By Kristen Miller
DASSEL, MN; MADISON, WI After 14 hours of pushing her body to the limit, Sandy Stertz of Dassel crossed the finish line of the Ironman Wisconsin triathlon in Madison Sept. 8.
Stertz has competed in triathlons before, but this was a feeling like none other, she said.
“It was one of the biggest accomplishments of my life, second to giving birth of my kids,” Stertz said. “It was awesome.”
An accomplishment it was.
Stertz not only made it through each of three courses in the allotted time, but she completed the 140.6-mile race three hours ahead of her goal.
The Ironman started with a 2.4 mile-swim in Lake Monona, in downtown Madison. Stertz explained that it was a mass run to the water, with all 2,500 participants starting at the same time.
Following the swim, Stertz changed into bike gear and biked 112 miles on the outskirts of Madison. She described the challenging terrain as really hilly, but very scenic.
She then came into Madison and changed into her running gear for a 26.2-mile marathon.
Running in Madison was “very cool,” Stertz commented, particularly along State Street, near the Capitol, as she ran toward the finish line.
As challenging and sometimes grueling as the race was, Stertz found support from the more than 45,000 cheering fans along the route. She commented how encouraging it was to have “total strangers cheering you on.”
Stertz has done smaller triathlons in the past, but the Ironman was “so much bigger.”
It’s also a big commitment.
“Most people start training nine months to get to the point where they can finish,” Stertz said, who began training in January.
Also, because registration fills up within hours, Stertz and her husband, Todd, volunteered for the run last year, which gave her first priority into this year’s race.
Being there and helping was inspiring for Stertz.
“It’s just amazing,” Stertz said, explaining that she thought there would be a certain size or age range. However, Stertz found that “anyone can do this . . . if they have the will to get it done.”
With encouragement from her husband, Stertz knew this was something she could train her body to do. “I wanted to push myself to do it,” she explained.
For her, the most challenging part was the anticipation of it all.
Having arrived the day prior, Stertz had plenty of time to think about all of the things that could go wrong what if people swim over her or, what if she gets a flat tire?
The anticipation was harder than actually doing it, she commented, adding that people did swim over her. She also got kicked in the head and swallowed a lot of water.
“You just have to remain calm and keep your cool,” Stertz said, adding that one can’t panic in those situations.
The day turned out to be perfect, weather-wise, Stertz said, with overcast skies and low-humidity keeping it rather cool.
“It was the perfect day for racing,” she said.
The feeling of crossing the finish line (in 14 hours and 14 seconds), Stertz said, is hard to explain. “It’s incredible.”
Before the event, Mike Reilly, the race announcer, told participants not to sprint to the finish line because it’s a feeling like no other.
As a mother, Stertz said it was also very important for her kids to witness the competition and know that “if you set your mind to something, you can do it.”
Dassel-Cokato Fun Run Saturday, Sept. 28
Stertz, who is passionate about fitness, is also past-president of the Dassel-Cokato PTA and encourages kids from preschool to sixth grade to participate in the third annual DC Fun Run Saturday, Sept. 28.
“It’s passing that level of fitness down to kids and making it fun; not seeing it as something they have to do, but something they enjoy doing,” Stertz said.
This year, for added fun and a splash of color, the Fun Run will become a color run in which the participants can be decorated with colored corn starch, Stertz noted.
The cost to run is $5 for children of PTA members and $7 for non-PTA members.
For more information on the run and to register, click here.