Dexter Yeats is a grandmother – and now she is a world champion. The 73-year-old Hayden Lake resident won the 70-74 age group women’s title at the 2018 Ironman 70.3 World Championship Triathlon in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, on Sept. 1.
“I had the race of a lifetime,” she said.
Yeats finished the 70.3-mile race in 7:25:55; she completed the 1.2-mile swim in 50:34, the 56-mile bike ride in 3:33:34 and the 13.1-mile run in 2:48.55. Her victory earned her a spot in the 2019 70.3 Ironman World Championship event in Nice, Italy.
Yeats began her racing career on the back of a horse. A competitive equestrian rider as a child, she graduated to endurance riding – long-distance horse racing over trails – and then to the grueling sport of ride-and-tie.
“It’s two people and one horse,” she said. “One person starts out running and one riding … you cover a lot of terrain that way, sort of leapfrogging through the race. That was my first multisport event.”
Yeats competed in her first triathlon in 1983, at the age of 39. “I thought, ‘Gee, that sounds fun,’ ” she said. “I borrowed my son’s bike and sort of learned to swim.”
Her next event will be the full Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, to be held on Oct. 13. “It’s the best of the best,” said Yeats. “It’s going to be 140.6 miles of putting the pedal to the metal.”
Yeats, who qualified for the annual Kona event in Cozumel, Mexico, in January, has a score to settle. “I didn’t do well in Kona last year,” she said. “The winds get really tough out on the bike … that’s the biggest challenge for me.”
Training year-round, Yeats has largely managed to avoid disabling injuries. “I don’t know exactly how I’ve managed to avoid it,” she said. “But as long as I’m doing whatever I’m doing right, I’m going try to stick with it.”
Listening to what her body tells her is key. “When I feel I need the rest, I rest,” Yeats said. “Some people set a goal and go, no matter what – and that’s when injuries happen.”
Some injury risks have nothing to do with exertion; Yeats experienced an unexpected adrenaline rush during the swim in Nelson Mandela Bay.
“When I jumped in the water, I felt a warm current,” she said. “That’s what sharks like.”
“It was a bit of a motivation to pick it up a notch … I was relieved to get back in the cold water,” she said.
Yeats doesn’t even think about retirement. “I hope I can keep this run going,” she said. “I enjoy it; it’s fun for me.”
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