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Redman Triathlon: An ironwoman's medical endurance test

AMANDA STEVENS — The trial she puts her body through was nothing compared to the challenges her body presented her.
by Jenni Carlson Published: September 19, 2012

The first time Amanda Stevens witnessed an ironman triathlon, she had a realization.

Why does anybody want to do that to themselves?

Mind you, she was a triathlete herself. She competed in the U.S. Olympic trials twice and had even done some half-ironman races. But when the Oklahoma native went to watch her husband do an ironman three years ago, the distances — 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run — seemed crazy to her.

“Everybody just looks miserable,” she told husband, Randy, that day.

The couple laughs now at the story.

That's because Stevens did her first ironman a year later. Within that calendar year, she did three more. Now, she is a professional triathlete who will compete in the Ironman World Championships next month in Hawaii.

Thing is, just making it to the world championships has been a struggle for Stevens. A mystery illness wreaked havoc on her and left her searching for answers much of this past year. There were medical tests. There were doctor's visits. There were maddening moments, especially since Stevens is also a licensed medical doctor.

“It was more frustration with not having answers,” Stevens said, “and knowing that there had to be an answer.”

With hundreds of triathletes coming to Oklahoma City this weekend for the Redman Triathlon, Stevens finally has an answer and is ready to see what she can do.

The trouble started almost a year ago. While she was doing the running portion of triathlons, she'd develop stomach pain so severe that she could hardly keep going. Because she long had issues with her gastrointestinal tract, she would change things in her diet in the hopes that would help.

And for awhile, it did.

“But the crashes were getting worse and worse and worse,” she said.

Stevens gutted it out as best she could.

“I'm an athlete,” she said. “My job is to push myself.”

But during a training camp last February, her coach had a chance to see Stevens' struggles with his own eyes. He realized that something wasn't right and that she needed testing.

Stevens, who grew up in Enid and now lives in Oklahoma City, had a colonoscopy, a scope of the upper part of her gastrointestinal tract and all sorts of other procedures.

“But everything kept coming back negative,” she said.

Even as the doctors were telling her that they couldn't find anything wrong with her, Stevens got to the point where she could no longer train or race. She hoped that some time away would take care of whatever was ailing her.

Eventually, she decided to try to race again. She went to an ironman event in Florida, but her body shut down around Mile 7 of the 26.2-mile run. She managed to get herself across the finish line, but it was a struggle.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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