Iron (Hart)Man: Hartman finishes in 14.5 hours at Ironman Triathlon in Madison

By Danny Schaefer 2006

A chemistry experiment has molded chemistry teacher and men’s cross country coach Jeff Hartman into a man of iron.

In reality, it didn’t have anything to do with chemistry, but Harman’s trip to Madison, Wisc., certainly was an experiment. Hartman completed the mother load of all triathlons, the Ironman, which consists of swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running 26.2 miles to top it all off.

The Ironman Triathlon started at seven in the morning on Sept. 12, and every athlete must complete the race before midnight in order to finish. After each stage in the triathlon there is a transition period where athletes drop their gear off, change into different clothes for the next stage and grab something to eat and drink.

Hartman explained how he first got the idea to compete in the Ironman Triathlon back in the summer of 2003.

“I watched the Ironman last year, and that was really motivating and inspiring. In August my brother-in-law started to talk about it and really got me to thinking that I could do it. That night I couldn’t even sleep because I was thinking about it so much,” Hartman said.

After looking into it, Hartman sent the $400 entry fee and began his year of training. He would train whenever time permitted, which ended up being 10 to 15 hours a week. During the fall, Hartman concentrated on his biking and running, and nin the winter he switched over to mostly swimming. In April, Hartman ran a marathon to measure where he was in his training.

“Throughout my training, my family has been really supportive. I couldn’t have trained without them and the sacrifices they made to make time for me to train,” Hartman said.

Hartman also explained his insecurity when it came closer to the race day.

“About a month and a half before the race, I felt like I wasn’t prepared enough and considered withdrawing where at that point I could also get some money back form my entry fee. My wife, Jen, said that she knew I could do it, and if she hadn’t said that she believed in me I might have chickened out. Her confidence helped me, and that is what got me through it all,” Hartman said.

Hartman arrived in Madison on Friday afternoon. Saturday was full of busy activity as he checked in his gear in the morning, swam in a lake and went for a bike ride.

Even his family got a taste of the race when they participated in racing activities and received medals and T-shirts. After a mandatory athlete’s meeting to discuss the course and safety issues, Hartman finally had a chance to eat his pasta dinner and rest before the big day.

With a wake up call of 4:30 Sunday morning, and a bowl of oatmeal and glass of water, Hartman prepared his day by going over his transition equipment and receiving his race numbers. By 6:30 a.m., Hartman was down by the water and in his wetsuit ready to go.

“Before the start, my two children gave me a final pep talk. They each gave me a quote, which I wrote on each arm. ‘To achieve you must believe,’ as what Savannah, who’s in third grade, told me. Jacob, who’s in first grade, said to ‘believe in yourself if no one else did.’ I couldn’t have finished if it wasn’t for my family’s encouragement and their faith in me. I can’t explain how important it was for them to be there,” Hartman said.

Hartman’s 2.4 mile swim clocked in at one hour and six minutes. After changing into his cycling clothes, grabbing his bike and an energy bar, Hartman was off again for the 112-mile bike ride.

“The first 70 miles of biking felt great, but off the bike I couldn’t eat anything because I felt so nauseous and light-headed. The point in the race when I seriously thought about quitting was about two miles into the run and I started to walk. I ended up walking with another athlete for five miles and my stomach started to feel better and my heart rate settled. From then on, I just looked at it as one mile at a time,” Hartman said.

Hartman’s 112-mile bike ride time was seven hours and 10 minutes, and his run took five hours and 55 minutes. this racing battle took a total time of 14 hours and 35 minutes.

Men’s cross country head coach Troy Becker traveled down to Madison along with members of the team to support their coach.

“I was optimistic about coach Hartman finishing, but when I got there that day, I was a little concerned because of the sun and heat. His finish was great because it showed to the team that Hartman acts on what he preaches at practice,” Becker said.

Hartman’s next Ironman entry is yet to be decided. “I won’t do it next year, but now that I know I can do it, I’d like to see how fast I can finish,” he said.

“The finish was the best part. Thousands of people were watching the last stretch and leaning over rails to give high-fives. I finished around 9:30 p.m., and the finish line was lit up in the dark. It was an incredible feeling, and at that point, I was at the top of the world,” Hartman said.

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