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Nelson, Krantz
Greg Nelson
Rewey's Greg Nelson completed his fourth Ironman race, and third Ironman Wisconsin, Sunday, Sept. 12 in Madison.
Joe Krantz
Lancaster's Joe Krantz completed his first Ironman race Sunday, Sept. 12 in Madison.


By A.J. Gates, Herald Independent

MADISON — After enduring a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run, anyone who has dared to compete in an Ironman event, longs to hear those immortal words as they cross the finish line.

“Greg Nelson, you are an Ironman!” 

“Joe Krantz, you are an Ironman!”

Those were the words Greg Nelson, 51, of Rewey, and Joe Krantz, 38, of Lancaster heard Sunday night (Sept. 12) as they crossed the finish line at the conclusion of the 140.6-mile Ironman Wisconsin held in Madison.

The two men who live approximately 17 miles apart, may never have met each other, but they share a great deal in common, including their desire to push their mental and physical limits.

Nelson has now competed in four Ironman events, his first being 10 years ago, and his last one prior to this year’s was in 2015. This year he posted his fastest time of the previous three.

This was Krantz’s first full Ironman competition, though he has competed in three Tough Mudder events, a full marathon, numerous sprint triathlons, one Olympic triathlon and two half-Ironman events.

Though their time is strictly an afterthought to finishing the 140.6-mile course, Nelson concluded the Ironman Wisconsin in a time of 12 hours and 39 minutes. He finished 38th of 229 competitors in the 50–54 year old men’s division, and 452nd of 1,985 total competitors.

Krantz, who was experiencing all of the challenges associated with the Ironman Wisconsin for the first time, concluded the race in a time of 15 hours and 36 minutes. His time earned him 143rd place of 170 competitors in the 35–39 year old men’s race, and 1,470th overall.

“Ultimately, the day was all about enjoying it, trying to take in what was going on,” said Krantz. “Was I nervous? Absolutely I was nervous. What I told myself in the morning was to just go out for a nice swim and enjoy the lake. Get out of the lake, take it easy and get to the bike.

“The mentality from there was to just go for a bike ride and enjoy the day, the people, the cheering and the fellow riders. Once I get the bike done, I needed to eat to get my nutrition and then get to the run.”

“Running has always been my weakness, as far as trying to finish,” added Krantz. “I wanted to take it easy on the bike to get to the run. The ultimate goal was to finish. This is a game of beating myself. This was me against me.”

Krantz said his run went well until around the 18-mile mark, where he started feeling dizzy to the point where he almost passed out.

He was given chicken broth, water and Gatorade at the aid station, and following a short rest, was able to finish the remaining eight miles.

“I felt good until I stopped, and I had numerous people before hand tell me that whatever I do, don’t stop,” said Krantz.

For Nelson, who has a few more years of experience in Ironman competitions, there were no surprises during his 140.6-mile trek that he wasn’t prepared for.

 “It was a good day, you really couldn’t have asked for better weather,” he said. “It never really got hot, or never got sunny.

“I was shooting for around an 18-mile per hour average on the bike, and I pulled in at about 17.8, so I was pretty happy with that. That’s the portion I decided I wanted to improve the most in,” he added. “It took a toll on my run a little bit compared to other years, but overall my time was still better.”

For Nelson, who had competed in two other Ironman Wisconsin events prior to this, the finish is always the reward. But to hear Krantz explain the final stretch, gives you an idea of just how special that moment really is.

“When I got to the last two blocks by the capital and I rounded the corner, I don’t know how I held it together,” Krantz explained.

“There it was. The bright lights and the people screaming. I found my family, and bless their hearts, but my kids who are 10, 7 and 4, were still up at 10:30 at night cheering me on.”

“This isn’t about me,” he said. “This is about my family, and all the things that they sacrificed along the way to allow me to chase a goal that I had been living in my head for six years.”

Both men said they had put about six months of strenuous training in preparation for this year’s Ironman Wisconsin competition, though they both work out regularly on a day-to-day basis.

Now during the recovery stage, they both said it will take about a week to get through their body aches, but haven’t stopped moving and working out in the days after the competition.

“The day after was bad,” said Nelson. “I was pretty sore. The next day wasn’t too bad, but I feel pretty good four days out.”

And what about doing another one?

“I don’t know,” said Nelson. “It’s a little too soon. I can still remember how hard the run was. I’m not going to say no, but I don’t have one planned.”

 “As of right now I don’t have any plans of doing another full Ironman,” said Krantz days after the event.

Krantz, who is a firm believer that you get out of life what you put into it, has a message to anyone who thinks he’s crazy for competing in such a challenging event.

“People tell me that I’m crazy, and I’m thinking to myself that they can do it too. I’m no better than the next guy down the street, and I don’t ever think that of myself.”

For Krantz, his goal of finishing a full Ironman before the age of 40 was realized this year in Madison. 

For Nelson, he has shown that after three previous Ironman competitions he still has a lot in the tank, and at the age of 51, proved just that with his best time of the four.