Abbie Ruetten: the youngest Ironwoman competes


By Karen Pegueros

After 70.3 miles, Abbie Ruetten, 12, sprints towards the finish line in Ironman race in Oceanside, excited to see her friends and family. (Photo courtesy of Abbie Ruetten)
After 70.3 miles, Abbie Ruetten, 12, sprints towards the finish line excited to see her friends and family. (Photo courtesy of Abbie Ruetten)

Among the 3000 competitors meeting at Oceanside, California on Saturday, April 1 was Abbie Ruetten, senior. The race consisted of a 1.2 mile swim in the Oceanside harbor, biking 56 miles, and running 13.1 miles, and she was the youngest person to compete in the competition.

Ruetten started off strong in the 13.1 race, but after beginning the second loop of the race, she began to slow down. With the help of her brother Nate Ruetten, she was able to persevere. In addition, Ruetten kept a positive mindset considering how far she had already gone.

“My brother Nate rode his bike around and found me. My body was starting to slow down, but he was there to remind me that there was only a mile left. When I saw the finish line, I started sprinting because I was so excited to hug my family and friends at the end,” Ruetten said. “Afterwards I realized I was on a runner’s high because I wanted to keep going.”

When Ruetten had gone to check in days before the race, the volunteers were blown away after they discovered her age. With so many people rooting for her, Ruetten knew she couldn’t let them down.

“I never felt like any part of it was impossible because I had been training myself mentally and physically for such a long time,” Ruetten said.

Ruetten started training last spring with Coach Jackie. On weekdays, the aspiring triathlete would bike, swim or run. The busy senior trained most evenings, focusing on school in the afternoon. On most weekends she would go to Lake Mead and set up as if it were a real race. First she would swim in the lake, get out and ride her bike all the way to her house, come back to Lake Mead, then finish off with a run.

“Abbie’s determination is inspirational. She set this goal for herself a year ago and never turned back. I knew in my heart she would never give up. On race day, we were all nervous and excited. It was very emotional for me to see her cross the finish line. Watching your loved one accomplish an exceptional goal is thrilling,” Mary Ruetten, mother, said.

Ruetten participated in cross country and track and field during her high school career. Through them, she learned her love for pushing herself farther and farther. After her first cross country season, Ruetten set her goal for her first triathlon, a sprint distance: half a mile swim, 12 mile bike ride, and three mile run. From then on, she continued to build up her races.

“After I learned I could achieve a distance, I wanted to push myself to longer distances,” Ruetten said.