Radio jock is jock of a different sort, too


Shelley Irwin’s training includes a mix of swimming, biking and running six days a week. Courtesy Shelley Irwin

Six years ago, Shelley Irwin developed plantar fasciitis in her foot.

The avid runner and host of “The WGVU Morning Show” knew she needed to train differently. Her answer was cross training.

Now Irwin is headed to Motala, Sweden, on June 22 as part of Team USA to compete in the International Triathlon Union World Championships, based on her performance in her age group at last year’s Long Course Triathlon National Championship in Grand Rapids.

“I always wanted to do a triathlon, but I’ve never been a huge swimmer,” Irwin said. “It wasn’t good to overdo running on my foot, so cross training was the answer to healing.”

After she started cross training, she participated in “mini-triathlons” offered by the YMCA that take participants through 15 minutes of swimming, 15 minutes of biking and 15 minutes of running.

When Grand Rapids held its first triathlon five years ago, Irwin decided that, since she likes to be a part of startups, it was a no-brainer to participate.

“I didn’t drown after that one,” she said. “This is the fifth year and I’ve done all five.”

The event in Sweden, however, is a different story. On June 27, she’ll embark on a 2.5-mile swim in open lake water that is likely to be less than 62 degrees, followed by a 74-mile bike ride and an 18.5-mile run.

Irwin said she wouldn’t be surprised if she takes up to 10 hours to complete the course — all without headphones, which are not allowed at the event.

She jokingly said she’s a bit scared, but she’s been preparing since January and has already done two triathlons this year.

Irwin trains six days a week, doing a mix of swimming, biking and running. She focuses a little heavier on the swimming since she’s never been coached in water. Plus, she said, she’s already run four or five half-marathons this year.

“The days off are tough — I feel like I need to be doing something,” she said.

The days she takes off are flexible to accommodate her busy schedule. She goes to work early in the morning and generally likes to work out around 3 p.m. The afternoon workout time can be tough when she has an evening event to attend.

“Sometimes I show up with wet hair,” she said.

The weekends are a time for events and longer training periods, such as a recent weekend when she jammed in an open-water swim, 19-mile bike ride and a “quick” run in one day.

“I wish I was a 5 a.m. workout person, but work is my priority,” she said. “My workout is my reward for a hard day of work.”

Irwin is sponsored by Priority Health, which has helped cover some of her costs. For the most part though, Irwin will finance her own way to Sweden, covering everything from the $200 Team USA uniform to the plane tickets and the $500 registration fee.

She said she went with the entire package and will stay with Team USA at a Best Western. Irwin said they’ve assured her she’ll be taken care of once she arrives, as the team provides mechanics, a doctor and manager.

“It’s a big investment, but it’s an opportunity and I’m calling it a vacation,” she said. “I’m not going there for time; I just want to finish. I’m sure Team USA wants us to win, but I need to go into it with, ‘I’m going to finish.’

“God forbid that doesn’t happen, but I’ll be OK.”

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