Conquering the Ironman

While Erin Ruenger, associate producer at Milwaukee-based GS Design, and her younger brother Jason Ruenger have what could be considered a typical sibling rivalry, the two use their competitive relationship to drive each other while completing half marathons, triathlons and, earlier this month, Ironman Wisconsin.

The sister-brother duo began competing together – and against one another – in races about six years ago when they signed up for a triathlon in Stevens Point where they both grew up.

After watching Ironman Wisconsin in 2011 and volunteering at the all-day event last year, they registered for the 2013 competition immediately and set out to spend the next year in training.

“The goal was always, ‘wouldn’t it kind of be cool to do an Ironman?'” Erin said.

Through a three-phase, 30-week training program, Erin built endurance in winter and early spring with indoor track workouts, spinning classes and laps in a gym pool. She was also able to meet Jason, who lives in Stevens Point, in Madison at the Ironman site to test out the hills of the actual race course as the weather heated up.

“For me, it was just kind of an added bonus to be able to train on the course prior to race day,” Erin said.

On race day, as Erin and Jason joined more than 2,600 athletes representing 49 states and over 30 countries, in addition to a pool of professional athletes and participants with special needs, Erin said the challenge was much more of a mental one rather than physical.

Having a group of family members, extended family members and close friends in the crowd of spectators helped her keep calm and focused.

“You want to do well for yourself and for your friends and family who have supported you, not only during that day but during the last 365 days,” Erin said.

With 17 hours to complete the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run, she crossed the finish line in just over 14 hours.

“My real goal was to get somewhere in the 15-hour range,” Erin said. “So I was super happy that I ended up getting quite a bit lower than that.”

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