Ashley Dellosa, professional educator, mom of two and dedicated triathlete, is headed to Hawaii later this week to compete in the Ironman World Championship.
The Ahwatukee woman is one of only 14 women among 726 competing on Oct. 12.
Of the 1,724 men in the Ironman Arizona, 26 qualified for the world championship – often described as the world’s most difficult one-day sporting event.
And though training is of paramount importance before any triathlon or Ironman, the stakes ratchet up exponentially as the Ironman World Championship brings more than 2,000 top athletes from around the world to test their mettle.
“It’s not easy, that’s for certain,” Dellosa said of the 140.6-mile journey along the black lava-rock on the Kona coast, which involves swimming, biking and running.
“It’s a much harder course than others, and really hot. I’m just hoping to really enjoy it, and have a smile on my face when I finish,” said Delossa, who competes in the 30-34 age group.
Triathlons were familiar which Dellosa before she married and had her two daughters.
“I’d done a few triathlons with friends in college and after college. When I signed up for the 2016 Ironman Arizona in 2015, two months after my daughter Margo was born, I couldn’t run a mile, and I didn’t even have a triathlon bike,” she recalled.
And yet, she knew she needed an outlet for grief and anxiety after her beloved mother Jackie Long passed away following an extended battle with cancer.
Though doctors have her six months to live, her mother’s strong determination and good humor kept her going for two years before she passed away in July 2016, Dellosa said.
“The whole reason I signed up for a triathlon in the first place was to cope with her illness,” recalled Delossa.
“My first half Ironman race was in September 2016, after she’d passed, and then I did a half Ironman in October 2016 where I qualified for the Half Ironman world championships in Chattanooga and then Ironman Arizona, which was in November of 2016.”
“Being a type-A personality, and busy with work and two kids and a mother fighting a battle she knew she wouldn’t win, I needed something I had control over. Some people have different outlets, but for me, working out was a good way for me to cope and help alleviate the anxiety of it all.”
Delossa has participated in three full Ironmans and seven half-Ironmans. This is her first time World Championship.
“I’ve finished top 10 in my division at all but the Ironman 70.3 world championships in 2017 in Chattanooga, Tennessee,” she said. “My best result was third overall/amateur female at Ironman Arizona in 2018 and that result earned me the opportunity to take my professional license.”
Earning a professional license allows the triathlete to run for prize money at races.
The Ironman World Championship began in 1978 as a combination of three Hawai’i endurance races – the 2.4 Waikiki Roughwater Swim, the 112 mile Around-Oahu Bike Race and the 26.2 Honolulu Marathon.
According to Ironman World Championship website, humidity hovers around 90 percent.
This is the first year the Ironman World Championship is using a new swim start protocol – a wave start that separates the field into 11 groups, with each age group entering the water every five minutes thereby eliminating the prior iconic visual of a mass start.
“I’m okay with this because it should lessen the congestion on the bike course and make it a safer course for the athletes,” she opined.
Of the three Ironman components, Dellosa finds swimming the easiest.
“I was on the swim team at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and had a full scholarship for swimming. I never was a star swimmer, but I’m good at it and now train by swimming two or three times a week,” she said. “The run is where I suffer.”
Dellosa practices her running and cycling in her home.
Her Cervelo P5 triathlon bike is perched on a Wahoo stationary trainer, and she said on weekends, the family turns on some music, husband Mike Dellosa makes breakfast for daughters Claire, 5, and Margo, 4, and as mom pedals.
“I also do a lot of my runs on the treadmill. You don’t have to worry about stop signs or cars. It’s just safer,” said Dellosa who, with her doctorate in education, teaches online university courses.
She met her husband in 2008 while both were employed in sales with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Mike is still with the Diamondbacks as senior director of ticket sales and service, but Ashley left to get her masters and then her doctorate in organizational leadership.
“Ashley is one of the hardest working yet most humble people I know,” Mike said. “She’s the rock of our family and I couldn’t be prouder of her.”
As the clock ticks down to the championship, an excited Dellosa manages to keep her calm.
“I’m still so in shock that I get to go. And I want to really respect the fact that it’s such a hard race,” she admitted. “My two goals for Kona are to be patient and happy.”
She has a secret method of helping herself to keep going.
“Most of the time in a triathlon, I’m trying not to think, but when it gets hard for me, I really draw on my Mom. Just the fact that she knew she was dying for two years, and my brother, a high school student, was still at home – it was tough. But she was a tough lady, and was so positive and hilarious,” said Dellosa. “Nothing in Iron Man is as hard as what she went through.”
The women’s course record for the World Championship in Hawaii was set last year at 8 hours, 26 minutes and 18 seconds by Daniela Ryf of Switzerland.