By JUDI TABLER
Special to the Tribune
LARNED — Marcy Wagner, a Fort Larned USD 495 Middle School teacher and coach, will be competing in her first Ironman 70.3 competition in Muncie, Ind. Saturday.
She is both excited and nervous — and who wouldn’t be?
Traveling to Muncie with her husband Gary, who also teaches and coaches in USD 495. They will connect with her sister Melissa Righausen and husband, who will be running in the same event.
“I had been thinking about some day competing in such an event. But it was only in my thoughts,” Wagner said.
“Then, one day, out of the blue, my sister calls and says, ‘Have you ever thought about entering an “Ironman” contest?’ Well, I couldn’t believe my ears. It was a definite confirmation from God, I think.”
“Believe me — if she and I weren’t doing this together, I don’t think I would even consider such a challenge,” she said.
There are three successive events in Ironman competition. The Ironman 70.3 is half the distance of an Ironman. It is one of a series of long distance triathlon races organized by the World Triathlon Corporation.
The time allotted for the entire triathlon from the start of the last competitor to enter the water until the end of the run is 8 hours and 30 minutes. So time is still very important. Running over that time is a disqualification.
Both men and women compete in this Ironman contest, which is divided by age categories.
The first race is the open water swim. Swimmers must cover 1.25 miles in the Prairie Creek Reservoir. Swimmers are allowed 70 minutes to finish. The open water may be choppy and it may be rough.
The release times into the first event are staggered — the oldest competitors entering the water first.
The swimmers may wear wetsuits if the water temperature is below 76 degrees.
“I like a wetsuit,” she said. “It makes swimming easier and keeps you afloat. I will take it along, just in case it’s below that temperature,” said Wagner.
Because of the many swimmers in the water, a swimmer can accidentally get kicked or lose their goggles.
“Drowning is a definite possibility,” Marcy said.
However, kayaks, canoes, jet skis, and other craft are close by to keep the swimmers safe. Swimmers are allowed to grab on to the vessels to rest if necessary, although their time is ticking. If a swimmer runs over the allotted time, they will ne disqualified.
The next event is a 56-mile bicycle course. The course is described as flat and fast.
Marcy’s bicycle is tuned and ready.
“My greatest concern in this event is a flat tire. I can change it if I have to, though!”
Once she completes the bike race, Marcy will walk to the transition area, put on her running shoes, and begin the 13.1-mile run.
I asked Marcy where this passion for such rigorous competition began.
“So often we regard the influence that teachers might have in a student’s life, but it works in reverse too,” she said. “I was influenced greatly because of a former student — Kristin Loving is my hero. She was a student of mine in seventh grade at Pawnee Rock. She ran high school sports, and Gary coached her. I watched her grow up and evolve.
Around 2011, Kristin competed in her first Ironman.
“She wanted me to try it, but I was preparing for my first race competition and didn’t think I could do this too,” Wagner said. “I later regretted that I hadn’t done it with her. Last September Kristin ran a full Ironman — a 2.5-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and 26.2 marathon run.
“When I saw her smiling face crossing the finish line, it got to me. I had to try it,” Marcy said. “I am the most apprehensive about the swim. My sister is concerned the most about the run. But when we get to walk the course and practice swim the day before, I know it will help our confidence.”
Marcy said the Muncie event is safe because the roads are closed for the event and that factor is a great selling point.
She appreciates the spectators.
“The crowds’ cheers and encouragement are vital. That is huge,” she said. “The crowds charge you up. They are as enthusiastic and involved as the runners, and they understand how their encouragement keeps you going.”
She added that the spectators wave humorous signs, offer tissues, vaseline (for chafing), and that the runners feel the charge and adrenaline from the cheering.
For example — runners occasionally need to blow their noses or spit. One sign displayed a bull’s eye that said, “spit here!”
What about diet?
Marcy suggested that there are many recommended diets for competitors. She and her sister consume more protein the first part of the week, and consume mainly carbohydrates the days before. They will carry booster foods with them.
What about going to the bathroom?
Water is crucial. It is recommended to stay hydrated and going to the restroom is a fact of life. There are many restrooms along the route.
What about being hungry?
Marcy and Missy will carry energy bits; a snack made of oatmeal, peanut butter, and honey. Energy gels (like GU) in squeeze packets, Cliff bars, and Gatorade work well during the bike ride or run.
“We will consume about 7,000 calories leading up to and including the event,” she said. “Believe me, they will all be burned.”
So, on Saturday Marcy and her sister Melissa will make their initial attempt at conquering a 1.25-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride, and a 13.1-mile run.
They are Iron women!