What do you call someone who swims 2.4 miles in open water, followed by 112 miles on a bike and then caps off their day with a 26.2 mile run?
Or an Ironman.
For Milford resident and Clermont Sun staff writer Kristin Bednarski, completing the Louisville Ironman on Aug. 26 in 12:37:56 was the checking off of a bucket list task from a bucket list that doesn’t even exist.
“I guess it was a bucket list thing,” she said. “It’s not even like my bucket list is made, but I just add things to it all the time. It was definitely something I wanted to check off before I got married because the training is so intense and it takes a lot of time.”
Bednarski first got involved in triathlons when she was in college at the University of Kentucky. Already a swimmer, she took a spinning class that she really enjoyed, which led to her joining a triathlon club at UK.
“I joined the triathlon club and started swimming with the Masters team there and then I bought a bike and all that,” Bednarski explained. “Basically, you just get really addicted to it and you keep doing them and you’re wondering when is the next one, and eventually (you want to do the Ironman) because it’s the baddest one.”
Before Bednarski signed up for last month’s Ironman Louisville, she had completed numerous triathlons, Olympic distances and Half Ironmans, all of which were build ups in a way to finishing the toughest one of them all.
Bednarski’s goal leading up to the event was to simply be in shape, fully trained and healthy so that she could successfully complete the race. In order to do that, Bednarski undertook a grueling training regimen that by race time had built up to 18 hours a week.
“I did a significant amount of training volume for each sport,” she said. “It’s different than if you were to train for an individual thing because you do each thing several times a week.
“I normally had three swims a week for at least an hour, three to four bike rides a week… and then another recovery ride or a brick, which is when you bike then run afterward immediately because you have to get your legs ready for the shock of riding that far and then running.”
Because of the time requirements, Bednarski said she would more often than not train alone, although she did do some rides and workouts with friends or a group if their schedules matched up.
Bednarski was kept on task by her coach, Beth Atnip, who is based out of Lexington and is the race director at Ironman Louisville.
“She had expectations more than I did,” Bednarski said. “She put my workouts on Training Peaks online. She’d put my workouts in and I would go on and fill out what I did. Originally, she wanted me to finish the race in 13 hours and then she went back in and changed it to 12:30 and I finished it in just about 12:30, so it went better than I thought. And I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.”
The event, which spanned over 140 miles when all was said and done, took place in and around downtown Louisville and boasted right around 3,000 athletes.
The race began at 6:50 a.m. with the professionals starting first. Bednarski estimates it was between 7:20 and 7:30 a.m. before she got into the water.
Being properly trained, Bednarski didn’t have any real speed bumps along the way aside from mentally getting through certain parts of the race.
Bednarski said that the swim was a little crowded and for an inexperienced swimmer, it could have been scary. As for the biking portion, the only part that bothered her came around the 90-mile mark.
“Mile 90 to 112 of the bike are annoying,” Bednarski said. “I wouldn’t say that it’s pain or really challenging, it’s just really annoying because you’re sick of being in the seat and you’re sick of riding your bicycle. You just want to stand up and get off the bicycle.”
Luckily for Bednarski and other athletes, the Ironman is a well-supported event with fans cheering the athletes on.
“What was really cool, not only the people that I had out there, but also the random people that were everywhere,” she said. “That was awesome. Just the random people who would come out and sit in their yard and cheer for you. I’ve volunteered, watched it and cheered people on at Ironman Louisville for the past couple of years and you know that it helps people when you cheer them on, but once you do it, it’s amazing. You literally look forward to the next group of people cheering.”
The cheering fans were especially welcomed during the final leg of the Ironman, the 26.2-mile run.
“I think that no matter what, the run is the hardest because it’s the last one,” she explained. “For me in a lot of triathlons, the run has been the worst, but since I’ve been training for the Ironman, it’s the only thing that I didn’t get sick of in training because I got so much better.
“Around miles 18 to 21 of the run, you’re mentally worn out and your body’s worn out, but once you turn and headed back home, you’re excited about the finish and you’re fine.”
The race finishes up at Fourth Street Live in downtown Louisville. The street is barricaded off and Bednarski says you just feed off of the cheers and adrenaline of finishing.
“You turn the corner and it’s just awesome,” Bednarski said. “They line Fourth Street with barriers so you run down to the finish and people are just packed in there. They were ringing bells and cheering and screaming and they have loud music playing and just knowing that you’re done is awesome.”
Once finished, Bednarski said you realize just what you’ve done and put your body through and you expect to pay for it. For example, she said when she was laying in bed following the race, she felt like she was still riding her bike.
When Monday morning hit, Bednarski said she felt physically ill and sore, but was able to recover much faster than she expected, saying she was back to normal by Wednesday and pain free on Thursday, Aug. 30.
With the Ironman now on her bucket list and successfully completed, Bednarski wasn’t sure how soon she would be back on her bike or in the pool. Originally, she said she wouldn’t touch either for a few months, but seemed to talk herself out it.
“I want to do another one already,” she said. “I don’t know when, but I promised that I would back off for a little while… But I think I’m going to run a marathon next year.”
And although she hoped to take two weeks off, the addict in her wanted to get back to working out just a week removed from the Ironman.
So, what’s next task on Bednarski’s retroactive bucket list?
“I think I’m going to do an off-road triathlon, because I think that would be awesome. So a marathon next and then (an off-road) triathlon.”
Crazy? No. Just an Ironman.