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Paris mom competes in Ironman world championship in Hawaii
WORLD CLASS — Paris mom Angela Bancroft offers a wave as she competes in the 2011 Ford Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Hawaii.
VICTORY — After the race, Angela displays her Ironman medal while enjoying the Hawaiian evening with her husband, Mark, and her three sons.
PARIS — On Saturday, while most Mainers were enjoying a warm fall day, a Paris Hill mother was competing in a grueling ironman world championship across a lava-encrusted course in Hawaii.
Angela Bancroft, 41, was one of more than 1,800 racers from around the world who came together to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and finish the ordeal with a 26.2-mile marathon.
She described being inadvertently pummeled by racers in the ocean waves, blasted by hot winds while cycling, and dumping ice into her clothes to manage her body temperatures during the marathon.
The race was so difficult that nearly 100 qualifying competitors didn't even finish the course.
Among the 87 women between ages 40 and 44, Bancroft took seventh place by finishing in 10 hours and 26 minutes. First place went to Beate Goertz of Germany, who completed in nine hours, 32 minutes.
"I was thrilled with the outcome of the race," said Bancroft. "My goal was to go under 10:30, so I was very happy to get myself there. To finish in the top 10 was beyond expectations."
The time was an hour faster than Bancroft's 2009 finish.
Bancroft said that the week before the race, she came down with a bad cold that threatened to upend months of training.
"I had a very bad cough and a high fever days before the event," she said. "Nerve-racking as it was to feel so poorly right before the race, that was at the point where the hay's in the barn and all the work is done. It's basically a rest week where you're trying to get yourself to feel good. The hardcore work was completed."
On Tuesday, Bancroft said that the cough was still bothering her, but that the cold didn't hurt her performance.
"It did not get in my way that day," she said. "I felt pretty much myself."
Bancroft described the thrill of being in the ocean as the event began.
"All the best professionals in the world are with us. Hawaiians on the seawall are playing drums, and the helicopters are hovering over you. It's as cool as it gets."
Bancroft said that she began her athletic career as a swimmer, but swimming laps in a pool doesn't compare to jostling for space in the swells of the ocean with hundreds of other competitors.
"It's very much a contact sport," she said. "You've got 1,800 people who start at the same time in the water in a very small area."
Bancroft positioned herself to the far left of the crowd, but on the turnaround, she found herself surrounded by swimmers.
"The first half went pretty well; I wasn't getting kicked or punched too much," she said. "... . On the way back, I was in a really heavy group of people. I got kicked in the eye. It's still bruised."
Bancroft also had a moment of nervousness when she mistook an underwater scuba diving cameraman for a potentially dangerous sea creature.
"I just saw something big and dark beneath me," she said.
During the cycling portion, Bancroft said that one 18-mile stretch in the town of Hawi was particularly challenging.
"The headwinds are just blasting at you," she said. "It gets comical because everyone is just getting pushed back."
The running portion of the event is the most difficult, said Bancroft, if for no other reason than because the day-long exertions begin to take their toll.
"I was digging deeper than ever before," she said. "I had the glazed-over look."
At every aid station, Bancroft worked to manage her body so that she could coax more energy from her aching muscles. She would dump ice into her clothes, drink sports drinks, and pour cold water over her body on the way through.
The final 6 miles of the run, she switched over to flat Coca Cola on the course.
"It's so much sugar, and its a different form of sugar, so your body accepts it," she said.
Bancroft finished a full six hours ahead of some other competitors in her age class.
She finished the swim in 1:04:41; the bicycle portion in 5:37:15; and the run in 3:34:57.
Bancroft was also the 63rd female finisher overall.
Two days after the race, Bancroft said that she expected it would take a while for her body to recover. In addition to a few blisters and aching muscles, she said that she is nursing the bruised eye, and dealing with swollen legs.
"You cant even recognize my legs," she said.
She also has a sunburn across much of her body, with an interesting detail.
"They stamp your number on your arm, and the sunburn goes around the numbers," she said. "So I have ones and twos on my skin right now."
The pain isn't making Bancroft regret her race.
"It's all worth it. It's just a fabulous experience."
Bancroft also expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support she received, not only from her husband and children, who accompanied her to Hawaii, but also from friends back in Maine.
"So many people said that they stayed up and watched the video feed live," she said. "It was very touching to have the amazing support from home."
The 2011 Ford Ironman Triathlon World Championship took place on the Kona Coast in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, where the very first Ironman competition was held in 1978.
Bancroft qualified for the world championship event in the Ford Ironman Lake Placid this summer, when she set a time of 10 hours and 19 minutes.