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Accomplishing the Ironman
Oct. 7, 2013
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Winsted woman rocks extreme endurance race

By Starrla Cray
Staff Writer

WINSTED, MN – Some might call it crazy to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles all in one day.

But, to endurance athletes like Winsted’s Stephanie Potter, the feat is simply known as the Ironman Triathlon.

“I tried not to think about the whole thing, so it wasn’t overwhelming,” said Potter, who completed the race in Madison, WI in 13 hours, 6 minutes, and 15 seconds.

Swim it to win it
First, Potter concentrated on the swim in Lake Manona – along with more than 2,000 other athletes.

“The first quarter mile to a mile, arms and legs are everywhere,” she said. “You get kicked a few times. It’s just really hectic.”

The lively start didn’t scare Potter, however, and the swim turned out to be her favorite part of the race.

“Usually, I enjoy biking the best, but the Ironman swim was such a unique experience,” she said. “So many people are swimming in one direction, it starts a current.”

Liking the biking
After her swim, Potter didn’t have time to rest – the clock is still ticking during transition times. Instead, she grabbed her bike and started pedaling.

Riders traveled 16 miles out of town before beginning two 40-mile loops in rural Dane County. According to the Ironman website, the loops are “extremely hilly, with many tough climbs and turns.”

“I try to eat 350 calories for every hour I’m on the bike,” Potter said, explaining that she chooses easy-to-digest formulas specially made for endurance athletes.

Six hours and 40 minutes later, Potter transitioned to the triathlon’s last leg.

Ready to run
The hilly running course included two 13-mile loops through downtown Madison, the University of Wisconsin campus, Camp Randall Stadium, State Street, and a path alongside Lake Mendota.

“Before I knew it, 13 miles were done,” Potter said.

Aid stations were available every mile, so Potter focused on getting to the next station, rather than thinking about the entire length.

“The run went really well until mile 20,” she said. “That’s when I started to feel really tired, and a little bit dizzy.”

At mile 23, Potter stopped to rest. Once she got going again, she didn’t let herself take any more breaks.

“I knew if I stopped, I wouldn’t start running again,” she said.

Orange cones were set up on the side, and towards the end, Potter concentrated on just making it to the next cone.

Fame at the finish line
At the finish line, Potter was overwhelmed with tears of joy.

“As soon as you turn the corner, it’s all lit up with stadium lights, and everyone is cheering your name,” she said. “It makes you feel like a movie star.”

Volunteers, called “catchers,” hold each finisher until they’re feeling strong enough to rejoin their family or friends.

“I could hear them talking to me, but I couldn’t focus on what they were saying,” Potter recalled, “My muscles kept twitching.”

Complimentary massages were available after the race, which Potter found to be quite beneficial.

“I thought I was going to feel really awful the next day,” she said. Fortunately, she ended up feeling relatively good during the six-hour drive home.

Soreness set in a day later, however, and Potter described it like “being hit by a car.”

Tons of training
Preparing for a race like the Ironman doesn’t happen overnight. Potter signed up a year in advance, and underwent months of rigorous training.

“The last 12 weeks, I hired a coach,” she added.

She also had support from fellow Buffalo Tri Club members, several of whom also participated in this year’s Ironman.

Potter’s 11-year-old daughter Gwen already shares her mother’s enthusiasm, and has participated in 5ks, the Mud Man race, and is on a swim team in Buffalo. 

Potter’s husband, Mike, competed in one shorter triathlon, but hockey is his exercise of choice. The couple also has a 6-year-old daughter, Brooklyn.

Potter graduated from Mayer Lutheran High School in 2000, and is currently a stay-at-home mom.

Previously, she spent six years in the Marines, and served one tour of duty in Iraq.

They survived
Stephanie Potter wasn’t the only Buffalo Tri Club member to do the 2013 Ironman Triathlon in Madison, WI. Also participating were:

• Jason Eckert

• Ryan Hazen

• Jesse Marzean

• Skip Fitting

• David Stueve

• Tim Bode

• Mandy Stoesz

• Kim Siebold

• Rachel Busch

• Ted McNamara

Run, swim, bike
The first Ironman Triathlon  took place in Hawaii Feb. 18, 1978.  Fifteen people competed, including founder John Collins, a US Naval commander.

The race combines three challenging events:

• 2.4-mile swim

• 112-mile bike ride

• 26.2-mile run

For more information, go to www.ironman.com.

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