In 2001, Doug Wordell, director of nutrition services for Spokane Public Schools, ran the Ironman competition in Hawaii. “It’s like banging your head against the wall; it feels really good when you stop,” is how Wordell describes running the Ironman, which entails a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile marathon.
Doug Wordell, Ironman“I wanted to play football in high school. But my sophomore year the new cross country coach came to me and said, ‘I hear you can run pretty well, so we need you to come run.’ I ran because he asked me. In 1982, I was on the state cross country championship team.
In 1982, I was watching a college student, Julie Moss, running the Ironman, and she found herself in the lead coming off the bike. Her nutrition and training weren’t what they could have been, and she started staggering with a quarter of a mile to go. She was stumbling and fell and got up again and fell. She started crawling toward the finish line, and about five yards to the finish line the second-place woman passed her. She was a train wreck. I went, ‘Oh, I’ve got to do that.’ I thought if something could beat you up that badly, that I had to try it someday.
Life was flowing. I got married and my career was going. My wife brought me an article about Sister Madonna Buder, who lives in Spokane. She said, ‘If she’s 69 and doing the Ironman then you need to go do the Ironman. You’ve been saying you’ve wanted to do this since we first started dating.’ I told her, ‘I’ve got four kids. I’m in my mid-30s. I know what it takes to train for that thing. It takes 20 to 30 hours of training each week and it’s 14 workouts each week. It’s a 10- to 12-month training commitment.’ She said, ‘I’m not going to sit on the porch when you’re 65 hearing you say I wish I could have.’
There are two ways to get into the Ironman. There are only 1,500 athletes invited. One hundred and fifty are drawn out of a lottery. The others have to earn a spot by being in the top 10% in their age group at one of 15 different Ironmans around the world. I didn’t get drawn in the lottery. I then participated in the Canadian Ironman. I was 36th overall and qualified for Hawaii.
One of the lessons I learned was you can go farther than you thought. It’s really about putting one foot in front of the other. It’s not about being the fastest; it’s about finding your rhythm and balance and continuing on past what you think you can.
I read several training manuals. They never talked about bathroom stops. I had to qualify to get into Canada. I was on a bike run and I had a full bladder. I thought there is no way on God’s green earth I’m going to run a half marathon with a full bladder. I was going downhill and I made sure no one was behind me and I just let it go.
The wind in Hawaii was brutal during the bike. The winds were blowing 55 mph. The sun factor was huge. My bike time in Hawaii was 40 minutes slower than in Canada because of the wind. In an Ironman you have 17 hours to finish. The pros are finishing around eight hours. In Hawaii, I was 10 hours 40 minutes.”