Ironman needs you
Organizers of the June 15 triathlon are still looking for volunteers to help out, from conducting an expo event June 13 and 14 in downtown Lawrence to assisting racers and others during the actual event at Clinton Lake and areas of rural Douglas County.
Mike Vickers knows how to ride a bike. Elizabeth Weeks can run a mile or two.
Now, if the two Lawrence residents can just find someone who wouldn't mind jumping into Clinton Lake and paddling, kicking and elbowing his or her way through hundreds of other swimmers to give them a chance to relay their way toward the finish in the upcoming Ironman 70.3 Kansas.
Friend and fellow Health Care Access board member Neil Salkind was supposed to be that guy, but apparently he fell off his training schedule during a recent trip to Europe.
"He was all gung-ho when we talked about this before," Weeks said with a chuckle of mock exasperation, as she continues training for her share of race responsibility: running a half-marathon. "He was supposed to be carbo-loading in Italy. I don't know what happened."
Weeks, Vickers and an as-yet-unnamed third will be among some three dozen Lawrence residents on the starting line June 15 for the area's first-ever Ironman, a grueling test of endurance that will serve as a qualifier for the world championships to be contested later this year in Florida.
The field for the Lawrence event includes about 1,300 entries, spanning all 50 states and eight countries. While the vast majority of competitors will go it alone on the course - a 1.2-mile swim at Clinton Lake, a 56-mile bike ride through rural Douglas County and a 13.1-mile run throughout park areas southwest of Clinton Lake - an estimated 200 or so will test themselves as members of relay teams.
A good start
Ryan Robinson, co-director of the race, said the Lawrence event was one of few conducted in the Ironman program that permit relays. And he sees that as a major plus.
Local folks interested in taking part in the Ironman, but who are unable to envision themselves going up against the entire course, often can locate a friend or two to help, Robinson said. An established runner might know a friend who swims or a co-worker who cycles.
With two weeks left before the competition, training for one leg might not be as daunting as trying to take on all three - at least for now.
"Triathlon is definitely an individual sport," said Robinson, a Douglas County sheriff's deputy who often competes on his own. "I don't want to say it mentally wears on people, but it's tough. You have to be mentally strong. Most of the time you're racing, it's solo. Anytime you can share that with people, it's more fun.
"And I like to think of it as a good introductory way to get into triathlon. You come out, pick your strength and you can improve on your weaknesses."
Ken Morris can vouch for that.
The Realtor for Stephens Real Estate in Lawrence is all about one strength, and a couple of major weaknesses.
"I've done nothing but bike races," said Morris, who simply couldn't fathom running a half-marathon, much less jumping in a lake. "I'm a nonswimmer. I'm more of a floater. I'd be the guy doing the backstroke out there, floating."
So he enlisted some serious help for his team, dubbed "Local Flavor":
l Donna Evans, a former All-American swimmer at Kansas University.
l Christi Douglas, who recently qualified for next year's Boston Marathon by completing a full marathon in Eugene, Ore., in 3 hours, 37 minutes - "which is freaky fast for a housewife and a mother," Morris said.
And then there's Morris, who has competed in dozens of cycling competitions, from criteriums to time trials to road races and even a 340-mile race that's supposed to go 24 hours.
Morris finished that one in 20.
"It got really cold up there," Morris said, as if the weather in Grand Rapids, Mich., were the force pushing him to the brisk finish. "I was unprepared."
Evans, his swimming teammate, already has prepared for Clinton Lake's chilly water by renting a wet suit. Now all that's left is to wrap up training, get into the correct mental frame of mind and look forward to a high level of competition.
She's completed three "sprint" distance triathlons - that's a half-mile swim, 12.4-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile run - as an individual, and she can't wait to try out the team concept where she lives and trains.
"It's a huge event for Lawrence," said Evans, who spent 10 years as bar manager at Henry T's in Lawrence and now is general manager for the new location in Topeka. "I wanted to be a part of it. I just want to be a part of this big event."