On October, 13th, at around 4 PM island time, Angela Naeth crossed the line eighth at the 2018 Ironman World Championships. In arguably the biggest race of her career, and surely the most competitive, Naeth had a smile that seemed to stretch from Vancouver Island to Cape Breton in the post-race celebrations.
There were more than a few reasons to celebrate after her Kona performance. Naeth had the top professional placing from Canada, she had proven herself against the world’s best on the biggest stage, and fought valiantly all year to get to this point.
In November 2017, Naeth began to experience unusual sensations. “After 70.3 Bahrain, my quads were unbelievably sore. It didn’t make sense,” says Naeth. Following an early season training camp, the pain and fatigue were unbearable. “My hips and torso hurt so much. The pain was excruciating. On two occasions if felt as though I had broken my hip.”
Then in April 2018, things got worse. “After one of my early season races, I couldn’t walk. In the airport I needed assistance to move around the area,” says Naeth. This was what tipped off the Canadian and her coach (also boyfriend) to get the issue figured out. Was it a virus? Her blood work was fine. Was it muscular? She’s one of the top elite triathletes in Canada – unlikely. Was it mental? Maybe, but how do you explain the fatigue. These were just a few of the questions Naeth asked.
It wasn’t until a friend, who is a practicing doctor, asked if she had been tested for Lyme Disease.
A DNA test revealed that Naeth did carry Lyme and two bacterial infections that attack the neuromuscular system. “From then on it was a steady dose of antibiotics and medications to boost my immune system,” says Naeth. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. “There was no standard protocol. The doctor had his protocol of dosage and check-ups, but in terms of training it was day-by-day, workout to workout.”
In her first race back, she finished sixth at Ironman Boulder. Then she did three other Ironmans (Bolton, Maastricht and Kalmer), finishing third in all three. “Obviously, getting to Kona was a goal, but to then get the news I had qualified was amazing,” says Naeth. It was those three podium placings that got Naeth to Kona this year.
At the race, Naeth felt an overwhelming sense of peace. “Usually, I’m pretty anxious before the start. But, what this disease has taught me is that I can’t control the outcomes, it’s really just living life moment to moment,” says Naeth. Throughout the race, Naeth repeated a mantra her boyfriend shared with her: “Be strong.” Naeth proved to be strong and delivered a big performance.
Following the result, Naeth will enjoy some much-needed rest after five Ironmans this season. But don’t expect her to be on the beach for long, “I feel alive right now. I have been turning a corner in my health and want to use the fitness I’ve been developing.” Naeth will be racing Ironman 70.3 Los Cabos later this fall, as well as another Ironman with the intention to qualify for Kona in 2019.