Today we are fortunate to chat with Team SFQ’er, ironwoman and grandma of 5, Sherri Guba. Sherri has a fascinating personal story and history with the sport of triathlon and we loved hearing about it!
Sherri, you are one of the fittest grandmas we know! We are still mind-blown that you are a grandma of 5! Can you talk about your journey into triathlon & ironman and how being a mom and grandma factors into that?
12 years ago I met an amazing woman, Kelly, who had Cystic Fibrosis. At that time Kelly wanted nothing more in life than to be able to be healthy enough to participate in a local 5K. She told me that she so badly just wanted to be an athlete for one day. In December Kelly approached about 10 friends, myself included, to train for this race with her that was to take place in early April. At that time in my life running was not even in my vocabulary. I was raising 2 teenage boys and my life was consumed as a “Football Mom” and getting ready to send my oldest son off to college. So when I figured out that a 5K meant 3.1 miles I knew I needed to put on some running shoes and attempt to run. I will never forget that first time that I ran outside, I made it ½ mile and I thought that my legs were going to fall off. As April rolled around I was ready to support Kelly in her endeavor of finishing this 5K. The morning of the race we all gathered with Kelly and she was beaming as she was cleared by her doctor to walk this 5K. She knew this was her one chance to be an athlete for a day. Kelly told us that she did not want us to walk with her as she wanted us to also have our own athlete of the day experience. That was all it took. I ran the race and was hooked. I crossed that finish line in 30:58 and it felt great. From there on, there was no looking back. Kelly finished her 5K that day in smiles with tears streaming down her face. That day I understood what passion for racing meant. That same year I ran a few other 5K’s and ran my first ½ marathon in November.
Spring of the following year one of my coworkers stated talking to me about triathlons. He had completed a few Full Ironman races and knew I had a new found love of running. So after about an hour later of drawing out an entire triathlon diagram on a dry ease board he had convinced me to sign up for a few sprint triathlons races. My first sprint triathlon race was a hoot. I had a swimsuit, my husbands old 10 speed bike, and a pair of running shoes. Race day came and again I was hooked. After this race I plunged back into running. I lost 35 pounds and ran the Chicago marathon. I had set a goal for myself of 4:20 and actually completed the marathon in 4:20:38. After the marathon was over I got to thinking about my sprint triathlon races. I knew that it was time to upgrade to better equipment if I was going to participate in anymore races. So I invested in a new bike, helmet and shoes. I signed up with our local US Masters Swimming and joined a gym. I remember working hard that winter to get into the best shape I could for spring as I wanted to jump into a few triathlon Sprint and Olympic races and try my luck at long course racing - The Half Ironman . Spring came and my coworker knew I got a new bike so he invited me to join him and a few of his friends for a training ride on a Saturday. I have to admit I was intimidated at first as these were triathletes who were great bikers and I was no where as good as them. But they took me under their wing and made me stronger. For months I chased and chased them down on weekend training rides. Before long I was riding with them rather than chasing them down. That year I qualified for USAT Age Group Nationals in Omaha Nebraska and jumped into Half Ironman races.
It was in the fall of 2015 when I approached my husband with the words, I want to be an Ironman. My husband, my boys, and my family were in full support of my 2016 goals of my journey to Louisville, KY. What an adventure it was. I crossed that red carpet in Louisville with a smile on my face in 2016. I continued on to the red carpet in IM Wisconsin in 2018 with my husband, Jodi Campbell Gilmour and Deanna Doohaluk cheering me on at the finish line. That was electrifying! Each year that I have competed in an Ironman race I wrote the names of my grandbabies on my arm with a marker so when I hit those mentally hard spots during the race and can look down and imagine their smiling faces to help lift me up. To date have completed 2 Full Ironman and 17 Half Ironman races and look forward to more racing in the future. My two oldest granddaughters 8 and 6 years old have already started taking an interest in running at the track at their school. My heart smiles.
In early 2020, you took drastic steps to convert your household to a plant-based lifestyle. What inspired this change; how did you go about it, and how it has affected you and your family?
We had been doing a lot of reading about the Meatless Athlete. We were really intrigued by the amount of athletes that choose to fuel with plants and that they still increased speed, had better recoveries from workouts and just overall improved health and energy levels. One evening my husband and I sat down and watched the show, Game Changer. After hearing all of the benefits from this lifestyle change and the scientific proof of how plant based eating can improve your overall health we decided to jump in feet first. In January of 2020 we donated over 90 percent of the food in our house and decided to make the lifestyle change to plant based. I have to admit the first time we went to the grocery store it took us about 3 hours to grocery shop. We had our note pad full of things we thought we needed, things not to buy and things we must get no matter what. I am sure that we made a few people a little aggravated as I think we read every label on everything that we put into our cart. Granted after the first few times it went much faster. Thank goodness because who wants to spend that long in the store!
