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Local women going global in athletic competition
Crumley taking to Ironman World Championships in Hawaii
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Five local women are going global in their respective sports this weekend.

Gainesville’s Ginny Crumley is competing in the Ford Ironman World Championships on Saturday in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Meanwhile, Jayne Berry, Inez Grant, Kim Johnson and April Smith are representing the Lake Lanier Rowing Club and taking to the water starting today at the 2009 World Masters Games in Sydney, Australia.

Clearly it is going to be a busy week for some of the best female athletes from the area, even though their particular sports are vastly different.

Crumley is a dedicated veteran of the Ironman competition: A grueling test of endurance in running, bicycling and swimming. The four local representatives to the World Masters Games — all with different experience levels in kayaking and rowing — are loyal to the rowing and paddling and will be pitted against 28,000 other athletes.

Most people would consider Crumley, a small business owner, a glutton for punishment. How else could you describe someone who thrives off planning for a physical endurance race that takes from dawn to dusk to complete? What Crumley does is combine the three events that comprise the standard triathlon to compete in the most grueling form of the sport: An ironman.

“I just really enjoy training,” Crumley said. “It can be demanding with time but it’s fun to have new experiences.”

The Hawaii Ironman is considered the holy grail of Ironmans and pits the top athletes from all over the world against one another competing for the title of the world’s top Ironman. Crumley qualified in her age group (50-54) with her third-place finish at the Louisville Ironman in a time of 12 hours, six minutes, 38 seconds.

The Ironman is a race to test any competitors training and resolve to cross the finish line with a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and full marathon-length run of 26.2 miles.

“You don’t just wake up one day and say you’re going to do an Ironman,” said Crumley’s training partner Ken Robinson, also an Ironman.

Not only will Crumley face the top Americans at the Ironman World Championships, but also the top representatives from China, Australia, Switzerland and Germany, to name a few. This is Crumley’s fifth Ironman since doing the Florida Ironman in 2003, in memory of her father, Frank Wiegand.

Berry will be one of the busiest among the paddling group with six races, including two in each the K-1 (one-person kayak), K-2 and K-4 in both the 500 and 1,000 meters.

She’ll also be the kayak sign carrier during opening ceremonies in front of an expected crowd of 50,000 people. Along with kayaking, Grant is doing a mixed K-2 marathon race.

The group will also take part in the women’s double, women’s quadruple and a mixed women’s eight race in rowing. Grant and Berry are competing in the World Masters Championships for rowing after taking a beginner’s course just two years ago.
Berry and Grant took part in the 2005 World Masters Games in Canada, with Grant capturing seven medals and Berry taking nine medals in kayaking.

While all these local athletes had to train extensively for their competition, none is more challenging that of an Ironman competition.

Training for an Ironman is mostly a balance of time with conditioning for three disciplines properly, while at the same time being careful not to overtain and risk injury.

As for Crumley — a past participant in more than 50 marathons — training for an Ironman consists of approximately 20 hours each week.

With a full schedule of work, family and training, there isn’t much down time in an Ironman’s life for rest and relaxation. Crumley, a mother of four, says her husband Al is understanding of the desire to compete, even though it isn’t his choice of sport.

“It takes an understanding family to be able to do it,” Crumley said. “My husband has gotten used to it.”

The training schedule is finely crafted through past experience and the help of training coaches to optimize speed and endurance. At the peak of training, the competitor is training usually in two disciplines each day.

Here’s a breakdown of what Crumley and Robinson do leading up before tapering down prior to raceday:

  • Cycling is typically divided up into three or four rides each week. The longest ride is on Saturday consisting of up to 100 miles and usually takes their group to varied parts of the Northeast Georgia mountains. Then at least twice during the week there will be shorter rides consisting of 50-60 miles.
  • Running peaks approximately six weeks out from the race, with runs of 16-18 miles for Crumley taking place on Sunday. Just like bicycling, there will also be a couple of shorter runs during the week. As the competition gets closer, the runs get progressively shorter.
  • Swimming is done usually three days each week with each exercise consisting of up to 4,000 yards in the water.

When Crumley starts to taper her workouts for a race, or make them shorter to recover physically, she’ll train in all three events in a single day. Learning how to transition is also key to an Ironman.

They have to learn how to move and change attire from the swim to the bicycle, and then from the ride to the run.

Then on race day it’s the participants job to take all that training and roll it into one day of a 140.6-mile race of anticipation as all 1,800 competitors at the Ironman World Championships hope to cross the finish line.

Weather will also be a factor as temperatures in Hawaii today are expected to be well into the 80s with high winds.

“The Ironman is the single most difficult single day event in sports,” Robinson said. “It’s the perfect storm for the human body.”

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