called AJ Baucco. He really worked me for those months leading up to Ironman Texas.
I had my race; my swim was good for me, the bike was not my best, and I was struggling on the run. I actually said to Dustin when I saw him starting my third loop, I do not think I’m going to make it. I made a friend, Marie, and she kept pushing me. When you are out there that long, you start meeting people on the course. Everyone has their own struggles for the day. In the end, I made it to the finish line. I was excited and crying when I got there. I saw my time and went to bed, not thinking anything of it. The next morning, I saw DNF next to my name and I was absolutely devastated.
“When you are out there that long, you start meeting people on the course. Everyone has their own struggles for the day.”
I took a week or two to process it. I figured out, I did not start my Garmin at the right point at swim start. I ended up thinking I had 10 minutes that I actually didn’t have from getting stuck in the chute for the swim start. I had a couple conversations and made a vow to go back in 2016 and take care of business.
So talk us through this year.
This year has been incredible! Under the guidance of my coach, Lesley Smith, I have hit PR after PR. Going into Ironman Texas this year, I knew my fitness level was good and I was going tor5 have a good day. I was prepared and ready.
My swim was good. It could have been better but I was well hydrated and had to go, I kept pausing and couldn’t make myself go! T1 was good and I went onto the bike – this course was a blast!
I tweaked my knee at some point, probably doing a seat adjustment and I kind of tested it when I stopped at special needs. It was not too bad on the bike and I knew I would have to see how it responded on the run. I got back to T2 before the weather came in and started the run. I was content and happy, especially seeing my Moxie teammates at Moxie Bridge shortly after I started the run! There are a lot of fun parts on the course but the bridge is always my favorite!
I knew what my personal goal was for the run. I was hitting marks until we were stopped for 42 minutes due to the weather. My knee started tightening up and I knew I was in for a longer race. We got started again and I saw one of my teammates. He walked with me while I was trying to get it warmed back up. I started running but it was a slow pace and it was tight. I continued run/walking and then as the pain worsened decided to walk the remainder of the way. I did not want to injure it further.
I finished in the 14 hour mark. That was not what I wanted but it’s an Ironman and you cannot control everything that happens during your race. I rolled with everything that was thrown at me. I believe in many ways the mental game is as important as the physical game.
“I rolled with everything that was thrown at me. I believe in many ways the mental game is as important as the physical game.”
How important was it for you not to walk away from this event until you had achieved your goal?
I’m not sure I’ve still achieved what I wanted to from this course. But the DNF woke me up. I trained harder. I was more focused. I did what I needed to do to have the results I wanted. I am one that wants particular results and will not stop until I achieve them. For me this year, I think it was knowing I could have had the race I wanted.
The tenacity and determination it takes to revisit a race that has history like IM Texas has for you – has this always been part of your personality or is it something you have developed along the way in your training and competition as a triathlete?
I think I have always been that way. Part of that is definitely owed to my Mother who wouldn’t let me quit piano when I wanted to! She always said I had to see it through. The
other part I would say involves my showing horses and high school athletics. I’ve always been surrounded by good influences in my life and my coaches and horse trainer were no different.
Now I just like to see how far I can push my body, physically and mentally
So has IM Texas been laid to rest now?
Absolutely! I enjoy the full and half distance races but it’s time to travel a bit outside the local races so we can enjoy seeing a new area and meeting new people.
You and Dustin seem to have some great sponsorship support -how important do you think it is in the tri landscape to see both Athena and Clydesdale athletes getting such brand support?
We have trained really hard over the past 5+ years and fortunately that hard work has paid off by getting on an amazing team, Moxie Multisport powered by Wattie Ink. We receive support from a wide range of sponsors including Roka, Enve Composites, GQ-6, and Natures Bakery to name a few. Additionally, I have received individual support from TriTats and SBR Sports, Inc. (they make products like TriSwim, TriSlide, etc). I have always been very open in my applications that I am an Athena athlete.
There are many benefits to receiving brand support whether you are a pro/elite, age grouper or Athena/Clydesdale. It is important to see Athenas and Clydesdales athletes receiving that support, especially as the sport grows and those two fields in particular grow.
I know in some of my conversations with other athletes, that there is that fear of rejection from the application process. That sometimes happens, and it’s happened to me; however, I think it is so important to take a chance on a company you love and use! Things that have been particularly beneficial to me are a boost of self-confidence, an added support group, and motivation to always push on because I know I have their support.
What have you learned about yourself so far as an athlete and as an individual?
As an athlete, I have learned I am stronger than I ever knew. I have combated stereotypes and will speak up when I feel I need to (but sometimes silence is just as sweet). I will always find a way to get to the finish line and that to get there takes time, patience, and training!
As an individual, I have the best support system around! Dustin, our parents, families, and Moxie family are seriously the best! They always seem to pick me up when needed, motivate, and keep me looking forward to the next thing!
What races are coming up for you on the calendar?
I will be finishing out this year with Ironman Augusta 70.3 and Ironman Florida. Next year, I am registered for the Houston Marathon and the full distance at Tri Fort Worth, which will be the inaugural year.