Megan Steeber has a story to tell.
A story about weighing so much that her electronic scale stopped working. About losing half that weight, gaining a new life and competing in her first triathlon.
Ironman Coeur d’Alene sponsors were so impressed they awarded the 37-year-old Spokane woman a free entry into Sunday’s race. The prize is worth $700, which Steeber called a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, because I couldn’t afford this on my own.”
But if ever a gift came with strings attached, this was it. When Steeber got the news in early May, she said it left her “breathless,” but nothing compared to her workout regimen of late: 20 hours a week, including five-hour bike rides and three-hour runs.
Fortunately, Steeber already was in training. Last month in Medical Lake, she finished the equivalent of half an Ironman, or 70.3 miles. Now she’s ramping it up further for the big event with one goal: that on Sunday morning, all the training, all the work, will carry her 140.6 miles to the finish line.
Tough as that sounds, the hardest work is over for Steeber, who once weighed 345 pounds – enough that her electronic scale flashed “E” for error because it only went up to 340.
Steeber’s “aha moment” came at Bed, Bath & Beyond, where she decided that instead of buying a new scale and watching her weight rise, she’d keep the old one and watch it go down.
The first visit to Weight Watchers, in January 2011, filled her with angst, which was better than the snacks that brought her to this point. Steeber lost weight steadily and sensibly, limiting her portions and her choices.
There were limits – “I’ll never eat nonfat cheese,” she said – but she lost the weight. Now she’s at 170.
The first workout came in front of the television; she played Wii games with her children and took short walks in her neighborhood near Finch Arboretum.
Soon Steeber was off and running; a half-marathon in 2013, then a full marathon later that year. In 2014, she overcame more fears: the bike, and a lack of confidence in the water despite growing up in California.
“I knew just enough not to drown,” Steeber said.
She joined the Team Blaze triathlon club late in 2013 and made her triathlon debut last year in the Race the River sprint event in Coeur d’Alene.
Steeber has gone from fat to fit – and then some. Somehow, she has enough energy left to help raise a family and work full time at Ecova, an energy-management company.
Team Blaze running coach Ellen Schaefer knew a good story when she saw it, and persuaded Steeber to submit it to Finger Paint, a marketing agency for The Club at Rock Creek, a major Ironman sponsor.
Steeber’s reaction: “Why not,” which is her motto for every challenge.
If sponsors wanted a compelling story about a first-time Ironman participant, they certainly got one in Steeber.
Her story could get even better on Sunday morning, when Steeber jumps into Lake Coeur d’Alene for a 2.4-mile swim. After that, it’s a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run – in temperatures expected to hit triple digits.
“I’m not looking to get on the podium, I just want to finish,” said Steeber, who’ll be packing extra electrolytes on her bike to combat the heat.
Waiting at the finish line will be her husband, Tom, and children Jon, 13, and Elsie, 6. They’ve been there since the beginning of this odyssey, and Steeber admits she wouldn’t be this far without their support.
When the news broke about the heat wave and an earlier start time, Steeber’s glass was half-full, as usual.
“That just means I’ll finish earlier, which is a good thing because our 6-year-old can only stay up so late,” Steeber said.
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