top of page
  • Patti Sponsler

Soaring at Eagleman!

Some of Brevard's Ironman Eagleman 70.3 finishers celebrate post-race. From left to right: Christy Tagye, Cyndi Bergs, Betsy Larson, Theresa Miller and Kristen Faust. Photo courtesy Christy Tagye.

Several 321 athletes made their way to historic Cambridge, MD late last week to compete in Ironman Eagleman 70.3 on Sunday, June 9.

The event – rated third best overall race by Ironman Athletes Choice Awards – offers a 1.2 mile swim in the Choptank River ("chop" often being the operative word), a 56-mile bike through the scenic Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and a two-time out-and-back 13.1-mile run along the river and residential streets.


Eagleman also offers slots for the top and rolldown athletes to compete in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships to be held in Taupo, New Zealand this December and Marbella, Spain in 2025.


Race deets here!

With her emotions visibly spilling over as she crossed the finish line, Palm Bay’s Betsy Larson fulfilled her dream of finishing an Ironman 70.3. She'll get another chance in Dec. as her race at Eagleman earned her a rolldown spot to the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Taupo, New Zealand in Dec. 2024. Photo courtesy Christy Tagye.

First Time is Charm


With her emotions visibly spilling over as she crossed the finish line, Palm Bay’s Betsy Larson fulfilled a dream that first captured her heart five years ago.


“I have finally finished my first half ironman,” said the owner of the popular local cookie company B3 Treats Baked by Betsy.


Her first attempt in late 2019 was thwarted by a bad case of flu that knocked her out just 12 hours before her race.


As Covid then shut the world down and life, in general, sped past her dream drifted off.


It returned, however, as she began recovering from a serious shoulder injury sustained skiing on Colorado’s slopes during the 2023 Christmas holidays.


“I realized I had to make some serious changes,” she said. “I didn’t want to just wait around wasting life. I know that nothing changes if nothing changes.”


Injured, Larson signed up for IM Eagleman 70.3 on January 9, exactly five months prior to race day.


While still healing, she began taking short walks interspersed with jogging.  At three weeks post-injury, she was able to run a full five miles with runner buds Kurt Holst and Doug Nichols.


“We were running down the Eau Gallie causeway,” said Larson, a Boston marathon veteran. “I made a little ‘whoa’ sound and they were so concerned about me. They were afraid I was going to fall.”


Although she could peddle her Peloton indoors, it wasn’t until March that her doctors cleared her to ride outside and swim.  Training began in earnest as Larson hired triathlon coach and two-time Kona finisher, Theresa Miller, to help her prepare.


“I had no base going in,” she said. “Theresa helped me build near the end to weekly mileage 20 miles of running, 6,000-yards of swimming and 80-110 miles on the bike. If I missed a long Sunday run after a long Sat. brick, she encouraged me that it was ok to listen to my body and rest.”


Miller also prescribed several pre-Eagleman races to prepare her physically and mentally for the specifics of racing triathlon.


“I did a sprint in March and after finishing the 5K run, I wondered how I was ever going to run a half,” Larson laughed. “Racing St. Anthony’s (Olympic distance) was a godsend. It was such a large race with so much energy and so many people plus the swim was really rough. It was good to get a handle on those experiences and both really helped at Eagleman.”


Larson did a second “dress rehearsal” Olympic distance race in Saint Augustine in mid-May, winning the 55-59 age group by more than 41 minutes and setting a huge PR for the .9 mile-swim, 24.9-mile bike, and 10K (6.2-miles) run.


I had focused on transitions and nutrition,” she said. “It was a real confidence boost.”


“After that I really wanted to race – I hadn’t felt that way for a long time,” she said. “It was good to feel that way mentally.”


Larson was fully prepared for Eagleman and had taken her lessons to heart.


“I had no panic in the water and surprised myself on the bike – it was very peaceful, beautiful and surreal,” she said. “On the last part of the run I walked through the aid stations taking a gulp of water and a gulp of Gatorade. I didn’t want to but I knew I needed it and could feel my body kicking in from it. Still, I don’t want to see Gatorade for a month.”


Larson crossed the line triumphantly in six hours, twelve minutes and 39 seconds, finishing 13th out of 48 women in the 55-59 age group.

She was the first to admit she couldn’t have done it without the support of her coach, her training partner, Kristen Faust, multiple friends cheering her on and her loving and loveable husband, Scott.


And after overcoming all the challenges to both body and mind, Larson was surprised and thrilled to accept a rolldown spot to the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Taupo, New Zealand in December where she will join Rockledge’s Suzie Enlow who had also previously qualified.


“This has been an overwhelming chapter in my life, she said. “A new spark has been ignited and it feels good. I used to smoke three packs of cigarettes a day and now I’m going to a World Championship!”


Difficult Yet Wise Choices


Cocoa's Kristen Faust, left, celebrates her first Ironman 70.3 finish post-race with her coach, Theresa Miller. Miller coached both Larson and Faust and the two often trained together. Photo: Christy Tagye.

Theresa Miller, who coached both Larson and Cocoa’s Kristen Faust to strong first time 70.3 finishes, also toed the Cambridge swim start. But practicing what she preaches, Miller knew she would drop out after the bike.


Nursing serious and chronic plantar fasciitis since last November, the grandmother of five has been patient with medical treatment allowing the foot to heal while continuing to do everything else that is required to have a shot at a third Kona spot at IM Chattanooga in Sept.


“I would love to go back to Kona but have to win the age group, so it’s a big ask,” said the savvy age group champ of multiple full and 70.3 IM races.


Her Eagleman swim and run proved that her continued and consistent strength work, high-volume cycling, swimming, walking, water running and strict attention to sleep and nutrition is keeping her on track.


As she came off the bike, Miller had a four-minute lead on the rest of the 65-69 age group women and posted the fastest bike split of the day in that division.


“I was pretty happy with a non-wetsuit, choppy swim and very happy with a very windy bike ride through Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge,” she said.

She then walked off the course with a DNF.

It is one thing to have the discipline and focus to keep your eye on the Big Prize - in this case another Kona spot - while healing from an injury for as long as Miller has. And it takes a certain self-knowledge and control to leave the race with such a comanding lead. It is a combination of all of this and more that will, hopefully, return her to the big island and another All'i drive, lei-clad finish line.


Cyndi Bergs and Christy Tagye share a pre-race sunrise selfie. The pair competed as the Pretty Little Passions relay team. Photo: Christy Tagye.

Relay Play

While Miller was on the course, Productive Passions podcast host and motivational mentor,, Christy Tagye, was enjoying being near her friend on the swim and bike. Tagye was part of a two-person relay team, Pretty Little Passions, with Merritt Island’s Cyndi Bergs. (You can listen to Productive Passions on Spotify, Apple, Pod Bean and other podcast platforms.)


“It was really cool seeing each other for most of the race,” said Tagye who often rides with Miller. “I saw her on most of the swim and after 10 or 15-minutes on the bike, we could see each other (on the bike) We so enjoyed that!


When it comes right down to it, friendship and fun are often two of the best parts of racing.


HUGE congrats to all of our local Ironman Eagleman finishers including Jim Elmer, 65-69, Cape Canaveral, 6:45:11; Victor Espitia, 70-74, Melbourne, 6:48:43; Kristen Faust, 55-59, Cocoa, 6:28:51; Betsy Larson, 55-59, Palm Bay, Rolldown New Zealand Worlds Championship slot, 6:12:39, Pretty Little Passions relay, 6:26:40.


bottom of page