Delaware native and popular Ironman athlete Hailey Manning is returning to her hometown in August to compete in the Ironman 70.3 Ohio triathlon.
The All World Athlete 2015 champion gained fame among other triathletes in 2013 when her recipe for “salty balls” — a nutritional race snack — went viral.
Manning said she remembers being enamored with the competition early on, even though she didn’t start competing in triathlons until after her graduation from Kent State University.
“I remember being little and watching one of the early Ironman Hawaii’s on TV and saying to my mom and sister that we could do that as a relay,” Manning said.
At just 12 years old, Manning and her sister started a tradition of completing a two-day, 200-mile bike ride on a tandem bike, further encouraging Manning’s passion for long-distance races. During her time at Rutherford B. Hayes High School, she was a competitive swimmer.
“I wasn’t the best swimmer in high school but, thankfully, when you add in the additional two sports, I am good at being last woman standing,” she said.
Manning entered her first triathlon in 2004, doing shorter-distance triathlons until 2010.
She overcame her toughest obstacle in 2005 when her then-fiance helped her quit smoking.
“Smoking cigarettes kind of negated all of the healthy things I was doing for my body,” she said. “I would say my biggest challenge was when I first started. I was becoming a better runner and trying to quit smoking. I didn’t fully quit smoking until 2005 when I met my husband, Mark, and he said it was either him or cigarettes. Not really a tough choice!”
In 2010 she completed her first Ironman in St. George, Utah. That year she qualified for the Ironman world championships in Kona and has been back every year since.
“This sport has its hooks in me,” she confessed.
Her success didn’t stop with the races though. Manning became a successful blogger, thanks to her viral recipe, and the co-founder of Coeur Sports, a company that sells women’s endurance sports clothing.
When she isn’t working, blogging or assisting with the clothing company, Manning is in training year round, with a six-week off season in October after the world championships in Kona. She does 15-20 hours of swim, bike, run and strength training every week.
“I swim with a great masters swim team at Stanford University and then train with close friends. They’re all excellent athletes, so we are really able to push each other and have a wonderful support network.”
She also stressed the importance of good eating and sleeping habits to her training.
“You get out of your body what you put into it, so I try to fuel with high-octane food most of the time. Although you can bet I’ll be at the Dairy Point after the race inhaling some blue smurf!”
She said the Delaware race is part of her build-up to Kona this October.
“Since Kona is my main focus, my training is mostly for that longer distance race, but I also want to do really well in Delaware since it is my hometown,” she said.
She attributed her victory to her supportive family and friends as well as her dedication.
“I think my success stems from the support I receive from everyone around me as well as the coaching my husband provides. My co-workers will pick up my lunch at the place they’re going if I have a lunchtime run so that I can get my run in and be back to work in a timely manner without missing a meal. That and my continued passion for the sport. These events are long and the time commitment outside of the race is large. Other things will get put on the back burner in the process.”
Manning admitted she was extremely excited for the upcoming race in Delaware.
“Living in California, we really don’t get to ride flat courses often, so I am pumped to ride along some of the roads I grew up riding and see if I can lay down a great bike. I’m also pumped for the run course as it runs right by one of my close family friend’s house, so I am hoping for a cheer squad there.”
She said she really likes the heat and humidity so she’s also looking forward to racing in Ohio.
The Ironman 70.3 Ohio triathlon starts with a 1.2-mile swim in Delaware Lake immediately followed by a 56-mile bike ride through Delaware, Marion and Morrow counties. Finally, athletes will take on a double-loop, 13.1-mile run course with rolling hills, finishing in front of Ohio Wesleyan University’s Selby Stadium.
The race begins at 7 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 21, at Delaware State Park Beach.
Morgyn Cooper is an intern for The Gazette.