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People & Places: 'You just finish'

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Locals proud to complete triathlon

By Kacie Goode

Grueling is how Dale Hill, of Bardstown, described his first ever Ironman triathlon event in Louisville.

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“It’s a lot more than just three disciplines,” Hill said. In addition to swimming, cycling and running, there was nutrition and mental preparation to consider as the day approached.

“It was terrifying,” he said. “You’re nervous; scared. You’ve done the work and put the time in it.”

At 46, Hill said he decided to try Ironman while he was still in a condition to do so.

“I already had a background in swimming,” and he had done some long rides before. But the expectations of Ironman raised the bar.

Working with a trainer, Hill spent months trying to get his body ready. He would alternate between swimming and running throughout the week, and would go on long bike rides over the weekend.

As the day drew closer, Hill said, his training tapered down.

“I had done three consecutive weekends of 100-mile rides,” he said. Taking a break gave his body time to rest. He knew he would need to be ready.

A husband and father of four, Hill said balancing his job, family and training was strenuous at times. Sometimes, he would run at night for three or four hours so he had time with his family during the day.

“None of this would have been possible without my wife,” Stacy, Hill said. “And many others helping me. It may be an individual sport, but it takes a team to complete.”

His trainer encouraged him as well.

“Three or four days before, my trainer sent me a text,” Hill said. “‘Sometime during the race, you’ll be justifying that quitting is OK. You’re going to have to push through that.’”

When he arrived in Louisville, the swim challenge was first.

“You’re in this line that seemed like a mile long and finally you get down to the dock,” he said. “Your heart is beating through your head and you’re trying to stay calm. But you hit the water and your training kicks in.”

With time limits for each segment, Hill said pace was always on his mind, but he was trying to stay disciplined.

“When you get out of the water, everyone is there and they are ripping the wet suit off of you,” for the transition to the bike portion, he said.

The cycling came a bit easier for Hill, and he credited his training for that. Hill would ride in the areas of Murray’s Run, Plum Run and out toward Taylorsville, where he encountered steep hills. But the Ironman course had long hills, not steep.

Not only did he need to be mindful of pace, but he had to keep his calories and fluids up, too, so that he was ready to transition to the run.

In the run, Hill alternated between running and walking to keep his pace.

“Really in Ironman, the race doesn’t start until mile 20,” he said. “That’s when everything kind of hits you. You have to be prepared for things to go wrong,” because you’re going to hit a wall and will have to push through.

Hill said at mile 20, his legs began to shut down. But he recalled a woman in line behind him.

“This was her 14th Ironman,” he said. “She’d wrote on her arm, ‘You just finish.’ That’s what you do, you just finish.”

And crossing that finish line where his wife was waiting was amazing, he said.