MADISON, Wis. — Logging 140.6 miles in less than nine and a half hours by running, biking and swimming seems a formidable task.
According to Staff Sgt. Ed Schmitt, of the Wisconsin National Guard’s 54th Civil Support Team, the weeks leading up to the Sept. 13 Ironman competition in Madison were even more formidable. Workout regimens ranged from up to 17 hours per week to as many as 26 hours per week, and include endurance bike rides up to five hours at a time as well as running between 100 and 140 minutes at a stretch.
“My coach calls this period ‘getting fit,’” Schmitt said. “I call it ‘getting tired.’”
“In the world of endurance sports I still have at least five more years of hard work before I should hit my full potential,” he said. “I’m in this sport for the long haul.”
For the record, Schmitt finished the 2.4-mile swim in 61 minutes 25 seconds, the 112-mile bike ride in 5 hours 5 minutes 37 seconds and the 26.2-mile run in 3 hours 11 minutes 35 seconds for a total of 9 hours, 26 minutes 57 seconds — good enough for first in his age category and third overall.
“I was within 5 minutes of my ‘perfect’ race on that day,” Schmitt said. “Looking back on the day, there are very few places I can find extra time at my current level of fitness. The results of this race are my proudest to date, but being just one place from being the amateur winner leaves me wanting — so I guess it means I need to go faster!”
This year’s finish was more than 30 minutes improved from the previous Ironman event in Madison two years ago. But the road to Ironman began six years ago when Schmitt was deployed to Baghdad. He began training in 2010 after returning to Wisconsin, and cited his children as part of why he trains — and trains — for these endurance events.
“My wife does an awesome job toting the boys around at races and they absolutely love it,” he said. “And I love seeing them and giving them high-fives during the race.”
Training for triathlons, being a full-time member of the Wisconsin National Guard and being a husband and father all compete for his time. Schmitt said he could not juggle all his commitments without plenty of help from family and friends.
“It really takes a village to get me to the finish line on race day,” he said.
Specifically, Schmitt thanked his coach of the past two and a half years, Will Smith, who manages to devise an effective training regimen around a demanding military schedule.
“I know I can always count on him to be dead honest with me on training and race expectations,” Schmitt said. “My results are his to share.”
He also thanked his parents-in-law Robert and Rachel Stark, and sister-in-law Allison Stark for stepping in while he is gone.
“I simply could not have married into a better family,” Schmitt said.
He described his wife Valerie as an Ironman in her own right, supporting him with his multiple obligations on top of her own education career and community involvement.
“She is our family’s rock,” he said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better partner to walk through life with.”
Schmitt said training for the Ironman complements his military service.
“The discipline you develop in both feed off each other and leads to a disciplined and self-aware individual,” he explained. “Additionally, it is a great way to exercise your mental toughness. And, of course, if one is an endurance athlete it makes the [Army physical fitness test] and strenuous military activities heaps easier.”
Schmitt said he is looking forward to returning to the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii next October, and improving on his 2014 performance.
“The course in Hawaii is very unforgiving if you don’t execute your race nearly perfect,” he said. “If I had to pick one word why I race Ironman, it would be energy. The whole day is just full of it and everyone is giving you their energy — other participants, the crowd and especially the volunteers.”