Anslee Cannon, an Academy of Richmond County senior, is fresh off her 18th birthday and barely slipping into the Half Ironman field Sunday as the youngest eligible participant.
“When I figured out you had to be 18 and my birthday was just days before, I felt like ‘I have to do it now,’” she said. “I’m excited about it.”
Marci Cannon, 41, is fresh off a serious truck-on-bike accident on Labor Day, yet she is undeterred in her quest to complete the most grueling race of her life.
“I decided that I had trained so long and hard for this that I was just going to have to suck it up and do it,” she said. “Just get through the pain. If Ironman was easy, everybody would do it.”
Swimming, biking and running a combined 70.3 miles is never easy, but the Cannons are confident they can complete it after preparing with the local Team in Training. Each has competed in several sprint and Olympic length triathlons, and they have test-run each leg of the Augusta route – but never all three together or even a combination of two at a time.
“It’s definitely longer than anything I’ve ever done,” said Anslee, who swims, runs cross-country and plays soccer at Richmond Academy. “I’m sure I can finish whether I’m crawling or running.”
Said her mother: “I do feel like I’ll finish, but there’s always that one side of you that worries about something happening – the what-ifs.”
Marci knows too well about the what-ifs. While training on her bike along Sea Island Parkway during the family’s end-of-summer beach trip to Fripp Island, S.C., she was passed a little too closely by a woman in a pickup.
Just after passing, the truck took an immediate right turn directly in front of the bike, and they crashed.
“Drivers don’t realize how fast we really are going,” said Marci, whose GPS device showed that her speed went from 19.9 mph to an abrupt zero at impact.
“She felt like she could get past me and be far enough ahead of me to make her turn,” Marci said. “I saw the red lights, and it happened so fast all I could think was, ‘Oh my gosh, this is going to hurt.’ ”
Aside from road rash, Marci cracked the cartilage between her ribs and suffered some muscle separation from her rib cage when her right side hit the handlebars. She was evaluated for eight hours at Beaufort Memorial Hospital and released.
“She was more worried about her new bike and said, ‘I do not want this to deter my Ironman,’” said her husband, Glenn.
Marci’s enthusiasm for Augusta’s Half Ironman started two years ago when the family volunteered at the finish line of the event.
“I caught the bug, I guess you would say, at that time,” she said. “Last year, I did a relay swim. I committed to that relay knowing that I would want to do it all this year.”
Marci began running a few years ago on a fitness kick. Unhappy with her weight, she reached her target goal dieting and exercising.
“After I met that goal, I thought now what is going to keep me from going back to that same point,” she said. “So I ran my first half-marathon and set new goals to continue along this path of a more healthy lifestyle.”
She ran three half-marathons in 2010 before charting her course for this year’s Half Ironman.
Anslee, on the other hand, has been the typical three-sport high school athlete. She has competed in three half-marathons herself, placing second in her age group in two of them.
“She is a positive and amazing young lady who is driven,” said Kevin Scheyer, her soccer and cross-country coach at Richmond Academy.
In April, Anslee started following her mother’s lead on the triathlon training on behalf of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society they raised funds for. Team in Training’s honored hero for this event is Augusta resident Max Miller, 72 – Marci’s father, who survived Hodgkin’s lymphoma before she was born.
“I love the cause and really wanted to do an event,” the 18-year-old said.
Marci supported her daughter but wanted to make sure it was a commitment she truly desired to make on top of her other activities and being part of the International Baccalaureate program at Richmond Academy.
“All of this has got to come from within and has to be your own,” Marci said. “You can encourage but that drive has to come from inside in order to compete at this caliber.”
With their start times Sunday set more than an hour apart, mother and daughter won’t be directly competing. Still:
“There’s always a little bit of competitiveness between us,” Anslee admitted. “When we’ve done some smaller triathlons together, she usually beats me. But there’s always some part of me that wants to beat her.”