After two weeks of anxious waiting, Albany resident Heather Wajer’s dream came true on July 4 when she won a spot in October’s Ironman World Championship in Kona, HI.
Wajer had entered Ironman’s “Kona Inspired” contest earlier this year by submitting a 90-second video explaining how she embodies the Ironman mantra of “Anything is Possible.”
Her video, along with more than 100 others, was posted on the Ironman website to be voted on by the public.
In her video, the 39-year-old Wajer told the story of by competing in Ironman triathlons, losing 157 pounds, quitting smoking, and getting sober over the course of five years.
In June, , and that in her group of 15, only the top two vote-getters would win slots in the World Championship race.
As it approached midnight on July 3, the last day of the two-week voting period, Wajer, who was at a family gathering, said she sat alone at a computer, awaiting the outcome.
After refreshing the results page again and again, Wajer finally saw her video was one of the winners.
“Right after I saw it, I came outside to where everyone was and said, ‘Guys, we’re going to Hawaii,’” she recalled.
According to Wajer, her 7-year-old son, Griffin, who was the key inspiration behind her weight loss, was ecstatic when he heard the news.
“He started telling me how he was going to cheer for me when we get there,” she said.
Wajer said she was truly not expecting to win because her video was trailing in views by a large margin.
According to the website, Wajer’s video had slightly more than 18,000 views, which was only the seventh highest number compared to her competitors.
But while some of the top videos had more than 200,000 views, Wajer said hers was one of the top two in terms of unique votes—a number that is not publicly released.
Wajer said she was immensely appreciative of the support and encouragement from neighbors, friends and the Albany community, which she credits as the reason for her victory.
“The support I got from people—not just the votes, from members in the community—was great,” she said.
According to the official rules of the contest, the prize package Wajer won is valued at more than $2,000, and includes several perks:
- Entry into the 2012 Ironman World Championship race
- A Race Week VIP Package for the winner and two guests, which includes VIP seating at the Welcome Banquet, Aloha Reception, VIP Race Day Viewing, and VIP Awards Banquet
- A $100 gift card for the Ironman online store
- A possible appearance in the television broadcast of the race
Wajer said she has a tough three months of training planned to be ready for race day, especially after having been set back due to a recent injury.
In April, while biking in the Tierra Bella Century in Gilroy, Wajer crashed going about 30 mph downhill, she said.
The accident left her with a broken collarbone and a fourth degree shoulder separation, which required two surgeries to fix. Only recently has Wajer been able to resume her normal training.
“I’m going to be putting in a lot of extra work because I have to cram it into a smaller amount of time,” she said.
The World Championship—which like all other Ironman triathlons includes a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a marathon-length run—will be Wajer’s third full-length Ironman, though she has run three half-Ironman races and seven shorter triathlons.
Her family has already made plans to be in Hawaii to support her during the race, and she said she is thrilled to have the opportunity to show how far she’s come since her days of weighing more than 300 pounds.
“If it ended with me uploading my video, inspiring some people, and nothing more, that would have been great,” Wajer said. “But to also win and have this journey come full circle—it’s just amazing.”
To check out the video that won this Albany triathlete a spot in the 2012 Ironman World Championship, click here.
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