Greg Beltrone, Peshtigo, does squats Sunday at the River Cities Community Pool in Marinette to train for an Ironman Triathlon. EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Greg Beltrone, Peshtigo, does squats Sunday at the River Cities Community Pool in Marinette to train for an Ironman Triathlon.
EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
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An Ironman consists of a 2.4 mile-swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride and caps off with 26.2-mile run.

Training for an Ironman is something Dee Dee Thull and several local athletes take pride in.

There are two major Ironman Triathlons this year, one in Grand Rapids, Mich., Aug. 24, and the other, in Panama City, Fla., on Nov. 1, that has Thull and many others in training.

"It's exciting," Thull said. "I've competed in many different competitions, but this will be my first Ironman."

Among the group Thull trains with are Tim and Jeannette Plichta, George McGillivary, Elisa Anderson, Don Gonzales and Greg Beltrone.

This tight-knit group, which has been working together for some time, trains for events like the Ironman for about a nine-month period throughout the year.

Tim Plichta and McGillivary have competed in the Ironman event before and will be in Grand Rapids this year.

"I was very nervous before my first Ironman," Plichta said. "You start out swimming with 3,000 other people and it's every man for himself. You see broken hands, bloody noses. It's tough."

What makes the Ironman even more challenging is that a competitor only has 17 hours to complete it otherwise they're disqualified.

The event begins at 7 a.m. and goes until midnight.

Each section of the triathlon also has time limits. For example, the time limit for the swim is two hours and 20 minutes.

The group starts their training year off by working out about eight hours a week and that increases to close to 18-20 hours each week as the year goes on.

There are many other events besides the Ironman that consumes their training.

The four major triathlons are the Sprint, Olympic, Half-Ironman and the Ironman.

In the Sprint, the swim distance is a quarter-mile, the bike ride ranges from 18-22 miles and the run is 3.1 miles.

The Olympic doubles up the Sprint in distances and the Half-Ironman consists of 1.1 miles of swimming, a 56-mile bike ride and 13.1 miles of running.

During the training process for these events, the group trains in the pool, in the weight room, on a bike (inside and out), running outside and swimming in the bay.

Tackling all weather obstacles is a challenge that is part of the preparation because unless lightning strikes, these triathlons go on throughout any type of weather.

"No matter what the weather conditions, the race still goes on," Jeannette Plichta said. "You just have to come prepared for anything your way."

One of the many things that makes this group so special is that everyone has a full-time job, a family and a life outside of training.

"It gets to be hard to juggle everything," Thull said. "What really helps is the support of your family. Training is very time-consuming and it takes true dedication."

After hearing about the time and watching the group train, a fitting question may be why do they put themselves through all of this?

"The challenge and reward is at the end when you finish the race," said McGillivary. "Just working out and staying in shape and competing in a tough event is something I really enjoy."

For the Plichtas, it's a great hobby and something they both can enjoy together.

"I'm not the most athletic and I thought competing in a triathlon would be too tough, but after all the hours of training, you feel really confident in yourself," Jeannette Plichta said.

Competing and finishing a race is inspirational.

"The satisfaction of completing a race can be very emotional," Tim Plichta said. "It's a huge accomplishment and once you do one, it becomes addicting."

There are several different triathlons that take place in the area and many athletes consider Door County to be a great venue.

"It's a nice event in Door County," McGillivary said. "It's a beautiful area and a really cool setting."

For an event like the Ironman, packing the right supplies for the event is key.

On top of having multiple outfits to switch into and having a bike, carrying an extra tire tub and having enough to eat and drink, along with a flashlight to see at night is essential.

"You have to come prepared," Tim Plichta said. "I didn't have a light for my first Ironman and when it got dark, it was pretty hard to see. You definitely want to be ready so you don't run into obstacles that you could get hurt from."

Other races like the Iron Mountain Sprint help the group prepare for the ultimate Ironman competition.

"You must do the smaller races to get ready for the big one," Thull said. "It just gets you in that mode of competition and shows you where you're at in your training."

Fans also motivate competitors and give them that extra step.

"It's exciting to hear people cheering for you," Anderson said. "I think it just motivates you even more to keep pushing on."

There is also a River Cities Triathlon every year as well as a kids triathlon that takes place in October.

"It's good to get young kids involved," Thull said. "Competing in a marathon is something any type of athlete can do and I think that's the beauty of it. It's more about finishing the race than winning and that's one of the many great things about triathlons."