There are different Ironman events throughout the country. Each challenge consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26-mile run. The longest a contestant is allowed to participate in an Ironman is 17 hours.
The idea came to Sanders after his wife, Shara, encouraged him to compete after he finished a half Ironman in Augusta last year. Mrs. Sanders said he told her this was always on his bucket list.
“I had done some triathlons in the past and was always thinking I would like to try one,” Sanders said. “When I finished a half one last year and my wife looked at me and said ‘You are in great shape right now, so why do you not go for it?’”
Sanders took part in a 30-week training period. He said he would spend up to 15 hours per week conditioning. His weekly workouts consisted of every element of the challenge. Sanders said he started out in the morning biking and after work he would bike around Stone Mountain.
As he began the event, he said he had one goal — to finish close to 14 hours. The race began in the early morning hours Aug. 25 in Louisville, Ky. Sanders positioned himself in the front of the line for the swim.
After the swim, Sanders hopped on his bike for the ride. During the ride, Sanders needed to replenish part of the thousands of calories he would lose that day with different food gels.
“You spend about 8,000 calories while you are out there,” Sanders said. “You need to replace at least 3,500 of that. So during the bike portion you are eating a lot of goo and gels.”
After he finished the bike trek, Sanders started the last leg of the challenge — the run. During the run, Sanders said his left leg cramped up and he did his best to stretch it out and keep going. He said he would hydrate throughout his run at the relief stations that were set up about every eight miles.
The run came to an end as Sanders crossed the finish line at 13 hours and 41 minutes. He received a medal and took a picture to remember the event as he was rejoined by his support team — his family.
“He looked at me when he finished and told me I could slap him if he ever said he wanted to do another one,” Mrs. Sanders said. “But after the race we were a little sad and wondered ‘So, what’s next?’ Now he is planning his next one.”
This will not be Sanders’ last competition; he is looking at competing in his next Ironman next May in Texas.