By Rebecca West Hensinger
As a young girl, I was never considered athletic. I was content just sitting on the sidelines watching my siblings and friends excel and rejoice. I never believed I had a place in that world. Like so many teens, I struggled with body image, eating disorders and poor self esteem. In my freshman year of college, I took and chance and joined the varsity track team with no experience or knowledge of the sport. It was my introduction to a competitive environment and I was immediately hooked!
After becoming a personal trainer and cycling instructor, I discovered the sport of triathlon. The idea of competing in three different sports consecutively during one race both excited and baffled me. What was most intriguing to me was the Ironman triathlon: a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run. Could I meet this challenge, both mentally and physically? A near drowning incident in 2014 had left me terrified of swimming. Could I face open water distance swimming again? I decided that I would make it happen. And my husband agreed to train alongside of me.
During our two year training period, we both qualified for the National Championships for short course triathlon and I ranked 4th in the state of Pennsylvania for the female 35-39 age group. We packed up our race bikes and travelled to Oregon for the World Qualifying race and a chance to be accepted to Team USA Triathlon. The qualifying race was extremely difficult, but we both landed a spot on the team! We knew that we would be up against the most talented age group athletes from around the world, and so our training loads increased and intensified.
We made the trip to Odense, Denmark in June 2018 to represent Team USA at the World Championship race and festival. It was incredible to meet athletes from around the globe of all ages and abilities. On race morning, I executed my fastest splits in all three disciplines, but placed third for Team USA and last overall. It was a humbling experience that I will never forget.
Racing on the international stage has taught me that athletic ability is not predicted or determined by past experiences, body type, gender or age. It is a person's will to embrace hard work and to never give up that brings one across that unforgettable finish line. My husband and I look forward to many, many more!
About the Author:
Rebecca West Hensinger is the reigning Mrs. Pennsylvania America 2019. She is an Ironman Triathlete and mother of three from Allentown, Pennsylvania. She has completed triathlons on four continents and was a member of Team USA triathlon 2018 alongside her husband and high school sweetheart, Brandon. She has been awarded All World Athlete Ironman status 3 years in a row and currently holds Silver status for her international top 5% age group finish times. She is currently training to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with her husband in 2020. She will compete for the title of Mrs. America in August 2019.