As you inevitably become gripped with Kona fever, you may be wondering what you can do to nab a spot at triathlon’s crown jewel. Every day leading up to the 2017 Ironman World Championship, we’re profiling age group athletes who’ve earned a ticket to the sport’s grandest stage so you can read about their journey, race plans, personality, gear—everything it took to make these athletes Kona material. Read their stories here and then get ready to cheer for them on race day.

Name: Susan Hayden
Age: 52
Location: Baton Rouge, La.
Occupation: Product Manager
Race bike: Specialized Shiv, S-Works in matte black
Bib number: 837
Sponsors/supporters: “I am supported by The Bicycle Shop in Baton Rouge and Varsity Sports Baton Rouge (running store). I have been a member of a few clubs and teams locally and afar, although I currently race unattached since I cannot choose just one. I have been blessed with many many friends through the sport of triathlon.”
How I qualified: “Through the Legacy Program. Kona will be by 14th Ironman race, 15th iron-distance race.”

On managing the balance…
“For years I was raising two children, running an engineering consulting firm, and acting as a volunteer race director for local women-only/kids triathlons while juggling training. I was very lucky as a business owner to have a flexible schedule during that time period. I did much of my training indoors to help fit it all in. Fortunately, I was able to fully retire for the build to Kona (and my kids are now adults) and training has been a great deal easier!”

On preparing for Kona’s conditions… 
“I live someplace that is chronically hotter and more humid than Kona. That makes it easy in the sense that I am fully heat adapted; however, it also makes those long runs/rides a challenge in South Louisiana.”

Average sleep per night…
“I sleep A LOT. Nine to 11 hours a night during peak training and summer heat here. The heat requires a bit more recovery on top of the training load.”

On the drive to get to Kona… 
“I didn’t give up. I had two years of just terrible races and the main thing that kept me on the course for those events was the far off dream of Kona—if I could just stay on my feet and get to the end of the marathon.”

Advice for someone who wants to race in Kona…
“My advice is different since I did not KQ outright, but Kona requires dedication, persistence, and planning no matter how you get there. Stick with just trying to become a better version of the racer you were the year before. Enjoy the process (and the journey).”

One thing to know about her… 
“I am truly grateful for what triathlon has added to my life (experiences and the people) in the last 15 years and I am incredibly blessed to able to add the Kona experience to the journey. I will be thanking all the volunteers and staff all day long. Smile and wave if you see me. :)”

How she’ll spend her time on the Big Island…
“I get in the Tuesday before the race and am staying to enjoy the island with the family the week after the race. They’ve been on this journey with me for many years. It’s gonna be festive.”

On her Kona fueling plan…
“Combination of liquid nutrition (Infinite) and solid food, with salty/savory options, plus water for the bike. Gels/coke with solid food options for the run. Nutrition is a struggle for me and I’ve had issues with blood sugar levels the last few years so I keep lots of options available out on the course and prefer frequent, small calorie intakes over gobbling down a whole bar or half a bottle at once. If the winds don’t allow for easy eating, I’ll stick with liquid nutrition for those sections.”