Iron Woman

Courtesy photos Joan Dean of Pinedale nears the finish line of the 70.3-mile Ironman World Championship triathlon in Nice, France.

Pinedale resident takes 5th place in Ironman 70.3 World Championship

The starting line in a race

can be the most intimidating. Athletes nervously

stare down the gauntlet that they have

to run, or bike or swim through to get to the

finish line. The unknowns and the obstacles

that lie ahead, plus the actual distance of the

event, can seem overwhelming.

Joan Dean of Pinedale found herself at the

starting line for the Ironman 70.3-mile World

Championship on a late summer morning in

Nice, France. As the sun rose over the Mediterranean

on Sept. 7, Dean knew that a punishing

triathlon loomed ahead: a 1.2-mile swim

through the sea, a 56-mile bike race high into

the Maritime Alps and a 13.1-mile run.

There are no breaks between events.

“You come out of the water, put on your

bike helmet, shades and bike shoes and take

off,” said Dean. “Then, at the end of the bike

race, you throw off the helmet and shades and

put on your running shoes and go.”

The long bicycle course, switchbacking up

thousands of feet into the mountains, seemed

the most daunting to Dean. As veteran of

triathlons and long distance races, she knew

that the key is to play mental tricks on your

mind. Instead of thinking of the 56 grueling

miles that lay ahead, Dean took her mind back

home, picturing herself cycling up to Elkhart

Park above Fremont Lake, or Teton Pass

above Wilson.

“You basically lie to yourself,” Dean said.

“You look at those switchbacks and say, ‘This

is just like riding up to Elkhart.’ You get in

the zone and try not to freak out. You tell

yourself, ‘This is just another race, another


Dean’s mental tricks, along with months of

hard-core training to get in top physical shape,

paid off. Dean won fifth place in at the world

championships. Her final time was six hours,

58 minutes and 10 seconds.

“You feel the energy of the race,” Dean

said. “Everyone is there because they want to

be there. The experience was awesome.”

The road to Nice

Dean’s interest in long distance events

came about later in her life. She started running

half marathons and worked her way up

to full marathons before trying a triathlon.

During winter months, Dean entered long

distance cross-country ski races.

Dean also participated in distance biking

events like the Greater Yellowstone Coalition’s

bike tour. The annual event takes

cyclists on a weeklong ride in the vicinity

of Yellowstone, up and down some gnarly

mountain passes.

“Distance kind of grows on you,” she said.

“It’s a time to think and solve all the world’s


Dean also took inspiration from her daughter,

Casey Adams. Adams ran triathlons in

college and completed the full 140.6-mile

Ironman triathlon twice.

Dean decided to give the 70.3-mile Ironman

a try. Ironman hosts qualifying races around

the world and provides a list of approved

coaches. Dean picked out a coach who “was

not in his 20s” from Boulder, Colo.

The two “hit it off” and buckled down to

prepare for the 70.3-mile Ironman qualifier

hosted in St. George, Utah ,on May 4.

Training took up a large part of Dean’s

life for the next eight months. She trained six

days a week with two workouts per day.

“I cut out 2.5 to five hours out of my day

for training,” Dean said. “It does become a

lifestyle, and you have to sacrifice a lot to

make the time. It takes mental and spiritual


Dean entered the qualifying race in St.

George for fun, not with any thought of actually

qualifying. But when she finished the

race, she found herself in first place for her

age division. Without planning to do so, Dean

had just qualified to compete in the Ironman

70.3 World Championship in Nice.

“I was in shock for a moment,” she said. “I

had one hour to make the decision to compete

at the championships in France.”

Dean chose to take on the challenge.

The race

At 7:35 a.m., as the morning sun lit up the

beaches around Nice, Dean and 2,200 other

women from around the globe waited at the

starting line to begin the first leg of the race,

a 1.2-mile swim in the sea. The racers started

five at a time to prevent congestion in the

water. This was Dean’s favorite leg of the


“The Mediterranean is incredible and the

sunrise was so beautiful,” she said. “The

water was not choppy. Swells pushed you

along and it felt like you were being rocked.

The water was warm – different than bodies

of water I swim in here (in Sublette County).”

As they climbed out of the sea onto the

beach, the racers put on their biking gear for

the next segment of the triathlon.

The cycling course followed the same

route used for the Tour de France. After the

first 5 or 6 miles along the beachfront promenade,

the athletes start the climb up into the

Maritime Alps that tower above the city. For

26 miles straight, the cyclists climbed 3,100

feet at an average grade of 6.6 percent, Dean


What goes up must come down. The Ironman

YouTube video calls the ride down “a

very technical descent that ... requires all attention

and vigilance.”

In other words, make sure your brakes

work well, Dean said. She shipped her bike,

like all of the rest of her equipment, by plane

before the race, and added that her trusty bike

she uses in Pinedale served her well in the

mountains of France.

The triathlon ended with a 13.1-mile run

between the city of Nice and the Mediterranean.

“It was warm, but there was a nice breeze

off the sea,” Dean said of the run.

Finally, the finish line was in sight. Fans

lined the street. Dean’s daughter, Casey

Adams, and her husband were at the end

with crowds of people cheering racers on.

Her husband Brent was there to put the medal

around her neck.

“My family and friends were so supportive,”

she said. “All through the race, I thought

about the people at home – all the swimmers

I know who need to swim the Mediterranean

and all the bikers who would like (riding) the

Alps. They were with me every step of the



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