By LARRY VAUGHT
If you are a Shannon Spake fan — and it seems that most University of Kentucky basketball fans are — then you certainly will be supporting her Sunday when she competes in the Ironman 70.3 Raleigh (N.C.).
For those wondering, the 70.3 stands for a 1.2-mile swim in Jordan Lake, a 56-mile bike course that ends in downtown Raleigh and then a 13.1-mile run that even goes through North Carolina State University.
Spake grew up a competitive swimmer. She ran 26.2-mile marathons in 2005 and 2006 — a feat I still cannot quite comprehend how anyone can do. But while working as NASCAR reporter for ESPN, she heard about drivers competing in triathlons and decided to give it a try.
She’s been doing triathlons for three years and has been training for this Ironman for about six months. She’s trained in frigid weather and snow as well as rain and extreme heat. She travels regularly but never misses a workout despite a herniated disc, tendinitis and ear infections.
“I don’t feel like I am ever ready. My trainer tells me I am ready. My family says I am ready. But I just don’t know,” said Spake during an interview on WPBK (102.9 FM) Tuesday.
Once Spake thought the swimming would be easy because of her background in the sport.
“Swimming is easy in the pool with lane lines and you can grab the all after 25 yards,” Spake said. “In the lake, people are swimming over you and across you. You can’t see. It’s a different element. I am really claustrophobic and it is so scary at times in the lake.”
This will be the longest of any triathlon she has entered. Her family will be there to support and her twin sons will participate in the one-mile Ironkids Raleigh Fun Run Saturday.
“I want to be around my two young boys all I can. That’s why when my alarm goes off at 5 in the morning, I will lay there and ask myself will sleeping an extra 45 minutes make me better or will getting a workout in make me better. I have been active my whole life and want to be around a long time,” Spake said.
Now here is how Big Blue Nation can support Spake. She is raising money for the Sonoran Spine Foundation Scholarship, which awards $1,000 annually to a student at Arizona State University who has overcome spinal deformities. That hits home for Spake because she was diagnosed with Scoliosis at age 9. She basically had to give up all activities and at age 12 needed surgery.
“At the time my ‘S’ curve was 36 degrees on top and 48 degrees on the bottom. I had two rods inserted, one on each side of my spine. I had a brand new 15-inch-scar down my back, another one on my hip, and was told that I would live my life with limitations, especially when it came to sports and activities,” Spake wrote on her blog. “Well, 28 years later, the scar and rods are still there, but the limitations are not! I have competed in two marathons, a handful of triathlons, carried and birthed twin boys, and on June 5th, I will officially become an Ironman 70.3 finisher.”
Spake told us on WPBK that she hopes raising money will help others who have similar problems that she encountered to be as successful in life as she has been.
“Even if you can’t donate money, just your support would be appreciated,” Spake said. “I am not one to brag about what I am doing. I just hope to motivate others to get up and get active. I want to hear stories of those following me and what they are doing to stay active.”
If you would like to donate, go to https://www.crowdrise.com/otherraces2016/fundraiser/shannonspake-mcsorley. She had reached 90 percent of her $3,000 goal by Tuesday night, but don’t let that stop you from showing her the BBN support that she has grown to love while covering UK basketball.
Media members Jay Bilas, Krista Voda and Dan Shulman are among those who have donated.
To see her results Sunday, go to http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/events/americas/ironman-70.3/raleigh.aspx.
You can also follow Spake on Twitter at @SSpakeESPN.