Penn Medicine nurse wins IRONMAN World Championship

Ava Warfel, a nurse supervisor at the Penn Medicine HealthWorks Alvernia University practice, recently won her age group at the championship in Kona, Hawaii.

On a typical day, Ava Warfel, wakes up around 3 a.m. The nurse supervisor at the new Penn Medicine HealthWorks Alvernia University practice in Reading, Pennsylvania, doesn’t have to be at work until much later in the morning. But she gets up early to train for three to six hours—and all of that effort just paid off.

Ava Warfel running the IRONMAN race in Hawaii.
Ava Warfel running the IRONMAN race in Kona, Hawaii in 2023. (Image: Courtesy of Penn Medicine News)

Warfel won her age group (age 18-24) at the IRONMAN World Championships in Kona, Hawaii in October. The IRONMAN is the world’s toughest triathlon: a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, Warfel does all this while managing a chronic health condition, Type 1 diabetes. She works with young adults, and previously worked as an endocrinology nurse, based on her experience receiving the diagnosis as a freshman in college, when she was also training to become a paramedic.

After starting her career path as a paramedic, Warfel realized that her true passion was treating adolescents and patients with diabetes. She began working at Lancaster General Health in a customer service specialist role while going to nursing school at Wilkes University. Upon graduation, she transitioned into the RN role and ultimately the nurse supervisor at LG Health’s Diabetes & Endocrinology.

“Care providers often tell patients what to do better to manage the disease, but oftentimes patients aren’t doing anything wrong, things just happen. So many things affect your blood sugar—for example, adrenaline, caffeine, and hormones,” she says. “I believe that you don’t have to be perfect at managing your diabetes for it to be good work.”

The Penn Medicine HealthWorks Alvernia University practice supported Warfel before, during and after her recent IRONMAN race, both mentally and emotionally, and also logistically with some flexibility in her schedule a few days a week to provide the time needed to train before work.

“I am happy with my race performance, although I am always looking for ways to push myself,” she says. “I never want to be complacent, so while I am proud of the result, I am constantly in pursuit of self-betterment.”

This story is by Olivia Kimmel. Read more at Penn Medicine News.