A 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run. These are the daunting distances that make up a full Ironman triathlon. Many superior athletes don’t even take a second look at these races because they’re simply so demanding. The training, the discipline, and the excruciating race are all just too much for most to handle. However, a new unlikely trend seems to be taking place within the Ironman. The least likely of competitors are throwing their hat in the ring and chasing that fateful moment when the announcer says, “You are an Ironman!”.
This surprising group is comprised of Biggest Loser contestants. People who entered a television reality show morbidly obese and then moved on to complete what is possibly the toughest physical feat on the planet – these elite individuals are hardly losers.
There have been five Biggest Loser contestants who have completed an Ironman, and they are Tara Costa (BL7), Hollie Self (BL4), Jay Kruger (BL5), Ali Vincent (BL5), and Matt Hoover (BL2). One theme seems to be shared among them all – finding out just how far they could push themselves drove them to take on their biggest challenge yet.
“…being on the Biggest Loser, you quickly learn that you can do so much more than what you think is possible if you just try,” said Tara Costa, a finalist in season 7.
All of the finishers say something to the effect that being on the show showed them that they were much more capable than they previously thought and once they were off the show, they needed another huge challenge to keep proving that to themselves.
“I think it’s a matter of us trying to achieve the next level. After I left the ranch, I constantly tried to find something to push myself like I was pushed while I was there. I found what I was looking for in endurance events like an Ironman,” said season 5 contestant Jay Kruger.
Ali Vincent, winner of season 5 and the first female to hold the title, explained how the Ironman replaced the experience she had while on the ranch, something many contestants miss and seek. “The Ironman is similar to being on the Biggest Loser campus. You give everything you have to a specific activity and just as you finally complete it you are asked to do an equally challenging, if not more challenging event until you run out of daylight.”
The lifestyle that the contestants get exposed to while on the ranch, seems to leave them hunting for a goal-oriented way of life once they leave. Matt Hoover, winner of season two, said the Ironman gives Biggest Losers a chance to recapture that life. A life where you can “show yourself what you are capable of…”. Hoover also told us that the competition gives former contestants a new goal to shoot for.
And when pressed to understand why they all sought the Ironman when there are plenty of other amazing challenges, but perhaps not such demanding ones, they all seemed to share the same sentiment – the Ironman is the highest test they could imagine and finishing such a feat left them all with an accomplishment nothing else could provide.
Hollie Self of season four may have said it best. “Ironman is the ultimate test – not just of your body, but of your mind. If you can conquer the Ironman, you can do anything.”
Biggest Loser Ironman Stats
Starting weight: 316
Current weight: Maintaining a 150-pound weight loss
Ironman Event: 2011 Ironman World Championship, Kona Hawaii
Results: 13:56:46 – Official Ironman
Next Event: Ironman Lake Placid on July 28, 2013
Starting Weight: 293
Ending Weight: 190
Ironman Event: 2012 Beach to Battleship Ironman Distance Tri.
Results: 13:15:40 – Not an official Ironman event, but covered the 140.6 miles (same as Ironman)
Next Event: Ironman Florida in November 2013
Starting Weight: 234
Weight Loss: 112 pounds
Ironman Event: November 2012, Cozumel, Mexico
Results: 16+ hours – Official Ironman
Next Event: 13, 13.1 races in 2013, which will be documented through her show Live Big With Ali Vincent
Starting Weight: 255
Weight Loss: 100 pounds
Ironman Event: Ironman Arizona, November 2012
Results: 16:55:26 – about 3:30 under the cut off time – Official Ironman
Next Event: Long Beach Marathon October 2013
Starting Weight: 339
Weight Loss: 157
Ironman Event: 2009 Ironman World Championship, Kona Hawaii
Results: 17:03 – Missed official Ironman status by 3 minutes. Raced Ironman Florida 2010 and earned the official title.