Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Michelle McKenzie, 36, a General Dentist of Family & Cosmetic Dentistry in Buford poses for a portrait in her work space on Wednesday. McKenzie a Parkview graduate won the Iron Girl Triathlon at Lake Lanier in May.
The first time Michelle McKenzie competed in a triathlon, she took second place overall.
Not bad for a beginner. Even more impressive is that she found out later she competed in the triathlon while six weeks pregnant.
McKenzie took time off after the race to have her second child, but four years later she hasn't skipped a beat.
McKenzie, 36, won the Athleta Iron Girl Atlanta Women's Triathlon this May, cementing her comeback in the endurance sport.
"I had high expectations," McKenzie said. "I wasn't sure if I would win it or not. It was a nice surprise."
The Iron Girl victory improved an already impressive competition resume for McKenzie. She's competed in 16 triathlons and has finished in the top five in her age group every time. She was the overall female winner in four races and top five in 13 of them. McKenzie qualified for the Ironman World Championship 70.3, the Super Bowl of her sport, this past weekend in Las Vegas.
"I think the Iron Girl is a great event for women in general because it allows everyone to come together," McKenzie said. "It gives you that taste and experience of a triathlon and what it's like."
McKenzie and her husband Scott own a dental practice in Buford. She works as a dentist two days a week and takes care of their two boys Cameron, 4, and Ryan, 3. In between, she finds time for grueling training sessions.
A typical weekly training schedule includes morning swims and workout sessions, evening bike rides, long runs and bike rides on the weekend and an open water swim.
A 1994 Parkview grad, McKenzie grew up swimming for the Dynamo Swim Club out of Mountain Park. She swam for legendary Gwinnett swim coach Rick Creed at Parkview, where she was a state qualifier.
As a University of Georgia student, she began to run road races for fun. She's run more than 50 races over the last decade from local 5K and 10K races to half marathons in Atlanta and marathons in Chicago, Honolulu, Las Vegas and New York.
McKenzie won her age group at the Georgia Half Marathon in March with a time of 1 hour, 27 minutes, 40 seconds. She ran the New York City Marathon in 2010 with a personal record of 3:14.06.
"I run faster now than I did in high school," she said with a laugh. "It's a sport that has kind of taken a lot of time with the biomechanics and everything with it. Learning a lot of that has helped a lot."
With a swimming and running background, McKenzie was willing to give triathlons a shot with encouragement of one of her friends.
"I just figured having a swim background, enjoying the running and getting that biking going, I just enjoy it. I have a lot of fun with it," McKenzie said.
She competed in the My First/My Next Triathlon at Lake Lanier in 2008, where she took second overall. She found out she was six weeks pregnant and didn't do another triathlon, but did continue to stay in shape.
"I ran throughout my whole pregnancy," McKenzie said. "I did the Atlanta Thanksgiving Half Marathon probably 31 weeks pregnant. I've always been an advocate of staying fit."
McKenzie returned to triathlons in 2010 and picked up right where she left off. She won her first race after a nearly two-year layoff. She was doing very well at races by training on her own, but once she qualified for the world championships in Vegas last year, she realized she needed a coach. That's when she found Kat Tindol, a local triathlete and coach, to train her.
"I feel like all the athletes around have a coach," McKenzie said. "For the most part it's a hard lifestyle to have kids, have a job."
Since winning the Iron Girl in May, McKenzie has spent her time training for the world championships. She had a good showing at the 11 Global Olympic Triathlon at the end of June, taking first on the female side in the longer distance event.
A wife and mother of two, McKenzie plans to continue to compete in triathlons for as long as she can. Her hard work and success have been an inspiration to her family and friends and something she wants to continue.
"I hope I can inspire the way others have inspired me," McKenzie said.