Local athlete wins triathlon 18 months after having first child
RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - A local triathlete recently won the Ironman World Championship 18 months after having her first child.
Chelsea Sodaro began running in high school and ran professionally after college. It wasn’t until after a rough showing at the Olympic Qualifiers in 2016 that she switched over to Triathlon.
“My husband and I were watching the triathlon that was taking place in Rio for the Summer Olympics from the comfort of our couch,” said Sodaro. “He looked over at me and said, “Chelsea, I think you’d be really good at that. You should try it!””
After that, she got a bike and fell in love with the sport.
“I got totally obsessed with the idea and got a bike and fell in love with the sport and decided to join a professional squad.”
Sodaro raced in the Olympic circuit for a couple years, but made the switch to the Iron Man series, where she found some success.
“Had a breakout season in 2019 where I won a few 70.3 races,” said Sodaro. “I was fourth at the world championships.”
She felt like 2020 was going to be her year, but Covid changed her plans.
“Instead of just focusing on my training without any race opportunities that year, I decided to start my family with my husband and gave birth to my daughter Skye.”
After taking about a year off as a new mother, Sodaro was ready to return to racing.
“I was very optimistic about my return to racing post baby, but I think it’s one of those things that you can’t quite wrap your head around until you go through it yourself. Much like new parenthood, you think your life will stay the same, but in reality, everything changes.”
Upon her return, she found a lot of success, including that big win in Kona, Hawaii.
“I felt like I was finding my groove and then I won the Iron Man World Championships when I was 18 months postpartum. So I had a little one and a half year old greeting me at the finish line.”
She’s the first American woman to win that race since 1996 but getting there wasn’t without its challenges.
“I had fairly severe post-partum anxiety. You go through so many hormonal changes and my daughter struggled with a lot of feeding issues in the first couple months of her life. The combination of sleep deprivation and being really concerned about her health was a lot. And also I felt a lot of intrinsic pressure to return to my career.”
Those challenges are why she’s speaking out for more resources for new moms.
“I think that we have a six-month post-partum checkup with our gyno, or primary care physician and they give you the release that your all good and you can be on your way and that’s kind of the end of it. So, I think there needs to be more mental health check ins. I think that lactation services should be available for every woman. We have a massive childcare crisis in this country, a massive mental health crisis in this country. On a holistic level, we just need more resources.”
Sodaro says she still has postpartum depression and doesn’t expect it to go away, but she credits her family and other supporters for helping her manage it. Her advice to new moms is to take advantage of resources already available and not being afraid to ask for help.
Chelsea did receive paid leave maternity support from the athlete-owned Professional Triathletes Organisation, the first sports body to introduce such a policy.
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