She was mesmerized and inspired by the strength, challenge and passion of those competing in the endurance race: a 2.4-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride followed by a 26.2-mile marathon, back to back to back. As she grew, Andriole went on to accomplish plenty of athletic feats of her own—she became captain of the Xavier volleyball team, still holds the record for most kills in a season, and she began running marathons at age 30.
But she could never escape the memory of the Ironman. It was the ultimate athletic feat. So in 2008, she grabbed her family and went to watch the Ironman event in her hometown of Louisville, Ky. Her competitive juices started flowing, and she decided that in 2009 she would be on the course competing and not on the sidelines watching. She hired a coach to help her train and began running, swimming and biking up to 25 hours a week. She made it through setbacks that included tears in her calf and knee, three bouts of strep throat and a fear of swimming in open water (the 2.4-mile swim is in the Ohio River).
In the end, it paid off. In August, she finished the 140.6-mile race in 14 hours and 19 minutes. “I believe that the human mind and spirit has no limits,” says Andriole. “I wanted to show my children that you can set a goal and achieve it, that you can do anything you set your mind to.”
There was one hurdle she almost couldn’t overcome, though. During her training, she learned her family—husband Michael and two sons, ages 2 and 7—was moving to England for Michael’s job. The movers arrived the day after the race to pack up their house. She also had help during the race to keep moving. Nearly 50 supporters were there in matching “Team Kim” T-shirts encouraging her. “I was so overwhelmed by the support,” Andriole says. “It’s kind of like giving birth. You forget about all the pain because of what you have in the end.”