Heather Szuch Bellian didn't envision herself as a distance runner.
Ask her 18-year-old self, the one who graduated from Warren G. Harding in 1988.
She competed in track and field and was a cheerleader at WGH prior to leaving for the University of Toledo, where she didn't continue her athletic career.
Special to Tribune Chronicle
Heather Szuch Bellian completed the July 12 Ironman in Muncie, Ind. The Warren G. Harding graduate, who now lives in Maumee, outside of Toledo, completed her first bike, swim and running event in an Ironman event.
Bellian was a utility player of sorts for the Raiders, even running the 2-mile race. She eventually harnessed her distance mentality back in 1999.
"Back when I was in high school, I wished I loved running as much as I do now," Bellian said. "I wish I had my 18-year-old body and drive that I have now combination."
Bellian, at 5-foot-7, has become a distance runner of sorts.
She's run five marathons and more half-marathons and other smaller races than she cares to count.
Then, she ran a pair of Olympic-style triathlons, but a July 12 Ironman in Muncie, Ind., changed the way she approaches distance running.
"My husband (Dave) and I are both runners," said Heather, who lives in Maumee, a suburb of Toledo. "As we were getting older, running was becoming harder on our bodies. We were looking for other ways to stay fit. I always like to stay fit. I was not necessarily a strong swimmer, but I wanted to learn the technique - some of the ways I want to swim stronger.
"It seems to be easier on our bodies, not that anything is really easier on your body when you're doing something that distance, just to mix things up and use our arms and legs in different ways than just running."
It was Dave who signed up Heather for the Ironman in Muncie. She couldn't be happier.
It was the start of a year-long process, training for this 70-mile endurance test.
"He's the one who signed me up for the Ironman," Heather said. "I have several friends who've done them and I know the commitment and amount of training that goes behind it. I didn't want to do it without having his blessing. It will take him keeping an extra eye on our son. It means getting up a 5 in the morning, eating strange foods and being gone for three hours on my bike. That was my Christmas present from him, when he registered me and bought me that shirt and a cowbell. I guess that was his vote of confidence. He said it was OK for me to do this."
Cowbell? Was this a cowbell similiar to the one Will Ferrell proudly played in a Saturday Night Live parody of the band Blue Oyster Cult?
It was, and her family hit it loud and proud during the race - her parents Dianna and Don Szuch and sister Holly Szuch Sandy, along with Dave and her 5-year-old son Drew.
"They brought it to the race this summer," Heather said. "I needed more cowbell."
She needed every bit of endurance as she went for a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and a 13-mile run on rolling country roads.
Ironically, Heather liked the two wheels beneath her instead of relying on the two legs on her 5-foot-7 frame to carry her, even though the 13.1-mile half marathon was very familiar to her.
She swam in 44:07, rode in 3:00:03 and ran in 2:25.00.
"You know what's kind of funny, I'm the strongest on the bike," Heather said. "I have pretty strong legs. I'm not built like a runner. I love being on the bike because I can finally catch the other runner people I can't catch on foot. I can catch them on the bike.
"I'd absolutely be on my bike. Swimming was the thing I had to work the hardest at because it didn't come naturally to me."
She received lessons from a Maumee-area instructor from the YMCA to prepare for the Ironman, but she struggled with running.
"It makes no sense, but build-wise and the way I'm made up, I probably have stronger arms and legs," Heather said. "I'm not necessarily a stick figure, like most runners typically are."
But that doesn't stop Heather from going out for a run, even with her son, Drew. They ran the recent Big Ten 10K July 26 in Chicago. The two came across the line at 48:51 in the 5K portion.
"We're going to run and walk. I'm pacing him," Heather said prior to the 5K. "He has the ability to run a quarter mile faster than I can. However, if we want to cover 3 miles, we'll have to slow it down a little bit.
"It'll be fun though."