Clinton State Park — One thing came to George Pravada’s mind Friday morning as he rode his bike through the Ironman 70.3 Kansas course in Douglas County.
“It’s hilly — not the stereotypical land you think of as Kansas,” said Pravada, 62, of Holland, Mich.
Lawrence residents will notice more bicycles and runners on the roads this weekend as more than 2,000 triathletes gear up for Sunday’s race at Clinton State Park.
The athletes and their families have filled hotels in Lawrence and campsites near Clinton Lake as they prepare for the 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run at the state park. The race begins at 6:30 a.m. Sunday.
Athletes from all 50 states and more than a dozen countries have entered the race. The event is bigger this year after about 1,300 triathletes competed in 2008.
“They just raved about it, so we brought more people this year,” said Tim Helmstetter, 45, a member of the Texas Iron training group.
Helmstetter, an engineer for Dell Computers in Austin, Texas, set up camp Friday near the finish line at campground No. 3 at the state park.
He has competed in triathlons since 2000.
“My health has improved, and there’s always a group of people to go riding with on weekends,” Helmstetter said.
The Ironman 70.3 Kansas will feature several professional triathletes and a special Armed Forces Challenge bracket. The field also includes hundreds of people from across the country who took up the challenge while keeping their full-time jobs.
Kris Smrekar, 42, works for the Illinois Department of Agriculture during the week, and the Ironman 70.3 Kansas will be his first of such a long distance.
“I’m just trying to stay in shape,” said Smrekar, from Aurora, Ill.
Pravada, a retired Michigan state policeman who now is a substitute teacher, has overcome surgeries on both of his feet. He has prepared for Sunday’s grueling race both physically and mentally.
“I think it’s just racing against yourself. That’s the fun in it,” Pravada said.