Iron Woman: De Shann Schinkel proves age is just a number
By Thorn Compton
RAWLINS — There is a stigma about turning 50 in our society.
Maybe it’s the AARP thing, the fact that you are half way to 100, or the general sense that your best days are behind you.
If local resident and Rawlins High School swimming coach De Shann Schinkel feels any of that pressure at the age of 52, it sure doesn’t show.
Schinkel recently competed in her first Ironman competition, a triathlon race that features a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.22-mile full marathon all in succession. She also competed in her first Wyoming Senior Olympics.
“I signed up for 16 events in the Senior Olympics, not knowing what to expect,” Schinkel said while her girls swim team finished up practice at Rawlins High School Wednesday. “I was just hoping to do well and maybe get a medal in one of the 16 events.”
Schinkel did OK in her first competition — if you consider Michael Phelps an OK Olympic athlete as well.
She ended up taking gold in 14 of the 16 events, while finishing with silver in the other two.
Despite the amazing performance, Schinkel almost didn’t compete at all. She originally had a plan to compete in her first Ironman and Senior Olympics when she turned 50 in 2014.
As it usually does though, life got in the way.
“I had two bucket list items, to do an Ironman and also do the Senior Olympics by my 50th birthday,” Schinkel said. “I didn’t accomplish either of those, however. My mother became ill with stage-four lung cancer in 2014 and I decided to spend that time with her and my family until her end.
“After that I had a hard time. In 2015, I couldn’t get back to training. I was training prior to that with her, she was my coach and she pushed me and would be right there with me in the car when I go for long bike rides or runs.”
Understandably, Schinkel had a hard time motivating herself to continue training after her mother passed. She took almost an entire year off before getting back into training.
“I lost it in 2015, I just couldn’t get back into it,” Schinkel said of training. “Eventually it came to me saying ‘OK, this is it. De Shann if you’re going to do it you aren’t getting any younger. You better get on it now.’
“So I got back into shape, signed up and did my first Iron Man in Texas in May, then the Senior Olympics earlier this month.”
When it came to the Iron Man competition, Schinkel said she wasn’t sure what to expect since she hadn’t ever taken on something of that nature.
“I did really well in my first Iron Man and that’s what motivated me,” Schinkel said. “I am hooked, I’m totally addicted now. I was worried about the biking since I do a lot of stationary bike work and its different when you get on the road.
“My goal was just to finish and I did and did pretty well for my age group. My goal now is to qualify for Kona in 2017.”
Kona is the world championships for Ironman held in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii in October.
And for the Senior Olympics, she’s already qualified for the national Senior Olympics in June 2017 in Birmingham, Ala.
Since returning from her domination, Schinkel said her team has noticed how much more energy she has and a change in her attitude.
“I was inspired by everyone at the Senior Olympics, the girls on the team have even said I’ve changed,” Schinkel said. “I’m in a better mood, I’m happier. Those folks out there inspired me to keep going, knowing at 94, 92, 88 (years old) they are still competing and doing unbelievably well.”
Schinkel said she hopes her performance can inspire others in the community to continue working on their fitness and strength even as their age progresses.
“I can attest that, at 52, you can still compete at a high level and have fun while doing it,” Schinkel said.