A dream within reach

Menendez, Wysocki get ready to compete in Ironman Canada

Posted: Monday, August 19, 2002

Two-mile swims, 20-mile runs and bike rides up to 200 miles long have all built up to one day for Juneau residents Jessica Menendez and Robert Wysocki.

Next Sunday, the training partners will compete in Ironman Canada, a grueling triathlon that will be the culmination - and test - of years of dreams and preparation.

"I'm pretty thrilled with both of us," Menendez said last week. "We set a goal, we trained to it and we're just about there."

The race, held in Penticton in south-central British Columbia, features a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride on hilly terrain, followed by a full marathon - a 26.2 mile-run. Temperatures can reach 90 degrees at this time of year, pushing even the best-trained athletes to their limits.

"The hours, the commitment, the mental abuse - it's a challenge," Wysocki said.

Menendez, 39, and Wysocki, 35, built their dreams of competing in an Ironman on experience in marathons and smaller triathlon events.

Menendez started working toward the goal three years ago at the urging of a previous training partner. Wysocki got hooked on triathlons while in graduate school a few years back, and at graduation time - on a dare with a Canadian classmate - vowed to someday compete in Ironman Canada.

The two learned of their similar goals when Wysocki signed up for a spinning - indoor cycling - class taught by Menendez. Since then, Wysocki and Menendez have been following a progressively more strenuous training schedule - three days of biking and three days of running each week, along with four days of laps in the Augustus Brown pool.

"Life has pretty much become training," Menendez said.

Recently, the duo toned down their workouts in order to let their bodies rest and recuperate before the big day. But at their peak, training distances reached two miles of laps in the pool, 20 miles of running and - in July - 200 miles of biking in one day in the 2002 Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic.

"We thought long and hard after the 200-miler, 'Could we run a marathon after this?,'" as they will have to do after biking 112 miles in the Ironman, Menendez said.

Menendez and Wysocki also participated in a half-Ironman race in California last May. That event helped them assess their preparation and research some of the technical aspects of Ironman competition, like transitions between stages and eating and drinking to keep up energy during the race.

"It was a huge confidence builder," Wysocki said. "We both finished strong and we learned a lot of things."

The duo said they feel they are as ready as they can be - physically, mentally and emotionally - for the triathlon.

"We're prepared for the distances," Menendez said. "What you can't prepare for is what happens on race day."

But, Wysocki said, they have a plan in their minds as they approach the event that should see them through whatever variables they encounter.

Ironman Canada is one of the most popular of the various Ironman races held around the world, and almost all the spots for each year's race are taken the day after the previous year's event. The duo got in with the help of friends who participated in Ironman Canada last year; participants are able to hold spots for themselves and a friend for the next year's race.

Ironman Canada draws about 2,000 competitors. One other Southeast resident - Spencer Plante of Craig - has signed up for this year's race, and seven other Alaskans are also on this year's participant list. Both Juneau competitors will have family and friends on hand to cheer them on.

Menendez said she can sense her dream within reach.

"Ironman just seems unattainable in many ways, but where I sit right now, it's very real," she said. "It definitely is attainable. I can go the distance. I want to see that finish line."

Wysocki said he's getting anxious to get to Penticton and start the race. He's also looking forward to resting after the triathlon is over.

"I'm looking forward to a month off with no training after this," he said. "I just want to get to the starting line and get going."

Menendez is already considering what her next challenge will be; she's thinking of trying out adventure racing.

"I'm looking forward to crossing this off the list of things done, and then looking for something else," she said.

Coverage of Ironman Canada will air on cable's Outdoor Life Network next month.

On the Net: http://www.ironman.ca

Andrew Krueger can be reached at akrueger@juneauempire.com.

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