In the dead of the night in the hot Hawaiian rain, hundreds of fans, athletes, and loved ones of racers packed the sidelines and bleachers of the Ironman Kona finish line, eagerly awaiting the very last runner to come through, clapping thunder stick noisemakers together to the beat of pulsing pop songs well past 12 a.m. Roars of cheering and applause broke out as Peggy was spotted in the distance, charging along toward the tropical foliage that adorned the great arch at the finish. We stood on the sidelines with the Clif Bar team (who hosted us in Hawaii as their guests), gripping the guard rails with excitement; our voices went hoarse screaming "PEEEEGGYYYY" while she made those final steps toward her victory lei.
Seventy-five-year-old Peggy McDowell-Cramer from Santa Monica, CA, was the oldest female triathlete competing in the Ironman Kona World Championships this past weekend and the last woman to cross the finish line — in our eyes, she won the night.
Peggy was the only woman in the 75- to 79-year-old bracket; she swam for one hour 28 minutes, biked for eight hours and 30 minutes, and ran a marathon in six hours and 59 minutes. Her 17 hours of determination and strenuous physical activity got her to the finish line but unfortunately did not yield a race result as she was mere minutes past the 17-hour cutoff.
Can you imagine 17 straight hours of extremely difficult physical activity at 75? The average Ironman finish time for a professional female triathlete is 10 hours and 21 minutes, meaning she was out there over six and a half hours longer than the pros, totally slugging it out, staying focused and positive all the way.
For context, the winner, 29-year-old Daniela Ryf (professional athlete) broke the Kona course record in eight hours and 46 minutes, running about seven-minute miles for 26.2 miles, after already completing a 112-mile bike ride and 2.4-mile ocean swim. Melodie Cronenberg (amateur athlete) in the 65 to 69 bracket was the last to receive a finish time, at 16:48:42.
Peggy's no stranger to the Ironman, though. She completed her first Ironman at the age of 57 and has done about 25 total (and has been a champion!), from what we've gathered. "I think I train about the same as other IRONMAN athletes, just slower," she told Ironman.
Although Peggy was the oldest competitor, she's not alone in senior citizens competing; 58 competitors in Kona's 2016 event were women over the age of 60 — a sizable number, especially given the size of the overall event (just under 2,500). Talk about inspiring!