I’m looking forward to reporting and spectating at Ironman Wisconsin for the first time on Sunday, and especially anxious to explore the great stories of dedicated athletes striving to achieve goals many of us find well out-of-reach.
As a preview, I’ve gathered a few tales and pieces of information to inspire the 45,000 spectators expected to turn out for what could be a 17-hour day in Madison and the hills surrounding the state’s capital.
My Team Triumph: The cheers at the finish line near the Capitol Square will likely be loudest for Christian Jensen and Mary Cox, two leaders of My Team Triumph Wisconsin Chapter. Following the path blazed by Dick Hoyt, who has pushed and carried his son, Rick, through dozens of Ironman races, Jensen will provide the propulsion on Sunday. Cox, from Green Bay, has muscular dystrophy and can’t walk, but she has confidence that she will reach the finish. “I think it’s possible, and we’re going to do it,” she said in this interview with WBAY TV.
The favorites: Writing for Ironman News, Roger Hospedales lists former champions Maik Twelsiek and Hilary Biscay as favorites to win on Sunday. Twelsiek, from Germany, and Biscay, from the U.S., won in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Their shared success turned into a shared life, and they could become the first husband and wife to stand atop the podium. Jessica Jacobs, of Green Bay, could bring excitement to the home town fans by taking her fourth Ironman victory. The retired US Army officer won IRONMAN Wisconsin on a memorable day on September 11, 2011 with her six-year old daughter by her side and her husband, U.S. Army Company Commander Michael Jacobs, following the race online from his base in Iraq. This will be her first IRONMAN race of the season. The top contenders looking to prevent repeat victories for these former champions are France’s Romain Guillaume, Germany’s Stefan Vuckovic, Aussie Paul Ambrose, American Beth Walsh and hometown athletes Jackie Arendt and Thomas Gerlach. The prize purse of $25,000 goes down six places, with $5,000 going for first, $2,750 for second and $1,750 for third in the pro categories. Also, 50 slots in the Ironman World Championships will be awarded to the top age-group finishers.
Racing for votes: State Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) will be competing in his second Ironman Wisconsin, looking to accomplish what he failed to achieve in his first effort. His goals this year are simple: not to die, to finish, and if possible to finish with a good time of around 11 hours.
Where and when: It can be a long and confusing day for spectators trying to follow along as their favorite athletes cover the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike leg and 26.2-mile run. The Isthmus did a solid job in providing the details, from the 7 a.m. start to the expected finish times for the winners and those struggling to reach the finish before the midnight time cut-off.
Start to finish: Raymond Britt wrote the book on the event, “Racing Ironman: From Start to Finish” and has analyzed the course more intensely than anyone. Britt ranked the Ironman Wisconsin course the second toughestof the 25 events directed by World Triathlon Corporation. Much of the difficulty – and the fun – is found on the 112-mile bike segment west of Madison.“It looks flat on a map ans seems Midwestern, but is rolling up and down, left and right constantly,” Britt said. “It just knocks you silly after 112 miles. I raced in Lake Placid six times, and that’s all the hills you can imagine and it’s just as hard in Madison.” For a visual look at what will unfold on Sunday, check out his video.