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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Area Athletes Finish Ironman Wisconsin

Issue Date: September 23, 2021

The Ironman Triathlon returned to Madison on Sunday, Sept. 12th after being cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Tri-City area was well represented with a handful of current or former local athletes competing in the event. Athletes included Matt Miron from Peshtigo, Jessica Van Beek-King from Peshtigo, Brian Cleven from Peshtigo, James Smith from Menominee, and Janet Schloegel from Menominee. This was the first Ironman for Miron, Van Beek-King, and Schloegel, the second for Smith, and the eighth for Cleven. The Wisconsin Ironman triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile Swim in Lake Monona, a 112 mile Bike ride on the roads of Dane County, and concludes with a 26.2 mile marathon Run through the streets of Madison finishing on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. with the Capital building looming in the background.

This year even more than in the past, simply making it to the start line injury free after months of training along with avoiding any Covid-19 related issues represented a major accomplishment. Leading up to the Ironman, athletes usually train 10 to 20 hours per week or more in preparation for the 140.6-mile triathlon.

Race morning was pleasant in the low to mid 60s with a light breeze blowing at the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Monona Terrace which was the main hub of the event. At 6:45 AM the cannon fired for the 1,747 full distance participants to start their day. A half Ironman event or 70.3-mile distance triathlon with 794 competitors was held the same day on the same course but started at 8:40 AM. In the Ironman Triathlon your time starts when you cross the timing line to start your swim and then does not stop until you quit or cross the Finish Line. All athletes have a maximum of 17 hours to complete the 140.6 miles. There are other intermediate time cutoffs throughout the day starting with a maximum of 2 hours and 20 minutes for the 2.4-mile swim. All the area competitors completed the swim with Smith clocking the fastest time in 1 hour 13 minutes. After exiting the swim, the competitors ran up the helix to exchange wetsuits, goggles, and swim caps for helmets, bike shoes, and any other gear needed for the 112-mile bike ride. Most years this change would happen in a conference room in the Terrace, but due to the pandemic Transition 1 for 2021 was held on the top floor of the parking structure right next to the top of the helix.

Out on the bike course temperatures stayed in the mid to upper 60s and it was largely overcast. Some wind and bumpy roads added more challenge to the 6,673 feet of elevation throughout the course. The 5 area athletes navigated the course safely while others were not so fortunate with flat tires, sickness from the swim, or even bike crashes. One athlete witnessed the back tire of another rider completely detach from the frame causing that rider to crash. As competitors returned from their tour of Mount Horeb, Cross Plains, Verona, and Fitchburg they crossed John Nolen Drive heading back to the Monona Terrace for one final climb up the helix to return their bikes to the Transition Area. As athletes stopped their watches for the bike portion of the event most noticed that they had traveled an extra 1.5-2.0 miles or a total of nearly 114 miles. Miron posted the fastest split on the bike with a time of 5 hours and 43 minutes. Smith, Cleven, and Van Beek-King all rode within 9 minutes of this for an average of 19.4 to 19.9 mph.

Transition 2, the change from bike gear to running gear, also was held outside with folding chairs set up and many volunteers ready to help athletes pack and unpack their gear. During this period of 5-15 minutes athletes put on not only their running shoes but also sunscreen and Vaseline on toes or arms to prevent friction when running for 3 to 5 hours. Overcast weather with a few isolated showers greeted the area competitors as they tackled the 26.2 mile run portion of the triathlon. The two-loop run course takes athletes around the capital building, on State Street, a trail by Lake Mendota, and even provides them the opportunity to run on the field in Camp Randall Stadium. After being in motion for over 7 hours already, the run portion of the Ironman often becomes a daunting task for athletes physically, but even more so mentally. The five area athletes were able to see each other on the course exchanging either "Great Jobs" or high fives as they all continued moving forward. Van Beek-King ran the fastest marathon with a time of 3 hours and 33 minutes which is a very fast run even without having already completed a combined 116 miles of swimming and biking. With friends and family eagerly awaiting, she entered the Finishing Chute on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard with the Capital Building shining in the background. Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman called her in with his famous expression, "Jessica Van Beek-King, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!" She stopped the clock at 11 hours 1 minute and 21 seconds for her first Ironman Finish, a stellar time that ended up being second place in her very competitive Female 35-39 age group. For the other 18 editions of Ironman Wisconsin this placing would have qualified her for the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii but in 2021 only one slot was awarded to each age group. Next to the line was Miron with a time of 11 hours 35 minutes followed by Smith in 11 hours 59 minutes, Cleven in 12 hours 48 minutes, and Schloegel in 13 hours 27 minutes. All competitors finished well within the allowed 17 hours of the event. Miron said after the race that "This day was nearly 20 years in the making. I first saw Ironman in the fall of 2002 while I was in college. I knew I wanted to do it, I just didn't know when would be the right time. And the answer is that it's never the right time, it just becomes the right time to make it a priority." For Cleven this was Ironman Finish number 8 on his journey to reach 12 Ironman finishes to qualify for the Ironman Legacy program and one day be able to complete the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. For Schloegel this race came after spending 6 days in the hospital in 2019 including part in the ICU with double blood clots in her brain along with 6 months of other medical complications. Her road to finishing an Ironman Triathlon was long and challenging but shows the true spirit of the race and that "Anything is Possible!" Huge congratulations to Jessica, Matt, and Janet who joined the Ironman Family and are now among the less than one percent of the worlds population that have finished an Ironman Triathlon.




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