Early in the spring when the pandemic just started to hit hard and lockdowns started we decided that it would be important to section off an area of our back yard into a garden. Granted we had never had a garden before so this was completely new to us. We constructed five raised large garden beds, three made from wood and two made from galvanized steel kits from amazon. Then we ordered a large load of black soil to be delivered and then went to work. We got a lot of insight from a local organic farmer who helped up along with way with how to start a garden from seeds and small plants. We then purchased some seeds and small plants and put them under grow lights in our basement until they were ready to plant. We were very blessed by how everything turned out. We planted herbs, tomatoes, pickles, cucumbers, onions, eggplant, romaine lettuce, green peppers, kohlrabi, beets, carrots and cabbage. We were able to harvest enough vegetables for the summer and to freeze some for the winter as well as share with fellow neighbors.
Going plant based has not only made a positive impact on our health but has also made a positive impact on our time spent together in the kitchen. Granted we are empty nesters but now we spend a lot of time together making fresh meals and having fun doing it. Experimenting with different recipes and enjoying how good fresh food taste is truly rewarding. And the best part, since my husband went on this plant based journey with me he no longer snores!!! YAY for plant based!
You have the most adorable, tight-knit crew within the SMASH sisterhood and have dubbed yourselves "The Mermaid Squad." Can you talk about this friendship, how it came to be, and what it means to you?
September of 2017 Jodi Campbell Gilmour mentioned on SFQ team page that she and her mom was doing a race at Potato State Creek park. Since that race was being held really close to where I live I reached out to her and told her I would come cheer her on. The night before the race we had dinner with Jodi and her mom. It was just after that that Jodi then introduced me to teammates Kristen Orr Winstead and Deanna Doohaluk. We all came together for Jodi’s 50th birthday celebration in Chicago and we have all been friends ever since. These ladies are not just my friends, they are not just my Smash sisters, these ladies are like family to me. We literally talk everyday to each other. We are there for each other in good and bad, we are there to support each other and lift each other up, we celebrate birthdays, races and holidays together, in other words, we are family. Our friendship will be one that will last a lifetime. I know that when we are all in our 80’s we will still be talking to each other on a daily basis discussing our days of racing and how we wore the best kits on the course, SMASH.
Speaking of the Mermaid Squad, you did still manage to get in a race with them and a few other TeamSFQ'ers in 2020! Can you tell us about that?
It is amazing how things work out. 2020 was full of disappointments when it came to racing. It seemed like race after race just kept getting postponed into 2021 or cancelled. Our Mermaid Squad had planned since 2019 to all come together and race as a team at Washington Island for the Ultra Relay for the 36 hour triathlon. As time drew closer to July 2020 our eyes were completely glued on the Race website as we knew we all wanted to race together. Finally we got the “Ok to race” from the race director and local island authorities and I truly think you heard each one of us scream in joy from North Carolina, Indiana and Illinois. How was it possible that our race in Wisconsin was actually going to take place? Well we did not question it we just rolled with it! Not to mention we also had Heidi and her support team, Taryn and Mary that were also coming from Arizona and California!
Our Mermaid Squad race was amazing! We broke out into 3 x 3 hour non - stop time slots over the course of the 36 hours and we just gave it our all while having a great time! We got in as many swim, bike and run miles that we could over the 36 hour time frame. While we were on the course racing our own race we had the opportunity to cheer on and support Heidi as she rode for 36 hours straight. Smash represented with heart and true class on Washington Island over that 36 hours. We all showed that anything is possible when you put your mind to it.
Being able to race with my Mermaid Squad (Jodi, Deanna and Kristin) is just amazing and I am honored to call them my Smash Sisters. But I will also admit, when I got to meet the dynamic Trio this summer, Heidi, Taryn and Mary I did feel like that of young kid who was completely in awe of meeting Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman!!
I hear your THIRD ironman finish line awaits in 2021...Where should we be looking for you on the red carpet and what are your goals for this race and beyond?
I am really excited for 2021. This year in September I plan on attending my 3rd Ironman Red carpet in Chattanooga, TN. My goal provided that mother nature and the heat plays nice in Chattanooga I would like to break into that 12 hour mark. I have heard that there will be other Smash Sisters down in Chattanooga in September and I am looking forward to meeting and racing with you! This year along with my Full Ironman and Half Ironman’s I plan on adventuring into some trail run races. Eventually I would like to break into some Ultra trail runs. I plan on returning this year to Washington Island and will be doing the 12 hour solo triathlon hoping to complete the full Ironman distance while there.
My over all goal is just to stay as healthy as possible, and to continue smiling why loving what I do, racing. As I have said before, 50 is the new 30!
We can’t wait to cheer Sherri on to her next ironman finish line and beyond!