Traverse City played host to the most recognizable name in endurance sports on August 24 as athletes from around the world came to compete in an IRONMAN 70.3 race.
For those who don’t spend their free time thumbing through Runner’s World magazine and using their fun money on race entry fees, IRONMAN is a world-renowned brand that hosts a bevy of full-and-half endurance races in all corners of the planet, the most notable race in Hawaii that is televised annually on NBC Sports.
A full IRONMAN race consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a marathon 26.2-mile run, raced in that order and without a break.
Feel free to adjust your glasses, take a deep breath and read that line again.
The IRONMAN 70.3 or “Half IRONMAN” as many refer to it is exactly that—half the distance in each of the stamina-demanding areas: a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride, and a 13.1-mile run. Those slightly-smaller numbers don’t make the feat any less impressive and daunting.
As IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 races take place all over the world in places like Rio de Janeiro, Shanghai, and Dubai, it begs the question of how the quaint lakeside community of Traverse City hit the radar of IRONMAN organizers.
Local tri-athlete, Patrick McIntyre, who had competed in an IRONMAN 70.3 race himself, reached out to the IRONMAN organization and recommended Traverse City as an ideal locale for a 70.3 IRONMAN race.
“Traverse City has all the things you want in an IRONMAN destination,” said IRONMAN 70.3 Traverse City Race Director Joel Gaff, also an IRONMAN athlete himself. “This community offers all the benefits of a gorgeous destination spot—a food and drink scene that’s off the charts, natural amenities, and a community that is very active-minded with swimmers, runners, and cyclists who appreciate the amazing scenery as a backdrop to their activities.”
Traverse City certainly sold its natural attributes and community charm, as IRONMAN 70.3 Traverse City sold out faster than any other 70.3 race in the brand’s history.
That means approximately 2,500 athletes pursuing their athletic dreams, over 1,500 volunteers, and a team of dedicated race staff and spectators descended on the lakeside town in late August. While many of those dreamers come from out of the country and out of the state—for the 2019 IRONMAN 70.3 Traverse City, there are plenty of local endurance athletes taking their shot as well. IRONMAN U certified coach, Tyler Guggemos, of Organic Coaching, led a group of around 15 athletes in training for the August 2019 event.
“As soon as the rumors started that Traverse City would be hosting an IRONMAN race, athletes started reaching out to me,” said Guggemos. “There is so much excitement around a race like this, and anyone who has spent any time in endurance sports knows you need a team of people to support you in achieving something like this.”
Check out IRONMAN U certified coach Tyler’s smoothie recipe to help the body recover after a training session.
Whether that looks like professional coaching advice, family support, or understanding friends, every IRONMAN knows that the achievement is bigger than race day. Guggemos, an IRONMAN alumnus himself, encourages folks interested in the 2020 race, to begin their training regimen now. Training includes workout and nutrition planning, as well as conversations with loved ones about the significant time commitment.
There’s a reason not everyone does endurance sports and why not every endurance sport athlete signs up for an IRONMAN. The toll both emotionally and physically can be demanding, but as most athletes will tell you—it is most certainly worth it.
“IRONMAN events bring athletes of every shape and size, each with a story that isn’t exactly like anyone else’s,” said Gaff. “What you’re struck with at an IRONMAN race is that everyone is there trying to achieve something that is very personal to that individual. It reminds me of the IRONMAN motto— ‘Anything Is Possible.’”
Missed the 2019 race? Don’t worry, they’ll be back in 2020, and you’ll have a chance to see thousands of faces showing you just what “anything is possible” looks like.
Emily Haines Lloyd is a freelance writer in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area. She has worked in advertising and marketing for nearly twenty years and also contributes as a features writer in publications like – MLive, MicroShiner and MittenBrew. You can see more of her work at emilyhaineslloyd.com