X marks the spot for Kadena's Ironman

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Nestor Cruz
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
The petite, blonde woman raised her hands and gave a victorious shout as she crossed the finish line for another grueling triathlon. 

The inaugural Ironman triathlon in Louisville, Ky. - "Ironman Louisville" - is a 140.6 mile race that included a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.2-mile run. 

More than 2,000 athletes from around the world participated in the triathlon. One of them was Kadena's Eberle Funches, wife of Senior Airman Neal Funches, 320th Special Tactics Squadron, and the only triathlete in Okinawa to have 10 Ironman races under her belt. 

"Most triathletes have never done an Ironman race, but instead go for the shorter races," said Cary Booth, Funches' coach and fellow Ironman. "So doing a single Ironman is really significant because of the distance and the hours needed to train for it. Doing 10 Ironman races is astronomical, a special kind of crazy." 

In the past year alone, Funches also competed in Ironman Korea in August 2006, Ironman Western Australia in December 2006, Ironman Malaysia in February and Ironman Arizona in April. 

"The Ironman triathlon is an endurance athlete's dream," said Funches. "Western Australia was my favorite race, flat and fun. In Malaysia, we raced in 115 degree temperatures and 90 percent humidity. In Arizona, it was 95 degrees and dry, but we had 40 mph head winds on the bike." 

The conditions in Louisville proved to be challenging for Kadena's Ironman. 

"Even though we had to swim upstream in the swollen Ohio River, I had a great swim time of 1:19 and I was feeling good about that," said Funches. "I got really beat up by all the hills in the Kentucky countryside, which put me behind schedule a bit. 

"The run felt like a death march," she added. "I did all I could do to just pound through it. No matter what the conditions are on race day, crossing that finish line every time makes it totally worth everything I've put into it." 

Having a personal cheering section at the finish line made Funches' victory even sweeter. 

"My dad came from Colorado to see me race, so it was exciting to have him there at the finish line," she said. 

While Funches is proud of her accomplishments, her ultimate goal is to participate in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. 

"My coach and I have a huge vision for getting me to Kona next year," she said. "I'm really putting a lot of work into making some big improvements in all areas of my training and nutrition." 

To pave the way to Kona, Funches will participate in qualifying races including Ironman Western Australia in December, Ironman New Zealand on her 40th birthday in March 2008, the inaugural Ironman China in April and Ironman Japan in June. 

"I will compete in most local events as well," she said. "Racing the long course makes it tough to stay competitive in short course events, but I get out there most weekends and give it all I have."