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Hall County pair 'very ready' to take on Ironman Florida challenge
Flowery Branch's Lisa Morris, Gainesville's Cindy Starke will compete Saturday in first full Ironman
Cindy Starke, left, and Lisa Morris, right, will compete in their first full Ironman competition Saturday in Panama City Beach, Fla.

Lisa Morris and Cindy Starke were both looking for a fresh perspective in their own careers. 

Neither expected that they would earn the focus and motivation needed to be strong leaders in and out of the office.

Morris and Starke, who are from Flowery Branch and Gainesville respectively, will compete in their first full Ironman triathlon Saturday morning in Panama City Beach, Florida.

Since joining forces as training partners late last year, the pair have worked tirelessly to get into peak condition for the brutal 140.6-mile long course, which includes a 2.4 mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a marathon 26.2 mile run, all raced without a break. The pair left for Panama City Beach yesterday morning.

“I feel very ready for it,” said Morris on Tuesday. “I swam just this morning, and I felt pretty strong. I’ve done everything I can do. I’m nervous, but mostly excited. I think we’ll get ready to get caught up in the excitement.”

Morris and Starke have put forth extensive effort over the course of the past year in each of the swimming, biking and running portions in order to compete. They’ve maintained a rigorous structured regimen from last winter through this fall, in which they’ve taken the time to train around six days a week.

Morris said she enjoyed swimming in Lake Lanier to build up her endurance. The two competed in separate half-Ironman competitions last year.

Starke said she’s hoping to have Morris make it to the start line — her training partner is currently fighting off an ill-timed bout of bronchitis.

“The biggest goal is to show up at the start line,” said Starke. “The second goal is to show up at the finish line, and the third is to have fun.”

Morris practices neuromuscular therapy at the Echo Wellness Center in Flowery Branch, while Starke works both at the Chestatee Regional Hospital in Dahlonega and the Longstreet Clinic in Gainesville.

The pair sought business advice from Atlanta-based businessman Andy Lowe, the founder of Renegade Concepts. Lowe, an experienced mindset coach and performance expert, said he encouraged Starke and Morris to envision a “nearly impossible” goal, then create attainable goals in order to achieve it. 

For the pair, they decided the best choice was to run in an Ironman. Lowe already has multiple Ironman performances under his belt, but said his lessons could be used for any other concept.

“The ideas, the parallels of getting to the big goals, they coincide with anything, achieving anything in life,” he said. “What I wanted to do is ... not give them a directive, but give them a framing of the direction where you want to go.

Just because I trained in a certain way and certain things worked for me, doesn’t mean it could work for them.”

Lowe said that competing in Ironman competitions is as much about being mentally strong as it is being physically strong. It’s a demanding practice, according to Morris, who has to maneuver her workouts around family and work engagements.

But a renewed focus on attainable goals and daily living has helped both athletes feel more confident in their personal and professional lives, according to Starke.

Just by going through the strenuous task of training, Morris and Starke feel they have already come out as winners.

“There’s absolutely nothing in business and your marriage, relationships with children, athletic accomplishments, that is impossible,” said Starke. “If you set your mind to something, you can do whatever it is. As long as you can pack it into measurable daily goals, there’s nothing you can’t do.”

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