Greensburg Salem grad finishes 2nd at Ironman Wisconsin event
A normal trip from Pittsburgh to Cleveland would take a little more than two hours by car or maybe three-and-a-half by bus to cover the 140 miles.
Although it might take Beth Shutt about 10 hours to do the same, her means of getting there would be a bit more rudimentary.
A graduate of Greensburg Salem High School and Penn State University, Shutt has been a triathlete since 2006 and started competing professionally in 2012. She specializes in long distance Ironman races that stretch 140.6 miles. Competitors start their day with a 2.4-mile swim, followed by 112 miles on a bicycle, and finishing with a traditional 26.2-mile marathon.
On Sept. 8, Shutt placed second in Ironman Wisconsin with a time of 9:53:42, the best race of her career. She credits her success to some of the recent blessings in her life.
Until recently, Shutt struggled to balance training with her day job as a dietician at UPMC Presbyterian and her life at home with her husband, Oscar.
“That's the thing about triathlon; it's a very time-consuming sport,” Shutt said. “I have six- and seven-hour rides with a run off the bike. It's almost like a full-time job in a sense.”
A surprise sponsorship from CID Associates, a steel building manufacturing company in Sarver, was the first blessing that came her way.
“Taking away that financial burden allowed me to work a considerable amount less,” she said, “which allowed me to focus more on being a professional triathlete — meaning I could sleep more, I could recover more, I could train more if I want to. I could take care of those small details.”
Once Shutt could afford to take time away from work, she joined QT2 systems, a triathlon training group. The attitude that she brought into her training set her up for quick improvement.
“I saw a willingness to change,” said Tim Snow, Shutt's personal coach with QT2. “She did things a certain way in the past, and when I took her on I saw different things in her and she was willing to explore.”
As Shutt pointed out, training for the races is not the fun part.
“Five weeks out from the race, you have two really big weeks that are sort of your biggest overload weeks,” Shutt said, “and that's when you're just miserable.”
For each of the two weeks she swam about 9 miles, rode another 300, and ran 50 more. Yet through all of the unexpected challenges she had her husband's support.
“When I got into the sport, it's not like I ever thought I would compete professionally or I would be traveling all over the place racing,” she said, “but (Oscar)'s been there every step of the way.”
Wisconsin was just the beginning of the triathalon season, and the next step is Ironman Arizona in November. The ultimate goal as a professional triathlete is to qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.
Only the top 35 point earners qualify each year for the female professional championship — regardless of age — a realistic possibility for Shutt, according to Snow. Points can be earned only in Ironman-sanctioned races and now go toward the world championship race Oct. 11, 2014. Shutt's finish at Wisconsin earned her 1,600 points, putting her 12th in the world in the early going.
At age 34, this year could be Shutt's only shot at Kona as a pro. But don't expect her to stop racing for good.
“I've always been the kind of person that thrives on having a goal, something to compete for,” Shutt said. “In many ways I feel like this is sort of what I've been made to do.”
Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.