For many people seeking an athletic challenge, running a marathon represents the ultimate fitness goal. Lauren Swigart has taken it a step further.
Swigart, a 2004 graduate of La Jolla Country Day and a former Torreys cross country and track star, competes in triathlons. After finishing second in her age group for the second straight year earlier this month at the Ironman Kona World Championships, she is off to a stellar career in the sport.
"It's a huge commitment, but it's completely worth it to me, because I love the sport and the lifestyle," Swigart said. "I love being competitive, and I love the challenge."
Swigart, 24, finished second in the female 20-24 age group in the Ironman Kona on Oct. 12. She completed the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run in 10 hours, 32 minutes, 59 seconds. She crossed the finish line just nine minutes behind age-group winner Heather Jackson, a friend and frequent competitor.
While Swigart thought she might have a chance to win, she was pleased with her performance in her second race at the distance.
"I was still really happy with (finishing second), and it was fun to get to go up on the podium together," she said. "Of course it would have been great to come in first, but I still can't complain about second."
Just 16 months into her triathlon career, Swigart is already turning heads. After running track and cross country at Santa Clara University, she jumped into triathlon training even before her June 2007 graduation. By mid-summer, she had competed in a half triathlon and fared well enough to qualify for Kona, where she placed second in her debut in one of the most grueling competitive events in existence.
Swigart said she is hooked on the sport. She trains 20-25 hours a week, and because she is pursuing it with such vigor, has eschewed a 9-to-5 job for the flexibility of working at a running shoe store in the mornings and as a high school cross country coach.
She hopes to turn professional within a year or two.
The next big race on her schedule is a half Ironman race in Oceanside on April 4.
"Swimming is my weakest link, and it's something I'm working on it," Swigart said.