A lot Americans ring in the new year with a list of resolutions, but a lot fewer actually keep them.

On Oct. 15, Acworth resident Donna McCaslin realized her 2017 resolution when she crossed the finish line at the Ironman triathlon in Louisville, Kentucky.

“For the last year-and-a-half, I had been doing triathlons and I had just started doing half-Ironmans, and I was just ready to push myself to the next level,” McCaslin said.

The full Ironman consists of a 2.5-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26-mile run. Participants have 17 hours to complete the race. McCaslin finished with a time of 15:08:18.

McCaslin trained for eight months prior to the race, logging about 20 hours of training per week. A full-time FedEx driver, she would get home from work at midnight, wake up eight hours later to train, and then head off to her night shift.

“Honestly, it gave me more energy to do what I need to do for my job,” McCaslin said of her rigorous training schedule.

She said she feels better now than she did when she was in her 30s, a feat she credits to her active lifestyle. Next year, McCaslin turns 60.

“A lot of the people that you see doing this competition are actually more mature people,” she said.

Known as the Iron Nun, Sister Madonna Buder, now 87, is the oldest person ever to finish the Ironman.

“A lot of these people in their 70s and 80s are faster than people in their 20s and 30s,” McCaslin said.

In 2010, McCaslin had a tumor removed that turned out to be benign, and the experience put her on the path to the triathlon.

“I was just like, ‘Look, I’ve been given another chance; I need to do something with it,’” she said.

She started exercising to shed excess weight. A year later, in the wake of a difficult divorce and the death of her mother, she began running.

“It was like therapy to me,” she said.

Ironman veterans had warned McCaslin that she would hit a wall at some point during the event. It came around mile 20 of the last leg of the race. She made it through by breaking the remainder of the race into bite-sized bits, telling herself she only had six miles to go. Then five, then four, and so on.

“Just like what we do in life,” McCaslin said.

McCaslin choked up when recalling what it felt like to cross the finish line, saying it was “like nothing I’ve ever experienced.” The level of commitment and dedication it takes to achieve something of this magnitude and the feeling of pushing through to accomplish it are impossible to put into words, she said.

“I can’t wait to do it again,” said McCaslin, who plans to participate every other year from here on out.

She hopes that by sharing her journey, she can inspire others to prioritize their own health and wellbeing.

“When you feel good about yourself, you just exude this positive energy,” she said.


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