For 26 year-old Alyssa Clay, there are no roadblocks merely speedbumps.

If you ask us, the coolest thing about triathlon is that hours after the first-place finisher breaks the tape, winners are still crossing the line. Though much fanfare surrounds the jaw-dropping speed and unfathomable strength found in the professional fields, the age-groupers are the ones who quietly inspire. Need proof? Each of our cover finalist athletes exemplify the heart and soul of our sport: Everyday people doing extraordinary things. Meet our contest winner here, and then meet one of the other inspirational finalists below. 

Alyssa Clay

Chapel Hill, NC

For 26 year-old Alyssa Clay, there are no roadblocks merely speedbumps.

“While a high school swimmer, Aly underwent a major heart surgery that went poorly. Doctors were afraid that she would be paralyzed,” explains her husband, Brandon. “Thankfully, she is not, but this setback did not stop her from doing everything she could to get back in the pool. More recently, as she was training for her first half Ironman, she fractured her elbow on a training ride. Six months later, she completed her goal of racing 70.3.”

Late last year, doctors discovered a brain aneurysm and underwent emergency brain surgery. Even in her recovery, she continued to stay active every day and attend classes toward her graduate degree in nutrition.

Still, Clay insists her story isn’t all that inspiring. “While some people may find it crazy what I have been able to accomplish despite all my health issues, it’s normal life for me, and I sometimes forget all the things I have gone through. Plus, I feel like there are so many people out there with stories that are much more inspiring than mine.”

For Clay, triathlon is simply a part of her daily life, and has been since joining the triathlon team at Brigham Young University in 2014. It’s because of triathlon that she’s able to take on challenges with such unflappable optimism.

“Triathlon allows me to push and stretch myself beyond what I think I can do. As a triathlete, I feel like I have gained greater confidence in myself and my abilities. When I look back at what I have accomplished as a triathlete, it does give me that boost of confidence I need as I take on tasks unrelated to triathlon.”

On May 3, Clay achieved another goal: graduating with her Masters degree in nutrition. Up next: Ironman. “I want to compete in at least one full Ironman. Then I want to continue on in triathlon for as long as my health will permit.”

Meet more of our cover finalists