Blacksburg mom transforms into triathlete
When Cortney Martin began working out in May 2008, her goal was simply to run to the next mailbox.
Fast forward to today, and you’ll find Martin’s goal has evolved into swimming, cycling and running a combined 51-and-a-half kilometers and doing so at a pace consistent with some of the world’s top triathletes.
The 45-year-old mother of two currently sits atop the overall female standings of the Virginia Triathlon Series and has earned a spot to represent the United States in the International Triathlon Union Age Group World Championships on Oct. 22 in Auckland, New Zealand.
The Olympic-distance race will include a 1,500-meter swim, 40 kilometers of cycling and a 10-kilometer run — three physical feats Martin said the woman looking back at her in the mirror in 2008 would have never imagined completing.
So far this year, Martin has already competed in Olympic-distance races on two occasions and has also raced in five sprint-distance races — generally half the distance of Olympic-distance races — scoring a top-three finish in each and taking first-place honors three times.
One of her most recent successes came in August at the USA Triathlon Nationals in Burlington, Vt., where she placed third in her age group, 45-49, in the sprint-distance race and 11th in her age group in the Olympic-distance. Her finishes qualified her for both the sprint- and Olympic-distance races in the world championship in October, though she opted to compete in only the longer of the two.
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Martin said her four-year evolution from mailbox jogger to triathlete began four years ago when she caught a glimpse of her reflection.
“I looked in the mirror and said, ‘Who is this person who is out of shape and gross,’ ” Martin said.
She said she immediately walked into The Weight Club in Blacksburg, began working out with a trainer and also began a blog, originally titled “unblobbing,” to document her efforts.
Martin quickly found herself challenged to run a 10K, which she did in August of the same year, and wound up competing in a pair of 5K races and a pair of half marathons before the year was over.
She began 2009 in similar fashion, placing seventh out of 81 females in the Blacksburg Classic 10-miler, before being sidelined by a broken fibula in April. In hindsight, however, the injury would prove to be just another step in Martin’s journey.
While recovering and still sporting a walking boot, Martin met endurance coach Jim McGehee. McGehee, who has more than 20 years of experience coaching endurance athletes, said he could immediately tell Martin had the intelligence and the motivation needed to excel as a triathlete, and he flat out told her so.
Martin, who admitted she had never ridden a bike much or really even knew how to swim, was soon talked into trying her first triathlon by McGehee — a novice sprint-distance race in Lake Norman, N.C., in August 2009.
Martin went on to prove that McGehee’s instinct about her was correct, finishing second out of the 136 females.
She was hooked.
“I began to think, ‘I could be good at this,’ ” Martin said.
A few weeks after the race, McGehee said Martin contacted him about becoming her triathlon coach, and
the two have been working together ever since.
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Today, McGehee plans each day of Martin’s training, which consists of two workouts per day, six days a week, and he receives email alerts containing data on her performance after each workout.
McGehee said he is not only responsible for pushing Martin but also for holding Martin back at times as a precaution for injuries and making sure she rests, which he said Martin sometimes finds it hard to do.
Though he knows the amount of work Martin has put in, McGehee still seems impressed at the level of success she has had in such little time.
“She’s definitely the strongest [female] masters [ages 40 and up] triathlete in Virginia,” McGehee said.
“It’s awesome to think. You don’t know what’s inside you, what you’re capable of until you try different things,” he said.
McGehee now believes Martin’s short life in the sport is actually working to her advantage in that her body is athletically far younger than her actual age and her joints haven’t taken the punishment many lifelong triathletes’ have.
He believes this is why at 45 years old, she is still progressing in the sport and getting faster, whereas most other athletes her age are going the opposite direction.
Of course, it’s not just Martin and McGehee affected by the rigorous workout routines, Martin said she always makes sure to thank her two sons, 12-year-old Spencer and 10-year-old Grant, for the sacrifices they make, as well.
Whether it’s having their mom setting up her bike trainer on the sideline of soccer practice or picking them up from cello practice covered in sweat, Martin said she knows being the child of a triathlete isn’t always easy.
However, you’d be hard pressed to find two bigger Martin fans than the two boys.
“All I can say is I’m amazed how quickly she caught on to it,” Spencer Martin said. “Every time I hear her results, I’m astonished.”
Younger brother Grant Martin agreed and said he’s always amazed at how lightly his mom takes her success.
“Pretty much the longest that I think I’ve ever run is six miles,” Grant Martin said. “The other day, she did a six-mile run and said it was nothing.”
Spencer said he has recently found that joining his mom in the weight room is a great way to catch up for the time lost when she’s out running or swimming.
While Martin hopes her new streamlined life proves to be a good example of time management for her sons, she also hopes it inspires other people to find an activity that can provide them with both exercise and enjoyment like she has.
“Healthy eating and exercise I feel like could fix a world of problems,” Martin said, adding that she hasn’t really been sick since she began working out.
She said that following the world championships, she hopes to start speaking to groups of young women about how viewing themselves as athletes can not only improve their health, but also their body image.
But that doesn’t mean Martin has any plans of slowing down anytime soon. She’s having far too much fun, she said.
“I get up every day excited for what’s on the agenda for the day,” Martin said. “I’ve really been able to enjoy it, and it will be something I’m able to do as long as my body will allow.”
For more photos, videos, or to keep up with Martin has she makes her trek to New Zealand visit her blog, The Chronicles of Cort the Sport.
The Roanoke Times | 381-1643
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