Iron Girl Catches the IRONMAN Bug

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Alex Baggett traversed a path from tennis to Iron Girl to IRONMAN. You can, too.

by Allison Pattillo

Former tennis player Alex Baggett’s discovery of triathlon started out with the search for a sport she could do on her own. It didn’t take long for her to realize that though she could swim, bike and run solo if she wanted to, the fun started when she threw her friends into the mix.

The Brazilian native, who now lives in Columbus, Georgia, came to the US on a tennis scholarship and played in the USTA league before getting injured and burning out on the sport.

"I was tired of needing a partner to work out and play tennis with, and wanted to find something I could do by myself and feel good about," says Baggett. "Triathlon sounded like a good challenge." The new sport fueled her need for competition and activity, and was something she could do on her own. What she ended up finding was a new community and healthy lifestyle.

Baggett completed her first triathlon, Iron Girl Atlanta, in 2007, and the feeling of elation after crossing the finish line was all she needed to keep coming back for more. Once her employer—insurance company Aflac—became an Iron Girl sponsor, Baggett convinced her co-workers to join in the fun. Iron Girl races led to IRONMAN 70.3’s and the group now travels the country to race. 

For Baggett, signing up is the hardest part—she sees that as the commitment. After that, it’s all about having fun with her friends, wherever their training and races take them. Next on their agenda is IRONMAN 70.3 Augusta.

Swimming in the ocean is Baggett’s favorite part of a race, and she says the scene at an IronGirl race is unique. "In an Iron Girl, if you bump in the water, people smile, apologize and say, ‘no, you go first,’" says Baggett. "In an IRONMAN 70.3, it’s much more serious and competitive."

After her first race, Baggett tapped into the local swimming, triathlon and running community. Her friends became de-facto trainers and co-workers morphed into running and cycling partners. Baggett says it’s because of this rock-solid support system that she makes it to 5 a.m. swim workouts. Baggett says running is the hardest sport for her, and has more built-in trainers in her two eager running dogs.

Baggett remembers first learning about triathlons through the IRONMAN World Championship on TV, and she is heading to Hawaii this October to experience the event in person. (Her brother lives a couple blocks from the finish line, making for easy spectating on race day.) She wants to watch the event, but, always the triathlete, she hopes to do some course recon—she’s signed up for IRONMAN 70.3 Hawaii next spring.

What she likes most about triathlon: The training and the friendships I’ve made. We focus on our sport, being healthy, supporting each other and training together.

Her least favorite part about training and racing: Getting up early is no fun. I’m not a fan of the heat either. But once you cross the finish line, it’s the most rewarding experience.

Her post-race splurge: A massage. I always schedule one for the week after a race.

Her top training and race-day tips:
  • Don’t stress over not being able to follow a scheduled training program
  • Keep moving towards your goal and try to do something every day
  • Listen to your body and rest when you need it
  • Don’t worry about how long your event is going to take you
  • Look at your race as a fun day with friends 
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