MADISON - A 2.4 mile bike ride, followed by a 112-mile bike ride, capped off with a full marathon - 26.2-mile run. Not exactly an ideal Sunday afternoon for the vast majority of the society. Then again, Ironman triathletes are not the vast majority of society.
On Sunday, Sept. 11, the Platteville father-and-son duo of John and Bo Duggan, former Platteville High School four-year letter winner Darwin Cushman, and former PHS cross country and track athlete Joe Moyer were among the 2,000+ participants that conquered all three legs of the Madison-based Ironman Wisconsin, suffered through hours of constant pain, and prevailed against one of man’s greatest tests of endurance for an accomplishment as rewarding as any in their lives; the right to be called an Ironman.
Sunday’s Ironman was the fourth for Moyer, who recently became a certified triathlon coach. It was the first for the Duggans and Cushman.
“It was very painful at the end, but it was very rewarding,” said John Duggan, owner of Bel-Aire Home Improvement, father of two and a 55-year-old grandfather of five. “I was just happy that it was over. But it felt good. I had a lot of support from my family and wife, and the fans were unbelievable. You really get energized with 45,000 people cheering for you.”
Duggan finished his first Ironman in 15 hours, 7 minutes and 7 seconds, with his son Bo right by his side. “That was special. To be able do it and finish with my son was nice,” said John. “We trained a lot together and even ran a few sprint triathlons and a half triathlon together. It was always nice having someone else to bounce ideas off of.”
“My number one goal was to finish it with a smile on my face and I did that,” added Bo, a self-employed construction contractor and father of a 21-month-old daughter that now lives in Pewaukee. “Finishing with dad was an added bonus. I was really proud of him. I’m only 32 and it was hard enough for me. But for him to finish it at 55 years old is amazing. Guys like him and Darwin are pretty tough. It was excruciatingly painful, but it was also a lot of fun.”
It was actually Bo and his wife, Tara, who inspired John to sign up for Ironman Wisconsin just over a year ago.
Bo and Tara bought John a new rode bike for his 50th birthday five years ago, and Bo and John did several bike races together. Then after watching Tara compete in the 2010 Ironman Wisconsin, her third Ironman, the Duggans convinced each other to train for the 2011 Wisconsin race. They even registered the very next day.
“So in a way she’s to blame for all this,” quipped John.
Tara didn’t compete in this year’s race, but she was there at the finish line, along with mother and wife Janet Duggan, to congratulate the father and son.
John and Bo definitely plan on competing in another Ironman, along with Tara and hopefully John‘s daughter and Bo‘s sister Amber Duggan, who introduced John to cycling five years ago when she taught a spin class he joined. They are shooting for 2013.
“It’s not just the training, but you have to eat differently and there are a lot of mornings of getting up at 4:30 a.m.,” explained John. “I think the hardest part for younger people is having kids. My kids are grown so I have more free time than others.”
“It’s one of those things that hangs over your head everyday,” said Bo of the six-days-a-week training schedule. “It’s a big time commitment away from your family, but it’s a family affair for us when it’s over.”
Cushman, a 48-year-old father of three, finished right behind John and Bo in last weekend’s race, crossing the finish line at 15:07:31. “They actually passed me on the Martin Luther King Drive, on the final stretch of the marathon,” said Cushman, who trained with John at the UW-Platteville pool and biked together as well. “I thought about calling their names and running with them, but I thought it would be nice to sit back and watch father and son finish together.”
Cushman, a three-sport athlete in high school, used to race bicycles, but put the sport on hold a decade ago when he had young kids. (He has sons that are 12 and 8 and a stepson that is in the Marine Corps).
“It was just hard to put in the time to remain competitive when you have little ones,” said Cushman.
A little over a year ago after getting back into biking, he decided he wanted to try an Ironman. He signed up for the 2011 race and began training at the college last December and began training occasionally with Duggan, after John called to introduce himself in January.
“It was kind of a bucket list thing,” said Cushman. “I just wanted to see if I could do it.
“It was very tough. When I used to race bicycles that was simple. It was just one sport. In a triathlon its obviously three sports in one day. It is really involved and requires a lot of equipment. But it’s pretty rewarding when you are done and it’s a lot of fun competing with all the people cheering you on.”
Cushman just missed his goal of 1:35 in the 2.4-mile swim and finished the 112-mile bike ride in less than six hours, but ran into trouble in the marathon, when his feet began to blister and swell.
“The first thing I thought when I finished was that I could do better next year,” said Cushman. “Now I know I need more work on the run. I’ll run a marathon and maybe a couple of half marathons next year to prepare.”
For 1997 PHS graduate Joe Moyer, 33, Sunday’s race was about achieving another goal. Since running his first Ironman Wisconsin three years ago in 2008, Moyer has shaved more than an hour off the time he posted in that first race and is now within striking distance off his primary goal of earning a coveted qualifying spot in the prestigious Ironman World Championships in Cona, Hawaii.
His time of 10 hours, 20 minutes and 34 seconds this year was his best effort by 10 minutes, and was just 10 minutes and eight places in his age division (30-34) away from a top-6 qualifying spot for Hawaii. He finished 14th in his age division and 43rd overall. Professional Ironman Izequiel Morales of Argentina won the men’s Ironman Wisconsin in 8:45:18.
Moyer, who is currently working as an auto technician in Rochester, Minn., finished 387th overall in that first Ironman, 109th in 2009 and 105th overall a year ago.
“It’s definitely been a progression each year and that’s the goal with anything,” explained Moyer. “To try and get better from year to year. My focus is for Hawaii. Prior to this year, my best time was 30 minutes away from a qualifying spot. Now it seems like a tangible, achievable goal.”
Like so many, Moyer’s interest in triathlons was sparked by others. After three or four years of road bike racing Moyer began competing in run-bike duathlons. He started racing in team triathlons with his wife Anne (Thalman) Moyer, a second-year resident at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, with Anne completing the swimming leg because Joe couldn’t swim. But after watching friends complete an Ironman wanted to try it for himself. So he learned to swim, then competed in his first Ironman Wisconsin just a few days after turning 30 in 2008.
“My goal in the first one was just to finish it,” he said. “And that’s a great goal. Finishing an Ironman is a great accomplishment for anyone.”
Moyer’s coaching career began by helping friends. Then two years ago he passed the US Triathlon coaching certificate program, and became a certified coach through US Cycling as well. Two years ago he was hired by two athletes and this year he had seven, three of whom raced last week as well, two for the first time - one who finished 13th in their age group.
Next year he has five more that have been signed on to focus specifically on the Ironman Wisconsin.
“It’s such a well run race. That’s why I keep coming back,” added Moyer. “The first thing I thought about when I finished this year was how I was looking forward to next year.”
At a half marathon in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in August Moyer earned one of 20 spots in his age group to compete for the US amateur triathlon team to compete in an Olympic triathlon at the International Triathlon Union Long Course World Championships in Henderson, Nev. On Nov. 5. The race consists of a 2.5-mile swim, a 75-mile bike ride, and an 18-mile run.