Several weeks later, she tried again to race in Kansas. This time, her body shut down around Mile 9.
All the while, she continued to undergo medical testing. Her doctors eventually decided to test for food allergies. Did she have a severe intolerance for some things? Were there foods in her diet that might be causing problems?
The results of those tests finally came back and showed that she had sensitivities to about 50 foods. Several were mild sensitivities, including egg yolks, while some were severe intolerances, including mango and raw spinach.
“I probably had a spinach salad five nights a week,” Stevens said.
Those intolerances were building up and causing serious problems when Stevens pushed herself on race day. She completely cut any food for which she had any level of intolerance from her diet. She had always been mindful of what she ate — she avoided the inner aisles at the supermarket where the processed foods are, bought nothing that had a shelf life of more than a week and ate products with no more than 10 ingredients — but even some of her healthy choices were problematic for her body.
Stevens started seeing improvement with her new diet, racing three times in Europe earlier this summer and getting better in each event.
She now has her sights set on the world championships, where winning will likely take a time of a little under nine hours.
Even though this year has been difficult, Stevens never wavered in her desire to continue racing. She loves the challenge, pushing the limits, seeing what she can achieve. She fought for the chance to keep swimming and biking and running and driving her body to extremes.
“You go through frustration,” she admitted. “But there's such a strong desire in me to succeed and go out and achieve my goals, there was never a doubt.”
The woman who couldn't understand why anybody would want to do ironman triathlons now can't imagine her life without them.
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