D’Arcy Honeycutt was a runner on the track team in high school and really enjoyed it. She did not have the speed to compete in college, but worked with a coach from University of Houston and some women from the community who were doing AAU competitions. “I started doing longer distances and when I got to med school someone bet me I couldn’t do a marathon,” she said. “It was $100 bet and I needed the money. I did nine marathons while in med school, and qualified for Boston.”
Honeycutt, a plastic surgeon in Bismarck, was introduced to triathlons when one of her friends, Bunny, became engaged to a guy named Mark Allen, who is a legend in the triathlon community. “I went and watched a triathlon and did not see the appeal. Mark and Bunny eventually broke up and Mark went on to win six IRONMAN Championships in Hawaii. I said to myself, I really need to do the IRONMAN in Hawaii, so I wrote it down on my bucket list. When I turned 50, I took out that list and decided either this stuff stays on the list or I start doing it. Plus, my mom got brain cancer and was dying. So you sort of assess, how far have I come, where am I going.”
She thought she would do a couple triathlons and easily qualify. According to the IRONMAN website, athletes qualify by earning a slot at one of the qualifying events held worldwide, by being selected in the IRONMAN Lottery or by winning a slot through the IRONMAN charitable eBay Auction. It took her seven years and Honeycutt finally got in by lottery. She has been volunteering in the medical tent for about five years, and as a thank you, volunteers get to put their names in the lottery. They announce the winner(s) at a conference and next year she will give a brief presentation (at the conference) on her experience.
Not surprisingly, Honeycutt describes the triathlete lifestyle as very healthy. “I think it takes some pressure off your joints, you are not running all of the time, having that biking and swimming to exercise your heart.”
Being that healthy probably helped her ‘bounce’ back from a diagnosis of Lynch Syndrome four years ago. “This was something I’d heard about in med school, but it was obscure,” she said. “I promptly had two major cancer operations in two years. I looked forward to returning to ironman training as soon as I could, and this helped keep me upbeat and positive.”
She said sometimes people travel together, there’s a lot of camaraderie, and a big feeling of accomplishment. “As you get older you ‘age up’, get into a different age group, and people celebrate that because they might have a chance to beat the older people in that age group,” she explained. “Where else do you celebrate getting older? You can also see the world. In December of last year I did the Laguna Phuket Triathlon in Thailand.”
Training is very time consuming, and Honeycutt talked about some of the aspects: “We have a lot of good, talented athletes in our town. There is a very loose ‘group’ that trains together and learns from each other. We may travel to a competition and Bismarck-Mandan will be very well represented on the medal stand. There is a lot to learn. You practice, there are camps, you can ask your more experienced friend to advise you, you can get a coach, a bunch of friends may work together on transition, there are videos and pointers online. I have done all of it. It’s like the game of golf, you never master it. The perfect triathlon is always out of reach, you have to come back next time and do better.
But I am aware of the toll training takes. When does it stop being a passion and start being an obsession? There is a lot of stuff that doesn’t get done or put off – books that don’t get read, friendships that get shelved, it can be a very selfish lifestyle. After I got into IRONMAN Hawaii my husband did ask me, ‘Are you going to be done with this now?’”
Unfortunately he will not be at the finish line to greet her, as he passed away unexpectedly this summer. She is dedicating the race to Tom. “He was very supportive,” she said. “He knew how hard I worked.”
Right now Honeycutt’s coach has her at her peak training – about 20 hours a week right now, in addition to her regular job. “I am working online with Mark Allen and being coached by his partner, Luis Vargas,” she explained. “He coaches multiple people. I let him know how I am feeling (after workouts) and he lays out a plan for me. The thing about being your own coach, I would push myself harder than I should and not rest. Then you burn out, you get injured and you can’t do anything.”
The IRONMAN World Championship takes place in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii October 12th. Honeycutt’s family will be joining her for the competition. She will travel there two weeks early to adapt to the climate and get in some training. Inspired Woman will follow up after the race and bring you a brief summary of her race experience.
Good Luck D’Arcy!