For the 16th time, Travis Fittro recently said, “I am an Ironman.”
The 48-year-old, who calls Kansas City, Kansas, and Medora home, swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles and ran 26.2 miles while competing in Ironman Louisville on Oct. 15. In the past, he also did two races that were 140.6 miles but weren’t sanctioned by Ironman.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Nathan Otte, 34, of Seymour finished his third Ironman Louisville, and Cameron Lee, 18, of Freetown competed for the first time.
All three of them, though, had the same feeling when they ran through the finishing chute at Fourth Street Live!
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Given the fact that having surgery on a torn meniscus in May prevented him from training over the summer, Fittro considers finishing a tremendous accomplishment. Plus, he switched jobs and was away from home a lot.
“It was just a sigh of relief making it through this year, just kind of a deep breath to say I had survived this year,” he said. “I went out there the most relaxed I’ve ever been, and I just had a fun day. Coming in, I was just going back and forth high-fiving each side of the finishing chute with the audience. It was a very good feeling this year, better than the years before, just the accomplishment of being there with little training.”
All three of Otte’s Ironmans have been in Louisville.
“I think anyone who has finished Louisville has the same experience, no matter how many times you do it,” he said. “When you make the final turn and see the lights a few blocks ahead, it gets pretty emotional. And then the crowd picks up, the noise is deafening and the lights are blinding. You just can’t really put into words how it feels the final steps to the finish.”
The finishing chute was a new experience for Lee but one he will never forget.
“It was memorable, that’s for sure,” he said. “They were taking pictures of me. I had a weird face, and I was trying to hold back tears and smile at the same time. And the cheers, they were deafening. Everyone was cheering around, and it was a great time.”
Preparation for the race
Fittro said his training consisted of working out six days a week, doing swimming, weightlifting and running. He said he didn’t do as much cycling because of his job change.
In May, he did an Olympic distance race in Muncie and the Seymour Half-Marathon before his torn meniscus diagnosis. He had surgery at the end of July and didn’t return to training until three weeks before Ironman.
“I wasn’t going to do it, but I had paid the money, the doctor gave me the OK and I was like, ‘It was just going to be a good day to go out there and have fun and race,’” Fittro said.
Otte said for nine months, he had two 5 a.m. swim sessions each week and three or four cycling and run workouts.
“Short weeks were around 12 hours total and up to 20 hours for the longest week,” he said. “I used CrossFit and gymnastics to add in strength and stability twice a week.”
Lee said he researched an Ironman training scheduled and followed it. For six days a week, he varied between swimming, biking and running.
“It started off slow to build up, and then toward the middle of training, it would be about two and a half hours of training a day,” he said, adding that he occasionally went on a six-hour bike ride on a Sunday.
Time to swim, bike, run
The race began with swimming in the Ohio River.
Fittro finished in an hour, while it took Otte an hour and four minutes and Lee an hour and 13 minutes.
Otte said wind played a factor throughout the whole day, including during the swim.
“The swim was choppy, and we didn’t get the typical downstream current,” he said. “The goal is just to make the swim as uneventful as possible and make it through.”
Lee said the swim was an interesting experience.
“The worse part was probably the waves coming back splashing in my face,” he said. “And you had to fight through a bunch of swarms (of people). You get kicked in the face, get kicked everywhere.”
Next was the biking portion, going from the Great Lawn at Waterfront Park to the rolling hills and flat pastures of the Louisville Metro area and Oldham County.
Otte was the fastest finisher of the three locals in five hours, 51 minutes. Fittro was next at six hours, 24 minutes, and Lee was done in seven hours, 20 minutes.
Fittro said the last 33 miles were tough with the headwind. When he returned to River Road, he said the wind was so bad it had blown leaves and tree limbs onto the road.
“Then there were leaves covering up the limbs, so you couldn’t really tell where they were,” he said. “A lot of people were getting flats (on their tires), and there were a couple of crashes.”
Otte and Lee had the same experience.
“The storm came through when I was 10 miles out with 40 mph swirling wind gusts. Small limbs and debris were coming down and covering the road, so it made for a memorable last segment,” Otte said.
“There was a lot of rain toward the last half, and the wind picked up,” Lee said. “It was actually blowing down a bunch of barricades, stopping the traffic. You had to fight through a headwind pretty tough.”
The race wrapped up with flat running, passing Churchill Downs and the University of Louisville and finishing downtown at Fourth Street Live!
Otte was the fastest runner of the three locals, finishing in four hours, 15 minutes. Fittro and Lee both ran four hours, 43 minutes.
“The temp dropped during the marathon, which is better than heat,” Otte said. “I was cold but able to hold a steady pace and run the marathon without significant cramping issues.”
Fittro said his run went well until about Mile 13 when he had to start walking some.
“I was just kind of taking it easy after putting so much strain on my knee on the bike,” he said. “I was trying to see how it was going to react to the running.”
Lee competed in cross-country and track at Brownstown Central High School, so he was used to running. Plus, he had done a marathon before.
“It wasn’t too hard, really, until Mile 20,” he said. “That’s when my joints started hurting. I was strong until then, and the last six miles, there was a lot of walking.”
The most memorable part of the run for Lee was with two miles to go, an official announced people’s names as they went by. When that woman said it was his first Ironman and announced his age, he said the cheers erupted from spectators and fellow racers.
“Then everyone started running toward me and patting me on the back and giving me a handshake, and that’s when I started breaking down,” he said. “It really hit me the last two miles that I was about to finish, and that’s when a few tears started going down.”
Feeling of accomplishment
Sprinting across the finish line, the three men immediately felt a sense of accomplishment.
“Within that day, you go through every possible emotion — excitement, laughter, crying, quit,” Fittro said. “You just go through every realm, and you’re by yourself. There’s no outside help with someone running with you. You go through every emotion that there is.”
Otte said getting to the finish of any Ironman is a success.
“There are so many factors out of your control that could end your day,” he said.
Lee said it felt good to call himself an Ironman.
“It meant so much, especially training in such little time and being so young,” he said.
All three men said support from family and friends helped them complete the race.
Fellow members of the Seymour Multisport Club were there to cheer on Fittro and Otte, and Otte also had a group of supporters from CrossFit Seymour.
“Races come and go, but in the end, it’s about the journey and those who take it with you,” Otte said.
As far as the next Ironman, Fittro said he plans to do a half-Ironman next summer and then compete in the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Hawaii in 2019. He said he’s eligible for that event now, but he wants to hold off so it’s a 50th birthday bucket list item.
Lee said he initially looked at Ironman as a one-and-done thing, but the next day, he was missing it and wanted to do another one.
“Every time I think about it, it brings tears to my eyes,” he said. “It’s just a great thing to do. It’s a great accomplishment.”
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Several Jackson County residents recently completed Ironman competitions.
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Interested in doing an Ironman competition? Here are some words of advice from three local men who recently finished Ironman Louisville.
Travis Fittro: “Have a reason to do it. Something is driving you. Have fun, and don’t let training overtake what you do with your family. There is so much training involved, it can become overwhelming, so family is very important in why you’re doing this. It’s kind of an inner thing of why you do an Ironman, it’s something you accomplish, but it is fantastic to have family involved. There’s no better feeling than having family involved in doing something like this.”
Nathan Otte: “Don’t be in a hurry to jump into a long course event, but once you are ready to commit, reach out to locals who have experience at this distance. It can be a lonely process, but it is possible to train and still have balance in your life if you have the right plan.”
Cameron Lee: “Just get the proper gear, stick with it and do a lot of training. You’ve got to really devote yourself and have heart and passion for what you do, and when the race day comes, you’ll get it done.”