He is IRONMAN: Ephrata man conquers Lake Placid triathlon
Imagine waking up early, swimming the Cocalico Creek from Ephrata to Denver, hopping on a bike to Philadelphia and back before completing your day by running to Columbia.
Sound like fun?
Well for one Ephrata man, it was a matter of an itch that he had to scratch.
This past Saturday in Lake Placid, NY, 34-year-old Dane Burkholder, a former Ephrata football star whose team was famous for a 9-7 stunner over Manheim Central in 1997, did roughly the same thing when he competed in his second IRONMAN competition in the last four years. The IRONMAN triathlon, for those who are not familiar, consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.2-mile marathon run, raced in that order and without a break. It is widely considered one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world.
Burkholder, who did the IRONMAN Louisville triathlon back in 2010, not only competed but did very well. He placed 401st out of the 2,772 competitors and was 59th in his division, crossing the finish line in a time of 11 hours and 47 minutes.
After putting himself through the pain and agony once before, Burkholder was asked why he decided to do one again.
“When I did that (in Louisville) it was just sort of one of those things to kind of scratch off the bucket list,” he said Tuesday while still recovering/relaxing in Lake Placid. “Then about a year ago, for some reason I kind of got the itch to give it another whirl.”
Obviously, this event required a lot of training leading up to Saturday’s race, as well as an extremely supportive spouse added Burkholder, who began training for the event right after Christmas.
“ I had a seven-month training program,” he said. ‘The first 10 weeks you sort of ease into it, and then the last 10 you have some pretty high volume stuff. I was maxing out probably 18 hours a week of training. I was working with a nutritionist, taking care of myself really well for the last seven months.”
While all three legs of the race are equally grueling, especially in and around Lake Placid which is nestled in the Adirondack Mountains and was home to both the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games, the worst, according to Burkholder, was the final stage.
“The toughest was the run, no doubt,” he said. “ Swimming sort of comes natural to me because I swam for about 10 years growing up. And the bike course is beautiful but it’s about 6,000 feet of climbing, over 112 miles…You get off that bike and it feels like there are cinder blocks hanging off your legs. And then you have to transition after that right into the run, and that is relatively hilly as well. It took me about three or four miles just to get my legs under me.”
While he burned close to 9,000 calories during his nearly 12-hour excersion, he said he was able to make his way through tired but pretty much unscathed. And he posted a personal best with his 11:47 time.
“I was pleased,” he said of his time. “When I did it in Louisville, I did it in 12 hours and 10 minutes, so I had a personal best by 23 minutes this time which was really nice.”
And what went through his mind as he finally crossed the finish line Saturday evening?
“I don’t know but it felt awesome,” he said. “It’s hard to describe because the finish line here, with all of the history in Lake Placid with the Olympics, the finish line is actually set up in the speed skating oval. You run into the chute in the speed skating oval, and there are hundreds of people, music pumping…it’s just an exciting environment. And when you come down the chute, they say your name and then they say, ‘You are an Iron Man.’ It gives me chills just talking about it.”
While at the moment he doesn’t have any plans to do another one, he did not rule out scratching another itch in the future.
“As of now I will say ‘no,’ but that’s what I said last time,” Burkholder recalled. “My wife and I were talking about it and she said, ‘you are never going to do one of these again, are you?’ I’m like, I’m not sure. She said, ‘It’s kind of like when you have a baby. Right after you have the baby you don’t want to think about having another baby right away…’ We’ll see. I’m lucky I have a very supportive wife because it really is a team effort. You have to get your family to buy into it. It’s a lot of time away from your wife and kids, and now that my kids are getting involved in activities, as they get older it could eventually be more challenging to train at that level.”