by Bobby Anderson, RN, Staff Writer
After a 12-hour shift in the state’s busiest ER, most nurses would want to go home and crawl into bed.
But after a shift, Gibson’s day is just getting started.
Meet Andrea Gibson: nurse by day, triathlete by night.
Most recently, Gibson was one of 129 athletes who attempted the Alaskaman Extreme Triathlon.
The event was so rugged that the mandatory gear list included bear spray for portions of the course that would more than likely have native inhabitants.
Waiting for her in Alaska was a 2.6-mile swim, 113-mile bike ride and 27.5-mile run.
When the race began she quickly felt what 50-degree water felt like.
“About 1,500 meters in there was a dip in the water temperature from 50s to 40s because there was a glacier runoff you had to swim through,” Gibson said. “When you first start out it’s already like getting punched in the face because you can hardly catch your breath because of the water temperature. You get warmed up just because your face and hands are numb but then you hit that and it’s all over again.”
Just 26 females completed the race. Gibson placed 50th overall and was the eighth-fastest female in the field.
Gibson calls the adventure a “racecation” as she’s always wanted to travel to Alaska but never thought she would have the chance.
She’s only been running a few years.
Gibson signed up for her first marathon at the end of 2014. That first marathon performance was enough to qualify her for the elite Boston Marathon.
“The IronMan was kind of on the bucket list to do and I’d already done the marathon so I might as well,” said Gibson.
“Doing a marathon was crazy enough for me just because I was never a runner,” Gibson continued. “I kind of picked it up and was able to accomplish that. I thought I might as well do this because I’ve trained for it. I don’t know where the jump camp from other than it was a bucket list thing.”
While the bike ride has always been her weakest, she’s always been comfortable in the water. She weighed the idea of swimming in college, but saw a friend drop her nursing major to incorporate the sport.
Born and raised in Indiana, Gibson followed her boyfriend from Hawaii to Oklahoma to settle down.
Gibson sheepishly admits to making a five-year plan in undergrad school. Complete a triathlon made the list.
“Maybe it was the fact I’m a little competitive and after I completed Boston I realized I could be competitive at the full distance vents and it kind of inspired me to do more.”
She’s completed four IronMan races so far with the Alaska event adding even more distance.
“Physically, it’s always a little painful. Mentally it’s always a release because you work so hard to get to that point but when you finish you have that feeling of being able to finish,” Gibson said. “It’s always a relief and you feel accomplished from what you were able to do.”
The days can be long. And family and friends understand that.
“Honestly, it’s kind of a selfish sport,” Gibson said. “It’s really time consuming. You work 12 hour days and you have to go from work to the gym to run 10 miles and you’re not getting home until 9:30 or 10. On the weekends there’s five or six-hour bike rides on your day off.
“I’m really appreciative of all the family and friends I have that support me.
Gibson became a nurse in 2011 and has worked in the emergency room the entire time. She’s been in the state’s busiest emergency room at Integris Southwest since October 2017.
“Here everybody works really well together,” Gibson said. “I’ve gone into organizations and felt like the odd man out. Immediately here everyone is very welcoming and they communicate very well. Just the workflow of the day, you’re able to get through it a lot easier with the people you’re working with here.
“While it is the busiest I feel much less overwhelmed with my days because of the support we have.”
She’s about to check off another item on the list – a graduate education, which she completes in January. She’ll graduate with a dual MBA-MSN that she started 2.5 years ago.