Photo by Matt Reiter
Chris & Michelle Ray
With four daughters and busy work schedules, it’s a wonder this duo can find time to train for IRONMAN races themselves, much less start and run an entire team. But their passion to help others propels them day after day.
CS: When and how did you get involved in IRONMAN?
CR: Back in 2015, I had a work trip that took us to Kona, Hawaii. Michelle was already running, but on the trip, she went for a run with a group of people, and they ran on the world championship IRONMAN course. She came back to me after that run so inspired and said she wanted to do the half IRONMAN in Chattanooga. I was not into anything endurance-wise at the time and asked if she was crazy [laughs], but eventually I decided I’d do it with her.
MR: He’s downplaying it! When I asked him to do it, he was a bigger guy. He ended up losing 100 pounds! We first competed after having our fourth daughter.
CS: What pushes you to train and compete?
CR: Both of us are really motivated to do this, Michelle especially. She’s very competitive and good at pushing herself.
MR: Our daughter Addie has a disability, and we were able to fundraise for a special stroller so that she can race alongside us. Our ultimate goal is to be able to take her to Hawaii and race with her in Kona. I know that every day I push myself to train, I’m one step closer to that goal.
CS: With such busy schedules, how do you make time for training?
MR: Most weekdays we try to get up at 4:30 or 5 a.m. and ride our bike trainers together for an hour before the kids wake up. On the weekends, we’ll take the kids with us for a long run, and they’ll ride their bikes. It’s a lot of scheduling!
CR: This year we’ve started using a coach, so he’s helped with our training plans and given us goals to reach for. Sometimes we train together, and sometimes we have to alternate.
CS: What are you most looking forward to with this year’s
MR: In addition to racing ourselves, we also run a racing team for other athletes of various abilities. It’s named after our daughter, so to see all those people wearing racing suits with her name cross that finish line – I’m stoked.
CR: For me, finishing and not training for a week [laughs].
CS: How has this activity brought you closer as a couple?
MR: I think it’s made us completely different people in a good way. We’re able to tough out any relationship hurdle because we’ve toughed out all these other things. It’s amazing.
CR: It gives us reasons to spend time together. Workouts can count as dates!
MR: Last week, I got to the end of the lane, and he was there with roses waiting for me at the end of my swim! CS