Dominion’s Very Own Ironman!

PE Teacher Alissa Kauffman qualified and competed at the 70.3 Ironman World Championships in St. George, Utah.

Hitting roadblocks from heart surgeries to a worldwide pandemic, physical education teacher Alissa Kauffman continued to train and became a 70.3 Ironman World Champion, completing a grueling 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, and a half marathon.

Racing alongside approximately 4,500 of the best athletes from around the world, Kauffman competed in St. George, Utah from September 15-18. Finishing with a time of 6 hours, 19 minutes, and 5 seconds, Kauffman placed 138th in her division.

Reaching the finish line, Mrs. Kauffman proudly runs to the end as her husband, spotted behind, eagerly photographs. (Courtesy Alissa Kauffman)

“Honestly, I was [training] for roughly two years, but solid for the past eight months. [Since we were home all of last year] I trained any second I had. I’d be doing three-hour bike rides or three-hour workouts on Mondays, and then [during the week], usually I’d just have an hour to an hour and a half workout. Also, I would train a lot during the weekends,” Kauffman said. 

Intending to have her first Ironman race in 2020, Kauffman’s plans were abruptly changed by Covid-19. Due to her race continuously getting pushed back, Kauffman took the additional time to train and become better. Finally, Kauffman got to run her first Half-Ironman on July 10th with a qualifying time of 5:48:47, which advanced her to the World Championship. 

Facing setbacks several times in her journey of training, including two heart surgeries, Kauffman was ready to be able to race again. “I have something called atrial tachycardia, I was born with it, and I basically first noticed it since my senior year of high school. I would randomly just get super bad heart palpitations to the point where I would have to stop whatever I was doing. I had a procedure called a cardiac ablation, but a few weeks later I had another episode, so they had to do the procedure again, and I haven’t had an episode since,” Kauffman said. 

“I had to stop and restart training multiple times. But listen, if it was easy, everyone would do it,” Kauffman said.

With some hard work and determination, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. Don’t let fear or self-doubt hold you back from doing something that seems at the time, impossible.”

— Alissa Kauffman

Kauffman’s husband Mitch also qualified for the World Championships. “Alissa had been in steady training [as I have trained as well,] working to complete her very first half Ironman at 70.3 Musselman in Geneva NY. Having done three 70.3 distance races before, I knew how hard they were and I will admit, [I was] a bit nervous for her. Turns out I had absolutely nothing to be nervous about. She absolutely crushed her race and on her very first attempt, snagged a slot to Worlds,” Mitch Kauffman said. 

“The race started in increments, so he started before me in the race, and then I started around 9:20,” Mrs. Kauffman said. 

“About 4 miles into my run I saw her bike past me going in the opposite direction with a big smile on her face. That made me feel so much better. I dug in and finished the race strong and anxiously waited for her to cross the line. An hour later she came flying down the road with a smile on her face and ran up the ramp hands raised, officially finishing the hardest race of her life! I can’t explain how incredibly proud I was watching her cross that finish line. Getting to share that experience is something I will cherish for the rest of my life,” Mitch Kauffmansaid. 

It takes a lot to complete a race like this and smile, but that is exactly what Kauffman is doing as she runs up the incline portion of the race. (Courtesy Alissa Kauffman)

Initially worried about the weather being too hot during the race, Kauffman’s worries quickly changed. “The weather was horrendous. It was literally terrifying. Like you’re going 30 miles an hour on a bike and it’s pouring rain, like torrential downpour to the point of it’s like hurting your skin. My [bike] shoes had like an inch of water in them, but I was just focused on not crashing, not getting blown off the road off [my] bike because the wind was so insane. The wind also picked up, and, you know, obviously, we’re in a desert, so it just sideswiped all of us. It was painful,” Kauffman said. 

Fellow physical education teacher Patricia Malan was admired by the work that Kauffman has put in to qualify for the World Championships. “It was a great thing for her to commit to. A great, healthy thing. I think what I loved about it, was that she was so committed to it no matter what. It’s inspiring,” Malan said. 

Mitch Kauffman added, “Watching her transform her way of thinking and self-confidence has been incredibly inspiring to me. She started her triathlon journey wondering if she could complete a sprint distance race but nonetheless signed up for it, trained for it, and finished it.”

With an attitude that nothing is too hard to try, Kauffman said, “With some hard work and determination, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. Don’t let fear or self-doubt hold you back from doing something that seems at the time, impossible.  I clearly remember speaking the words, ‘I will never do a Half Ironman. There is no way I could do that.’  I have now completed two.  You would be surprised what the body is capable of.  Don’t sell yourself short.  Go sign up for things that seem impossible because let me tell you, there is no better feeling than making it across that finish line.”