The Half IRONMAN Worlds is perhaps one of the most elite races a triathlete could dream of competing in, and only the best of the best qualify. This past August, thousands of triathletes traveled across the globe to Lahti, Finland, to swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles, and run 13.1 miles. 

Among these roughly 6,000 participants worldwide was Memphis’ very own Lacey Rush: a 38-year-old accomplished triathlete, practicing veterinarian, and mom to three children under the age of 10. 

Although Lacey was a huge triathlete before she had kids, she took a step back after giving birth. However, her husband sensed that she needed to return to her passion, so he signed her up for the Memphis in May triathlon in 2017. 

Lacey credits him with restarting her triathlete career and helping her to rediscover herself. 

Lacey qualified for Worlds when she competed in IRONMAN Chattanooga last September. She was excited to qualify, as a testament to her hard work, and because the competitive triathlon landscape makes it easy to fall into the comparison trap. 

“So many of the people I’m around at these races don’t have children and are showing up with their $15,000 bikes,” Lacey explains. “As a parent and working professional, it can be tough to look at your competition and not compare yourself to them because you just don’t have the same amount of time to dedicate to training.” 

Nevertheless, Lacey has never let her busy life keep her from competing — she just trains smarter. 

“It’s important for women to know that we can and should be able to do something we enjoy.” 

When gearing up for Worlds, Lacey knew her training had to be intentional and impactful due to her busy schedule. She worked closely with her coach, Dale Sanford, at BPC Performance to train for roughly 13-14 hours per week, sometimes swimming at 4 a.m. and biking at 9 p.m. No matter the time of day, Lacey was committed to getting her workout in. 

She made a point not to look ahead at her entire training schedule or worry about her upcoming workouts. She just focused on crushing her current session. She describes herself as highly self-motivated, and when the motivation wasn’t there, she had to keep her end goal at the top of her mind: crushing it at Worlds. 

After weeks of rigorous training, Lacey departed for Lahti on August 20, traveling nearly 5,000 miles to showcase her hard work on the Worlds stage. 

“Training for Worlds isn’t all that different from a typical race, but the atmosphere is so different once you arrive,” Lacey says. “The competition is on another level, and you want to do the craft justice when you’re out there. I mean, you can’t climb higher than Worlds.” 

Competing amongst world-renowned triathletes who are heroes to her was a surreal experience. Although she didn’t have the best race she had hoped for the day of, she was proud to be there and finish strong, especially as a female athlete. 

“I’m a huge supporter of female athletes, and as a working mom, I was just so proud even to be there,” Lacey says emphatically. “It’s important for women to know that we can and should be able to do something we can enjoy.” 

By Lucy Modzwelewski

Photo by Tindall Stephens