Athena Shapiro, a University of New Mexico law graduate, finished as the top US female competitor in her age group (25-29) at the XTerra World Championship, a triathlon in Trentino, Italy, on Oct. 1. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)
Before Athena Shapiro found out the results of her bar exam and before she competed in the XTerra World Championship in Trentino, Italy, she wanted to get her story out.
She had already been featured in the Journal for her accomplishments in Ironman and for earning her law degree at the University of New Mexico. But Shapiro, 29, who lives and trains in Albuquerque, wanted to provide an update.
“I want to inspire people,” she said.
Her most recent feats could be described as inspiring.
She did, indeed, pass the bar last month and even after taking a break from workouts to study for the exam she performed at a high level Oct. 1 at the XTerra, a 1.5K swim, 30K mountain bike and 10K trail run.
She was the top US female finisher in her age group, 25-29. She finished 14th out of 21 competitors in her age group. She completed the race in 4 hours, 44 minutes, 14 seconds.
Shapiro said she was able to get back into her fitness routines by finding ways to be uncomfortable.
“It makes you stronger,” she said. “There’s something really freeing about being outside and pushing yourself and being uncomfortable in a different type of way.”
Earlier this year, she felt uncomfortable in a different sort of way because she tried so hard to manage her time.
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Shapiro completed the full Ironman (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile marathon run) at the World Championships in St. George, Utah on May 7. Then, on May 14, she earned her Juris Doctor (JD) for completing law school at UNM. She received a certificate for her specialization in natural resources, which includes law in the topics of water, administrative, climate change and environmental.
The demanding schedule only provided her with more confidence when she completed the Ironman.
Her coach Greg Mueller tried his best to tone down her workouts, but she wanted more in the days leading up to competition, he said.
Mueller, who also competed in Ironman races, has coached elite athletes. He coached athletes Grace Norman and Allysa Seely. The American duo became the first Paralympic women’s triathlon champions in the 2016 Games in Brazil.
“Athena has a remarkable ability to manage her time,” said Mueller, who lives in Indiana, but coaches virtually. “It’s pretty uncommon for someone to be in law school and working to get another degree and having a job and training for Ironman. Often I’m trying to compensate for how busy she is and oftentimes she’s wanting to increase it. I literally don’t know how she does it. She’s so busy. I’m just shocked that she can do all these things and sleep.”
Last month, Shapiro learned a lesson in patience.
She wanted to compete in a half-ironman race in Colorado, but because of weather conditions she had to ask for her first-ever DNF (did not finish). The morning included 45-degree temperatures, fog and rain.
“I just said, that’s OK,” she said. “It was too dangerous. It wasn’t because I was uncomfortable.”
After that experience she said she knew what to do.
“You get back and do it again,” Shapiro said. “Whatever it is. That has always been the case for me. It’s like a discipline. It’s like I have to do it because I know I want to do it. Starting to make excuses now isn’t going to lead me to the goal that I eventually want.”