Surrey's iron lady makes world triathlon history

The rain was coming in sideways, pooling around Elizabeth Model’s feet and shins.

Downtown Surrey BIA CEO is the first woman to complete every Ironman race in the world

Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association CEO Elizabeth Model is the first woman to complete every Ironman race in the world. (Ironman.com)

The rain was coming in sideways, pooling around Elizabeth Model's feet and shins.

Model, the CEO of the Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association, had just finished a 180-kilometre bike ride.

That was the easy part.

Now, to make history, she had to run 42.2 kilometres through the worst weather Cambridge, Maryland could bombard her with.

"We weren't running," she said.

"We were swimming and wading through the water. It was up to our knees."

She knew she was in for a soggy and painful grind, even though the swimming portion of the race was cancelled because of the storm.

Model charged on and after 12 hours, 18 minutes and 31 seconds, she crossed the finish line.

She had become the first woman to complete every Ironman race in the world.

Exclusive club

Model, 57, has now completed 75 triathlons and 99 marathons, joining Luis Alvarez, Jeff Jonas and John Wragg as the only people on the planet to have completed every race on the Ironman circuit.

Elizabeth Model (right) and her partner John Wragg (left) travel the world together to compete in Ironman races. (Ironman.ca)

She first met Wragg after a race in Arizona more than a decade ago.

"I went for some food and I went looking for some friendly faces," she said.

"There was a gentleman who turned around and looked at me. He smiled. I said to myself that looks like a friendly face so I thought I'd go introduce myself. He turned out to be John."

Model and Wragg bonded over triathlons and struck up a friendship that grew into a romance.

They've spent the last 11 years traveling the world together, competing in Ironman races.

"We're just wired the same way," she said.

"I've always very strongly believed that the couple that plays together stays together."

The comeback

Model's goal of finishing every Ironman race almost came to an end last December when she shattered her tibia and fibula in a cross-country skiing crash.

After a complicated surgery and countless hours of painful rehab exercises, she fought her way back into racing shape.

"I've had some challenges along the way and I can't run like I used to," she said.

"But you know what? I'm 57 years old. It's all good! I'm still doing this and that's the main thing."

So what's her secret?

"Advil helps," she said with a laugh.

"No. Really, it's all between the ears and my next milestone is my 100th marathon in North Carolina. That will be pretty cool, too."