By R. Scott Belzer
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — With the inaugural Laurel Lake Triathlon less than seven months away, local athletes have been stepping up their training regimens. For the first time in its history, Laurel County will showcase what it means for athletes to swim, bike and run to the best of their ability.
The triathlon will be held on July 12. It’s a half-Ironman, which consists of 1.2 miles of swimming, 56 miles of biking, and 13.1 miles of running. In other words, it’s literally leaps and bounds away from an easy task.
For local athletes Mark Ramsey and Ed Stanko, the upcoming race represents a chance to push the limits of their own ability and expose the sport to friends.
Corbin resident Mark Ramsey, 47, has competed in several running events over the years and even a few sprint triathlons this past summer and fall, an event Ramsey refers to as fun. He’s also a regular member of the Cumberland Valley Cycling Club, which should give him a bit of an edge when competing this summer.
“People are going to be surprised by the bike course,” Ramsey said. “It’s really hilly.”
An electrician at CSX by trade, Ramsey devotes 10-15 hours a week to training in a two-day span. This includes swimming 2.5 to 3 miles, running at least 10 miles, and biking 50 to 100 miles. Most – often all – of this is done during Ramsey’s “weekend” that falls on Wednesday and Thursday.
According to Ramsey, such hard work is simply paying required dues. He has no problem visiting the actual course and getting to know it down to the last detail. The Corbin triathlete has already ridden the bike portion five times.
“To be in the right kind of shape, you need to spend the right amount of time getting into it,” Ramsey said. “That’s the hardest part. I don’t have any kids at home – they’re all grown up. And my wife, Sandy, runs marathons with me; she’s signed up to be a kayaking volunteer at the Tri.”
Ramsey’s inspiration comes from friends he has seen prepare for and go on to finish full Ironmans, competitions where participants swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles. The running portion alone is a complete marathon. He also relishes in the close proximity.
“I have several friends who have never competed. Having a local triathlon will help,” said Ramsey. “It’s good to have a local event. I get tired of driving hundreds of miles to compete.”
Ed Stanko, 40, also appreciates that the Laurel Lake Tri is so close to home. Originally from Lexington, he and his family have been Laurel Countians for the past 10 years. As an avid marathon runner, he’s been exposed to what racing and fitness sports bring to towns like London and Corbin.
“I’ve seen how towns are boosted by races. I love that facet of it,” said Stanko. “The whole town actually becomes involved in the actual event.”
Like Ramsey, Stanko regularly competes in marathons with his wife, Shelley. He’s even gone the route of competing in four sprint triathlons where distances are not as daunting. He does, however, look forward to the challenge.
“When I found out a larger triathlon was happening in my own backyard, I figured it was time to give it a try,” Stanko said. “I never wanted to or had time to commit to the training that goes into it.”
Stanko is on a six-month plan to get into racing shape. He plans on swimming 2000 yards per week and riding at least 20-30 miles. To combat the cold weather, he’s bought an indoor trainer for his bike, turning his favorite road vehicle into a near-perfect spin cycle.
Stanko also bemoans the large amounts of training required to adequately complete a triathlon. According to the triathlete, six months is more than enough time to fall into tiredness or laziness.
“It’s hard, you know, it’s a long time to work. You can easily find yourself taking a day off, because one day isn’t a big deal,” said Stanko. “But then that becomes two days, three days, or a habit you can fall into.”
Originally a competition in 1920s France, the modern incarnation of the American triathlon can trace its roots to the 1970s West Coast in San Diego. 46 participants competed in the event. Soon after, in 1978, athletes and military personnel in Hawaii heard of the event, and used local races – including a marathon and two-day bike race – as a blueprint for their own. This created the first Ironman.
For more information on the Laurel Lake Triathlon, visit www.laurellaketri.com or visit the event’s Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/laurel-lake-tri.