Jacquie Allgire had no clue for nearly 50 years that there was an athlete hidden deep within her. A life spent building a career and raising two kids as a single mom demanded 100% of her energy.
That is, until she met the man she would eventually marry who gifted her a gym membership. Little did they know that gift would unlock the door to this veterinarian’s athletic destiny.
At 52, Allgire is intent on qualifying for the 2018 Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. You might say that’s a huge target. But but for a woman who is coming of age as an athlete, anything is possible.
“When I was in my 20s and 30s, I was busy with kids, starting a career path as a veterinarian, and being a breadwinner for the family,” says Allgire.
She was also in the grips of a difficult marriage that ended in divorce. “I was in survival mode a lot of the time. I was very much managing the best I could every day.”
Sports were the farthest thing from her mind. “I was a very un-athletic bookworm, even as a kid. There are no athletics at all in my background,” she laughs.
That all changed when she married Richard Allgire, a natural athlete for whom running and gym workouts were as routine as eating and sleeping. “He added me to his gym membership, and that was very new to me. I went from nothing to 15 minutes on the treadmill running. That was huge! It was really baby steps for me in the beginning,” Allgire recalls.
Fast forward to 2012. Richard ran his first marathon and encouraged his wife to try running a 5K race with him. She agreed to give it a go, and for the first time in her life ‘trained’ for an event.
“I ran my socks off in that race,” she smiles. “It was a 27-minute 5K, and I remember I was ecstatic. I thought to myself, ‘This is so much fun!’ I knew I could push harder.”
Competitive Spirit Lit
That was all it took to light a competitive fire in Allgire that fuels her training today. “I ran 14 running races that year and really fell in love with it. I found a community of support through running that I adore. Some of my really, really good friends I’ve met through running.”
Allgire completed her first marathon in 2013, and that’s when Richard planted another big idea in her head. “It was that year that my husband said, ‘I think we should do triathlons.’”
Finding Power in Fear
Mind you, neither of them were swimmers or cyclists. Richard had a mountain bike, but that was about it. So together, they discovered the power of tackling challenges as a team. “It has morphed into this great way for us to share a common interest and to live a healthy life together,” Allgire explains.
With only four months to train for her first Olympic distance triathlon, learning to swim was Allgire’s biggest hurdle. She had to overcome the emotional scars left from a near-drowning experience as a child.
“I would only swim where I could see my feet. I only swam in pools.” The prospect of swimming in murky lakes or oceans was terrifying.
“This is where the power of someone believing in you and helping you with self- doubts really came into play,” Allgire says. “We went out to Bartlett Lake to swim, and I had a panic attack. Richard was right by my side.
“My husband pushes me to do things I don’t want to do,” she continues. “And every time I do it anyway, it is so much fun. The bottom line is that I knew with him, I was as protected and safe as I would ever be. The fear is up in my head, and I’m willing to push myself beyond it.”
As you might imagine, the Allgires successfully completed that first triathlon together. And then, in their typical fashion, they upped the ante.
In 2014, Allgire completed the Oceanside 70.3 Half Ironman in California – 1.2 miles of swimming, 56 miles of cycling and 13.1 miles of running – finishing 10th in her age group, despite bonking during the run.
“I remember thinking that if I can do that (finish 10th) with the kind of training I’m doing, I can do so much more,” she recalls. “With some tweaks, I thought maybe I can podium.”
Her training and racing progressed through the year, and in 2015, she decided it was time to do a full Ironman – 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling, and 26.2 miles of running. And she did it with no coaching.
“I trained myself for that race, all by myself. I followed a book that Richard had used when he did the Ironman in 2013. And I followed Hal Higdon’s marathon training program. I melded the two together to fit my schedule,” Allgire says.
Apparently, the Allgire method of self-coaching is effective. She finished Ironman Arizona 11th in her age group with a time of 12 hours 25 minutes. “I thought that’s not a shabby finish,” she laughs.
“The longer the distances, the more I enjoyed it,” Allgire says. “And racing is like nothing else. The best part is the start. The excitement and anticipation is palpable. It hooks me in like no other.”
This fall, Allgire will travel to Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships. Her qualifier was the Ironman 70.3 Austin, where she finished fourth in her age group.
Next Goal: Kona
Despite her achievements in the Half Ironman distance, Allgire prefers the longer, full Ironman. “I’ve only done it once, and I loved it so much,” she says. “I’m just hungry to get that Kona slot.”
To get there, she will start by training and racing shorter distances to improve her speed. The pace and intensity of sprint and Olympic distance triathlons will push her, once again, out of her long endurance comfort zone.
Whether she makes it to the Ironman World Championships or not is unknown at this juncture of the journey. Perhaps the biggest reward for nurturing her inner athlete later in life is the courage and confidence she has gained to live life to the fullest.
Never Say Never
“I love my 50s. I am so excited to be only 52! I’m healthier physically, and stronger spiritually and emotionally than I’ve ever been,” Allgire says. “I won’t say ‘I can’t’ or ‘I never will’ any longer. I’m more willing to push through fear and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
When she’s not swimming, biking or running, Allgire is an accomplished veterinarian, with two practices in metro-Phoenix specializing in holistic veterinary medicine. “I’ve melded my love for gentle, natural healthcare for pets with my specialty,” she says. Allgire is trained and certified in traditional Chinese veterinary medicine, specializing in acupuncture and herbal medicine.
She’s living the life of her dreams and has no intention of slowing down. “For me, I don’t want to be that little old fearful lady. Fear gets worse as you get older.”
She draws an analogy to the behavior she sees in the animals she treats. “They get clingy as they get older and weaker. I don’t want to be that. I want to start living and not just surviving any more. I get to enjoy my health, and it’s a gift every fricking day.”