Athlete of the Month, February 2009 - Donna Hickey

Triathlete going through transition of an Ironman
February 1, 2017

Mike Ricci



After years of email exchanges with D3, Donna finally hopped on board in 2008 and has seen solid improvement in her triathlon racing. Even though Donna lives part of the year in FL and KY, we had a chance to meet her last year as she came to Boulder for a few months to train. Her 2009 racing is off to a hot start and we've selected her as the D3 Athlete of the Month!

Can you tell us a little bit about your sports background? Which sports did you do as a kid and as you got older? 

I played basketball in middle & high school. I was decent enough as a freshman to get to play varsity ball, but I was in no way a star. I liked playing defense because I thought it was fun running up & down the court throwing your hands all over the place like a crazy person! I ran the 1 & 2 mile distance in track while in high school as well. I hated doing 440 repeats then & I still don't like speed work. I played a lot of church league volleyball, walleyball, and took aerobic classes for several years, but didn't run again until my early thirties. I bought my first road bike when I was 28 and started riding bikes with my local club in the evenings for something to do. Four years after I started riding bikes, one of my riding friends asked me if I wanted to run the Chicago Marathon that October. I asked her if she was nuts since I hadn't run since high school. She told me that she knew someone who had followed an 18 week program & was able to do the marathon easily. I was up for the challenge, so we signed up, followed the program & I did my first marathon in Chicago in 2000. I was addicted I did 20 marathons in the next 4 years.

What was your motivation to get started in triathlon?

Peer pressure! I was running a lot of miles doing all those marathons and I was riding my bike a lot. I was doing century rides with friends on the weekends I wasn't doing marathons. Several of my friends started doing triathlons, but I didn't know how to swim, so I thought that sport was out for me. In 2003, about 7 of my riding buddies were doing IM Wisconsin. I couldn't stand it I wanted to go so bad! I picked up a wetsuit at a marathon exposition & decided I would teach myself to swim so maybe someday, I could do a tri. I would go to the lake & practice "swimming." I couldn't put my face in the water & I just couldn't figure out why I was so exhausted when I thought I was in such good shape.

When and where was your first race?

My first race was the ironman distance at the Deercreek Pineman in Mt. Sterling, Ohio in September, 2003. One of the guys that went to Wisconsin had a terrible race & he was so upset after training all year for it, he decided he wanted to try again, 2 weeks later! He managed to talk me into going to this event even though I still didn't know how to swim. He said there was no way I could drown with a wetsuit on. The swim was 4 loops in a lake & after the first loop of the swim, fog settled on the lake & no one could see the buoys, not even the kayakers. So they called off the swim! I was so excited. I finished the bike & then ran for the 1st time off the bike. I had so much fun at that race that I decided to sign up for IM Florida for 2004 & decided to take swim lessons. I finally learned to swim in May 2004.

I know your better half is involved in your training as well tell us how that works and how you keep each other motivated:

I met my husband, Larry, when I started training for my first marathon. He was in my training group & was running his first marathon too. He also loved biking and we started spending a lot of time training together. We had one other thing in common besides running & biking: neither one of us could swim & we both wanted to do a tri. We spent a lot of frustrating hours in the pool together learning to swim. We have had some great times training together and traveling to events. When we first got into this, we scheduled vacations around events to keep us motivated to work hard. We have been all over the country & have had some great trips. He does some of the events with me & provides support for the rest. He's my greatest fan!

Have you done any races that you’d traveled for?

I have to travel to almost all the races I do, because there are very few races that are close to home. I've not been overseas to any races, but I have been to lots of different events within the U.S. and Canada. My favorite recent travel trip was to IM CDA. We took a motor home & spent a couple of weeks traveling to the event in Idaho & then spent a couple of weeks getting home. I biked & ran in some really beautiful places along the way.

What is your favorite race and why? 

If I had to pick a favorite race, it would be Memphis In May or St. Anthony's in St. Petersburg. Both races are at the beginning of the tri season, bring in some really good competition, and are a good gauge of your fitness at the start of the year. St. Anthony's is a beautiful venue. Memphis in May is staged in a park north of Memphis, TN and allows camping right across from the transition area. We always enjoy a camping weekend with our tri friends.

What are your long term goals in triathlon?

I would love to qualify for Hawaii. Other than that, I make my goals on a yearly basis. My husband would like to see me get this IM thing out of my system so we can go on some of those exotic trips we've been putting off because of my training.

If you could spend a day training with anyone, who would it be?

Coach Mike Ricci, of course. Is there anyone else? 

What's in your race future?

I can see myself turning my attention to short distance racing in the future, but I'm not sure. I might even try an endurance run some day. I love the training and the discipline that comes with the sport more than the racing itself. Racing makes me sooo nervous! So, as long as I've got a schedule on my computer, I'll be happy doing whatever.

Coach Mike Ricci is the Founder and Head Coach for D3 Multisport.  His coaching style is ‘process-focused’ vs. ‘results-focused.’ When working with an athlete, their understanding of how and why they are improving is always going to take precedence over any race result. Yes, there is an end goal, but in over 2 decades of coaching, experience has shown him that if you do the right work, and for the right reasons, the results will follow.

Coach Mike is a USAT Level III Elite Certified Coach, Ironman University Certified Coach, and Training Peaks Level II Certified Coach. He was honored as the USAT Coach of the Year.

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