Wyoming Mother Of Nine Gets Personal Best In Triathlon Despite Breaking A Rib

Evanston's April Lange, a mother of nine, set a personal best by 10 minutes in a 70-mile triathlon earlier this month in St. George, Utah. Even more impressive, she did it with a broken rib that she suffered five minutes into the race.

Clair McFarland

May 27, 20247 min read

April Lange, here on a trail run with son Isaiah near the home in Evanston, Wyoming, last week.
April Lange, here on a trail run with son Isaiah near the home in Evanston, Wyoming, last week. (Renee Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

A barefoot woman rushed down a ramp and splashed into a cold lake this month, along with 200 other swimmers bound in black wetsuits like seals.

She crossed from the baking 81-degree air into the 61-degree waters of the Sand Hollow Reservoir, eager to cover the 1.2.-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile run of the St. George, Utah, half-Ironman race, a super triathlon.

At the finish line, April Lange, of Evanston, Wyoming, would go right back to being a mother of nine, a pastor’s wife, and an English professor. But for the moment, all she did was move through time and space.  

Until five minutes into the race, when a man drove his heel into her rib.

People had been jostling one another in the open waters of the frigid lake. It’s unnerving to be touched underwater, Lange told Cowboy State Daily days after the May 4 race, but most racers manage to keep their course.

This man appeared to be struggling. He thrashed sideways and upon brushing against Lange, he kicked her away, breaking her rib, she recounted.  

Her breath caught in her throat. She took in water and had to stop swimming; and treaded against the disturbed water.

Then she gathered herself and kept going.

Next came the bike race, which was a climb up Snow Canyon with a 3,200-foot elevation change. Every breath fired pain through Lange’s chest and back. She popped one, then two Ibuprofens and they did nothing, but she knew better than to take a third while racing.

Finishing the bike race and starting her 13.1-mile run was a relief, Lange said. She didn’t stop at any one of the eight stations along the half-marathon route; she just ran, scaling hills and rambling down them.

April Lange’s husband Jonathan Lange watched a virtual tracker of the race from his phone.

He noticed his wife was on track to beat her personal best time for the half-Ironman by about 10 minutes. She was killing that course, Jonathan recalled to Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.

“I had no idea she was fighting through all that pain,” he said.

By the time April crossed the finish line after 5 hours, 47 minutes and 39 seconds of searing pain, she was completely preoccupied with the agony: each breath pluming her lungs against her cracked bone.

She finished in sixth place out of 36 women in the 50-54-year-old age group and within the top third of all females; and nearly in the top third of all 1,580 finishers.

The race’s final leg, the half-marathon run, Lange covered in one hour, 55 minutes – a time difficult for most women to achieve, even if they haven’t been biking and swimming for three hours with a broken rib. 

“I just kept thinking, ‘Well, I’ll go to medical (tent) as soon as I’m done,’” Lange said. And she did. “They helped me there, but there’s not much you can do about a rib anyway.”

This wasn’t her first time finishing a race on a broken bone. Last autumn she finished a full (140.6-mile) Ironman in California by running the last 24 miles on a broken and displaced ankle – the excruciating culmination of months of hard training. A surgeon later installed a plate and four screws in her ankle.

April Lange is a busy mother of nine — and a marathon runner.
April Lange is a busy mother of nine — and a marathon runner. (Renee Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

What You Need For This Day

With her torso wrapped, Lange left the medical tent. Then she vented to her husband.  

He congratulated her for achieving a personal best time.

She told him how frustrated she felt at having to battle against her own body once again.

“I mean, it just kinda sounds weird, like I break an ankle, and then I break a rib,” she later told Cowboy State Daily.

Jonathan told his wife her rib wasn’t anything she could control, and that she went above and beyond by finishing the race at all.

April Lange chuckled when she recalled that conversation.

“That never enters my mind, like I’m not going to finish,” she said, adding that any athlete could find an excuse not to finish if she looked hard enough for one.

“Something’s always going to be bothering you,” she said.

Lange came home the next day and got right back into training. She wrapped around her aching torso when she went for runs.

She also told anyone who asked about the race that her seventh-born child Isaiah,18, placed fourth in the competitive, 18-24-year-old men’s category in the same race, qualifying for the New Zealand World Championship.

One of Lange’s prouder racing achievements has been watching six of her nine children join her on various courses.

Ten days after the race, she was still fighting back feelings of defeat. But as she became able to run greater lengths without her arm curled around her rib, her frustrations fell away.

“God gives you just what you need,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “Maybe it’s not always our (plan). Like we plan things, we have in mind how we want things to go but then – He gives us just what we need for that day.”

April Lange is an Evanston, Wyoming, mother of nine who loves to run marathons. She's here on a trail with son Isaiah.
April Lange is an Evanston, Wyoming, mother of nine who loves to run marathons. She's here on a trail with son Isaiah. (Renee Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

The Bleak Year

Lange’s doggedness might seem kooky to a non-athlete, she said. But she figured other runners would understand: putting one foot in front of the other drives one’s worries away. 

“You just need to get in a run. If anything else is going wrong or you’re having a bad day, you just go for a run,” said Lange.

That was her attitude in 2012, her bleak year.

It was the year of her first miscarriage (she’d lose another unborn baby soon after). She was finishing up her master’s degree. Her mother died that year.

Lange said she was also diagnosed with an autoimmune condition that makes it dangerous for her to take antidepressants.

“I was in a pit,” she said.

She’d been running since eighth grade and had always been a casual biker, but now she leaned into her training. She raced her first Olympic-distance triathlon in 2015, the year after her youngest son Noah was born. Her two oldest kids moved away in 2016, which prompted her to train even harder, she said.

“I was really sad about (them leaving),” she said. “And I also don’t want to live vicariously. You know, they need to go do their own things. I also had to do something I was looking forward to.”

Lange said she believes her training has been a gift – one of many cures God hides amid the ordinary. She opened up about her battle with depression, the sadness of her autoimmune condition diagnosis, and the freefall of grief when she lost her mother.

She said she wants to reveal rather than hide these despairing periods of her life, to show other people who are struggling that they’re not alone.

“You always think people have an easier time of it than they really do – you know?” said Lange. “(It helps) if you’re not going through things by yourself; (if you know) there are other people struggling.”

She’s now completed five full Ironman races, seven half Ironmans, 19 marathons, and 17 half marathons.

Holding The Sign

Jonathan Lange doesn’t get the appeal of this sport.

“I don’t understand it,” he said with a laugh, adding that his role in all this racing is to hold the sign that says “Go, Mom!” and to cheer on his wife and his kids.

But he’s seen his wife’s training pull her out of the pit, and he’s marveled at her perseverance, he said.

“She has an amazing capacity for pushing herself beyond the limits,” said Jonathan. “I’m just in awe of her ability, and very proud of her.”

April Lange, here on a trail run with son Isaiah near the home in Evanston, Wyoming, last week.
April Lange, here on a trail run with son Isaiah near the home in Evanston, Wyoming, last week. (Renee Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

Clair McFarland can be reached at clair@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter