Elizabeth Bianchi, 56, of West Chesterfield, New Hampshire takes a break after a training ride.
Courtesy photo
Elizabeth Bianchi, 56, of West Chesterfield, New Hampshire takes a break after a training ride.

Testing her mettle

Local distance runner and triathlete Elizabeth Bianchi goes the distance at the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii

Triathlons are not for the faint of heart, and the Ironman - a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride, followed by a 26.2 mile run - is strictly for the fittest of the fit.

Elizabeth "EBiz" Bianchi of West Chesterfield, New Hampshire, went to Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, to compete in the 2023 Ironman World Championship on Oct. 14. While she was nowhere near the winning podium - just completing this event in one piece is a huge accomplishment.

The women's winner, Lucy Charles-Barclay, 30, of Great Britain, set a course record, finishing in 8 hours, 24 minutes, and 31 seconds to win the event. It was her first Ironman world title after finishing second in four of the previous five editions, and she led wire-to-wire in all three events.

The top U.S. finisher, Taylor Knibb, came in fourth in 8:35:56. Knibb, who won a silver medal in the Olympic triathlon, was trying to become the first U.S. Olympic medalist to win an Ironman world title.

Bianchi, competing in the women's 55–59 age group, finished 97th in her division, 1,390th overall, in 13:25:41. She did the swim in 1:34:53, the bike in 6:37:18, and the 26.2 mile marathon in 4:47:31.

She's not a newbie to events such as these. The 56-year-old Bianchi has run in marathons and ultra running relays and has done several triathlons over the years. But competing in the Ironman World Championship put her in elite company.

To be one of the more than 2,000 women from around the world to qualify for the World Championship, you have to complete an Ironman event in the same calendar year. Bianchi said she did her Ironman qualifier in July in Lake Placid, New York.

"In that Ironman, they take a certain amount of slots for the championship in each age group," she told me in an email interview. "I was able to get the last slot for my age. You have to be there and decide [at] that moment. If you are not, it 'drops down' to the next person. There were 10 slots for my age group and I was 12th in line."

But it takes a lot to train for an event that tests the outer limits of human endurance, and Bianchi said she had plenty of help from the people she referred to as "Team EBiz" in getting to Hawaii.

"My partner Jody was so supportive in all areas and I could not have done any of this without her," said Bianchi. "She would go to all my events, help me with the swimming, and also be supportive of all of my long training days and mood shifts. I often would leave early on Saturday morning and bike 100 miles and then go for a run. I would be gone many hours on the weekend and during the week."

Bianchi said her sister-in-law, niece, and brother-in-law "attended and supported all of my events," and "my running group - Max, Nicole, Jody, and Lois - and others were always up for helping me practice my long runs and when I had to practice 'running slow.' They loved that workout."

The Colonial Hotel's swim facility in Brattleboro was her training base for the aquatic portion of the event and Bianchi said "my swimming group at the Colonial - Todd and Jody (Team Jet), along with the regulars - Pam, Ed, and The Tribe (Lee, Anne, and Susan)" offered lots of support and encouragement.

Bianchi said she also had a group of bike riders and coach Joe Cerniglia "who would meet early in [the] morning and go for some very long bike rides through Killington and Ascutney."

She also had a big cheering section from Kindle Farm School in Newfane, where she works as the clinical supervisor. "My co-workers and students were so supportive of my training and were very great about giving me the time off and pretending to be so impressed by my 'Bad Ass Adventures.'"

Bianchi is quick to point out, however, that "I don't think of myself as a bad ass, but others do!"

The training and support in Vermont that helped get Bianchi to Hawaii is something that she deeply appreciates, since she needed every bit of it to complete the event.

Doing the Ironman in Hawaii means "you are swimming in a sometimes rough ocean, biking with intense winds in a lava field - I saw someone tip over with the wind - and running a marathon" with temperatures in the 80s and 90s. "There are cut offs for each event, and you have to complete it by midnight in under 17 hours."

But once she got to Kona, Bianchi said the focus "was all about completing it and taking everything in. I never looked at my watch to see how I was doing. It was all about the adventure, survival, and finishing. The event was even more epic and thrilling because it was the first-ever all-women's world championship."

Will she do it again? "When I did my first full Ironman, I thought it was one and done," Bianchi said. "But there is something about the challenge of such a long distance that was so appealing. I have now done seven full Ironman events. Whenever I do one, I am not sure I will finish it. It is such a challenge. I would love to do another."

Brattleboro Turkey Trot is Nov. 23

• The Red Clover Rovers' tradition of what the running club calls "celebrating moving in the fresh air and joining together as an active community" on Thanksgiving morning, continues Nov. 23 with the annual Brattleboro Turkey Trot.

This 3-mile race (with a 1-mile kids' race beforehand) has been run annually since 1977 as what the Rovers call their "gift to Brattleboro-area runners."

The race starts and ends near the Brattleboro Country Club on Upper Dummerston Road. The event is 100% volunteer-run and donation-funded, so there is no race-day registration. As usual, there's no entry fee, but you must register to get a bib and be timed. Participants are asked to register by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 22 at redcloverrovers.com/turkeytrot.shtml.

Once again, the Rovers are asking participants to consider making a donation. After expenses, proceeds will go to Groundworks Collaborative and the Vermont Foodbank.

Check-in and bib number pickup is Thanksgiving morning from 8 to 8:45 a.m. Participants are asked to be on time to check in, as they sometimes have more than 300 participants, so give yourself a few extra minutes to navigate the busy Country Club parking lot.

Don't forget to dress appropriately; it can get pretty cold on a late-November morning in Vermont. Strollers are welcome; no dogs please. The road will be open, so runners/walkers need to keep to the left and be aware of traffic. If there are questions, contact race director Jennifer Smith at [email protected].

Senior bowling roundup

• Week 10 of the fall/winter season of the Brattleboro Senior Bowling League at Brattleboro Bowl on Nov. 9 saw another reshuffling of the standings. Four Seasons (32-18) went 4-1 to take over first place while High Rollers (30-20) went 5-0 to move into second place. Stepping Stones (29-21) had another 0-5 week to fall into third place, followed by No Splits, Four Pins, Skippers, and Hairiers (all 28-22), Dumblebor (25-25), and PEWJ (15-35).

Diane Cooke had the women's high handicap game (283), while Pam Greenblott had the high handicap series (682). Robert Rigby had the men's high handicap game (267) and Milt Sherman had the high handicap series (670). PEWJ had the high team handicap game (905) and series (2,604).

Rigby had the men's high scratch series (623) with games of 267 and 204, while Sherman had a 583 series with games of 212 and 195 and Duane Schillemat had a 546 series with a 214 game. Wayne Randall had a 515 series and Gary Montgomery had a 504 series, while Stan Kolpa and Skip Shine each rolled a 196 game.

Greenblott had the women's high scratch series (498), while Cooke had the high scratch game (197). Greenblott had games of 189 and 183, Carol Gloski had a 176 game, and Shirley Aiken rolled a 170.

Randolph T. Holhut , deputy editor of this newspaper, has written this column since 2010 and has covered sports in Windham County since the 1980s. Readers can send him sports information at [email protected].

This Sports column by Randolph T. Holhut was written for The Commons.

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