“Have fun and get the damn thing done” – Triathlon

“], “filter”: { “nextExceptions”: “img, blockquote, div”, “nextContainsExceptions”: “img, blockquote”} }”>

To access all of our training, gear and race coverage, as well as exclusive training plans, FinisherPix photos, event discounts and the GPS app, >”,”name”:”in-content-cta”,”type”:”link “} }”>Sign up for Outside+.

At 52, Melody Cronenberg started gaining weight. She was confused because she had been active and healthy. She started walking more for weight management, then ran after the challenge into a corporate 5K job.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity to see what I could do,” Cronenberg said. “I’m number one among my peers. You know what that does to you? It gets you very excited.”

Shortly thereafter, she signed up for another running event combined with a triathlon event in Henderson, Nevada. That was the day she was introduced to the movement she now lives and breathes.

“I ran over to watch them before my game and it was like a bolt of lightning hit me,” Cronenberg said. “I thought ‘I have to do this, this is for me!'”

She didn’t have a bike at the time and hadn’t swum in years, but she was lucky to be paired with the local coach she met at the triathlon that morning. In 2002, at the age of 54, she started her triathlon journey.

Cronenberg was strategic with her introduction to this challenging sport. Under the guidance of the coach, she starts with sprint races. Once she felt she had mastered the distance, she moved up to the Olympic distance.

“You have to respect the distance, respect the people who are playing and put a lot of effort into them,” she said.

Soon after, the 57-year-old was on the starting line for her first triathlon in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. That day was an experience she will never forget. “It’s just so exciting,” she said. “I’m happy and I feel like I’m doing the right thing for myself.”

She has now completed 27 triathlons, including seven trips to the Big Island for the Ironman World Championships in Kona. Next up: At the Ironman World Championships in St. George, Utah, she was the oldest female competitor in the competition, and her goal was to “have fun and do the damn thing.”

(Photo: Courtesy of Melodie Cronenberg)

Triathlon isn’t just a sport that Cronenberg has been playing for the past two decades. Since she became a coach in 2017, this has been at the heart of her day.

“A major turning point in my life was when the company I worked for downsized and eliminated my position,” admits Cronenberg. “I went to ‘Yeah,’ and now I can coach full-time and do what I want.”

Now, in her hometown of Henderson, she does it all. She teaches young children how to swim, instructs strength training classes, conducts spin classes, and works with triathletes through her coaching business, T3 Triathlon.

“I love watching people succeed,” she said. “I’m a good accounting manager, but I don’t like it. The joy of triathlon is what we share as coaches. It’s really where we’re happy.”

At the heart of Cronenberg’s coaching philosophy are two principles. “I always tell my athletes that the first rule is safety, and the other first rule is that it has to be fun,” she said. “When any of those are confused, you have to step back.”

As a competitive athlete, Cronenberg is able to practice what she preaches, which she believes contributes to her longevity in the sport as she ages. “I didn’t get hurt too much,” she said. “My training is very smart and consistent with my body and coaching others to reaffirm that I am doing it right. I have a lot of knowledge to pass on from my own positive experiences.”

(Photo: Courtesy of Melodie Cronenberg)

While Cronenberg’s triathlon career has been seamless for the most part, a serious crash at Ironman Maryland in 2019 sidelined her. On a wet day with a drizzle, she reached for her water bottle, which slipped out of her hands and hit her front wheel. She was hospitalized that day with a fractured femur and a displaced hip.

Even in describing the traumatic event, Cronenberg reflects on it with deep gratitude.

“I must say that the care I received from Ironman management, emergency services and medical staff exceeded the wildest expectations,” she admitted. “I’m alone, away from home, across the continent – and there’s nothing I can do!”

Paramedics took her to a hospital specializing in orthopaedic surgery, and her surgeon, a swimmer and cyclist herself, had her done before her friend had her Ironman bike legs. With special care, she was able to go home after five days.

“I was on crutches and it was painful but relieved and very grateful,” she said. “It could be worse.”

At home, she immediately began recovery through treatment with her close friend and a physical therapist. It’s been a long, slow comeback with other challenges along the way.

“I’ve been fully recovered for over a year,” she said. “I’m 73 years old now and slower, no doubt, but still moving forward with purpose and grateful for that. So many people have helped me. I’m so lucky.”

Going forward, Cronenberg hopes to continue competing, but she recognizes the natural evolution that her training and competition approach will require.

“As you get older, you have to adjust your goals,” Cronenberg said. “I have to train smarter than ever.”

Cronenberg has no plans to slow down, though, as her love for coaching, racing and the sport itself burns. For her, happiness is the most important discipline.

Can’t get enough Ironman World Championship coverage? Bookmark this page to get the latest news and insider info from St. George.

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: