If Sister Madonna Buder wasn’t known beyond the triathlon community, she will be now.
Buder, aka the Iron Nun, anticipates the attention she already gets will grow after she was profiled by Nike in an Unlimited Youth commercial.
The commercial aired on TV while she competed in the U.S. age group national triathlon championship Aug.13-14 in Omaha.
“I’m anticipating it’s bad enough right now. It can get worse,” said Buder, who has competed in over 325 triathlons (45 of them Ironman distances) since her mid-40s. “It’s all in Gods good time. I just have to take some deep breaths and let it happen. Let it roll. It’s very hard to work in training when you’re everybody’s demand. I’ll just do the best I can and let God do the rest.”
Buder, who was flown to Los Angeles in mid June, worked with a crew for 34 hours over two days, saying “it was crazy” but it wasn’t tiring.
“Somehow I had the energy to go through with it. I think I made them tired,” she laughed
The commercial, which has humour from Buder and the narrator, is one minute and three seconds. She has seen it, but to her there isn’t anything special, though she said it may possess a uniqueness that other commercials lack.
“Everybody is raving about it,” she laughed. “I don’t get it exactly. I know what went into it. The comments have been very interesting.”
The humble Buder set a world record in 2012 while competing in Penticton as the oldest person to ever finish an Ironman triathlon at the age of 82. She began training at age 48 and by the time she turned 52 she completed her first Ironman event. In 2014 she was inducted into the U.S. Triathlon Hall of Fame. Her introduction to the sport came from a priest who said running is a way to harmonize the mind, body and soul.
The experience of being featured in a TV commercial for Buder, who celebrated her 86th birthday on July 24, was like being in a different world, one she admitted she wouldn’t want to live with forever.
“It was interesting and so were the people,” she said.
Now Buder shifts her focus to the International Triathlon Union multi-sport championship qualifier being held in Penticton on Aug. 24. Buder will compete in the duathlon having recovered from three major injuries in 16 months: a fractured pelvis, torn meniscus and broken femur. She said the fractured pelvis was the worst injury she has experienced.
“The pain was excruciating and you can’t do anything about it,” she said.
With the torn meniscus, Buder worked through it without surgery and decided she needed extra help. She created a prayer mantra.
“God, help me do my best and you do the rest,” she said. “He’s a good team member. After that, I celebrated my 85th birthday last year under surgery for a broken femur.”
When it comes to doing the duathlon, a 10-kilometre run, followed by a 40-km bike and a five-km run, Buder is apprehensive. She may experience stress if the course pushes her beyond her comfort zone.
“It would be nice if one of these events someday would wake up and give the elders a little bit more lax with their time cutoffs,” she joked. “It’s a lot of work and I’m not sure that I can make their cutoff time.”
She is looking forward to her return to Penticton.
“Oh yes. I love you people up there. I just love you,” she said.