Despite the sweltering heat, thousands of athletes of all ages biked, swam and ran their way around Madison and the surrounding area in a more than 70-mile race Sunday.

More than 2,000 competitors of all ages raced against each other in a 70.3-mile triathlon that included a 1.2-mile swim in Lake Monona, a 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run around Lake Monona.

Participants not only competed against each other but also with temperatures around 90 degrees.

For 24-year-old Lauren Taylor of Madison, the running portion — and the accompanying heat — was the worst part of the event.

“It was so hot on the run. Your heart rate is just through the roof,” she said. “The heat was my least favorite.”

But the heat won’t discourage the experienced triathlete from competing in any more triathlons. She said she is signed up for another triathlon in Door County next month and the full 140.6-mile Ironman competition in Madison in September.

During the bike ride, participants used the Capital City Bike Path and went through Oregon, over Observatory Hill and through Paoli before finishing at South Side Madison’s Olin Park. Racers again finished the half-marathon portion at the park.

“I was just struck on the course — we were biking down a road and there was a farm on the right and all the cows were eating,” Taylor said. “And I was like, ‘this is the most Wisconsin thing ever.’ ”

The hot, humid weather slowed runners down, said race coordinator Ryan Richards, but didn’t result in any serious injuries other than some dehydrated runners and other heat-related maladies like cramping, which was expected.

“It’s 90 degrees so its going to take a toll,” he said. “Luckily, our athletes are pretty smart people. They’re pretty in tune with their bodies. They know when to slow down.”

44 states, 14 nations

While this was the first Ironman-branded 70.3-mile triathlon in Madison, similar races have been held in the city before, Richards said.

Competitors started at 7 a.m., with the top finishers first crossing the finish line at about noon. By about 3 p.m., there were still participants left on the course, with many walking the final leg of the race.

Thousands of spectators lined the streets, lake, trails and finishing area of the course throughout the day. Richards said up to 10,000 to 15,000 may have come out to watch Sunday.

He also said about 1,000 volunteers worked at aid stations to help the event run smoothly.

Ryan Giuliano won the event, finishing in 4:19:22. With a time of 04:45:48, Danielle Vsetecka was the top woman.

The top 50 finishers based on age groups qualified for the September Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Athletes from 14 countries and 44 states signed up for the event.

Though Blair Jackson, of Chicago, didn’t do as well as he hoped, he said he will be back.

“I’m going to master that run,” he said. “To achieve that goal is fantastic.”


Chris Aadland is a reporting intern for the Wisconsin State Journal.