GTPulse: Three Locals Prepare For Traverse City’s Ironman 70.3

There’s been a lot of buzz about the Ironman triathlon lately and I admittedly didn’t really know what the big deal was. As it turns out, it’s a pretty huge event that tests not only competitor’s physical ability, but also their discipline and dedication. One doesn’t just decide to participate in an Ironman Triathlon on a whim, it takes months of meticulous training and preparation. I talked to some participants about what they had to do to prepare, and what kind of masochism drove them to decide to get involved.

The Ironman 70.3 Triathlon is coming to Traverse City this Sunday for the first time. Who cares, right? Well, France, Ireland, Indonesia and Maine are all hosting an Ironman 70.3 Triathlon on the same day. I didn’t know that Ironman was an international event and the fact that one is being held in Traverse City is actually a pretty big deal.

The Ironman 70.3 is a half Ironman. It consists of the same three disciplines; biking, running and swimming, but in half the distance. I work with three talented men that are all participants in this year’s Ironman 70.3.

“A lot of people don’t realize how far it actually is,” said participant Rob Strang. “To visualize it, I always tell people if you started out on the peninsula, swam across the bay over to Tom’s West Bay, which would be the swim. Then go from there to Empire to Frankfort and then back on the bike, and the run out to Kalkaska.”

Needless to say, it’s a physically grueling event but the people who choose to participate in the event are dedicated to pushing themselves and proving to themselves that they can complete the challenge. This isn’t Rob’s first Ironman. He and co-worker Paul Marek both participated in a full Ironman challenge in Madison, Wisconsin a few years ago. Paul has participated in six full Ironman Triathlon’s and 6 halves across the U.S. and helped Rob train for his first challenge that they did together in Madison.

“Last year I turned 40. It was one of the goals, before I turned 40 I wanted to do an Ironman. Paul has done six and we’ve been friends for quite a while. He hadn’t done one in 10 years so we started training nine months out,” Rob said.

Danny Martinelli

Training for Ironman requires organization and commitment. Paul and Rob utilized a method of alternating training hours each week. They would train nine hours one and 10 hours the next, 9 hours the next week and steadily increase the week after that, until they hit 19 hours on their alternating week. Danny Martinelli, a first time Ironman participant followed a self-made schedule as well.

“I have this calendar, it’s like a desk calendar. Each day it would be exactly what I’m trying to accomplish for the day. It would be stuff like, bike for two hours then run six miles, then the next day would be something like swim for an hour and then go run a stair mile. My big thing was to plan it all out ahead of time so I didn’t have to think about what I had to do every day.” Danny said.

Danny also worked on building muscle strength through lifting weights and staying flexible through practicing yoga. He’ll need muscle power for the hilly bike ride portion of the triathlon which encompasses about half of the event.

He is well prepared for the event, but first timers are hardly ever prepared for the physical sensations that happen post-Ironman. Upon completion of his first Ironman, Rob had two volunteers come up to him and grab his arms to hold him up. He was confused by the help and insisted that he was fine.

“I kept telling them, ‘I’m good’ and like, three steps later my knees buckled. The other thing that I thought was really weird and interesting was, they give you a neoprene blanket. I was so hot so I told them, ‘I’m good.’ You go through a food line and there’s pizza and subs and chips. You start eating and your body needs that nutrition so bad that all of your resources go to your stomach just to digest it, and I just started shaking I was so cold. I used the blanket.”

Food is a big part of ending the triathlon. The guys all said they would probably devour an entire pizza upon completing the race and Paul plans on going to a friend’s house and grilling out.

Paul Marek

“My buddy’s having a big barbecue for a bunch of us. I’m gonna take over the grill and I’m gonna cook a really nice meal for everybody. It’s a bunch of joking around and storytelling, ’oh I cramped up so bad in the run’ and ‘I got a flat on the bike’ everybody’s just sharing their stories,” Paul said.

And what a story it is to tell. These guys will never forget their first Traverse City Ironman.

Categories: GTPulse