Elite athletes take over Derby City for Louisville Ironman

Athletes compete in grueling Ironman event

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – It puts athletes to the ultimate test every year, and it's back in the Derby City this weekend. The Louisville Ironman kicks off dark and early Sunday morning, but preparations are already well underway.

It takes a ton of hard work and dedication from not only the organizers, but also the athletes. Thousands of them are gearing up for a challenge not many dare take on, but they said all the pain, sacrifice, and sweat- and there's plenty of that- are well worth it once they cross that finish line.

"The simple version is you swim, you bike, and you run. We sort of do it to an extreme level- swim 2.4 miles, bike 112, and run a marathon on top of that,” athlete Timmy Gallagher said.

Gallagher is a retired police officer from New Jersey. Sunday will mark his third Ironman, but it’s his first time doing Louisville.

"It's what we do. Everybody needs something to do. So, this is what we do to rise to that higher level. It's one way to spend a day, too,” Gallagher said. "It's a sense that you're a part of something bigger and you're pushing boundaries for yourself. You're sharing that with all of the other athletes, which I think is what life is really about."

Erica Lester is from Evansville, Indiana. This is her first Ironman ever. Despite the nerves, she said she’s very much looking forward to Sunday.

"The emotions have been flying all week- it's just back and forth between anxious and nervous, can't sleep,” Lester said.

These athletes travel from all over the country and the world for this event. Some may call them insane, but these athletes insist it's just a hobby turned passion, like anything else.

"We're all sick. Just some are sicker than others, right?" Gallagher said.

"I just like the challenge. It's very humbling to push your body to limits you didn't think you could handle,” Lester said.

Putting on such a massive event is no easy task.

"Each of the three endeavors has its own risk factors and has its own injuries that we typically see,” Director of Sports Health for Norton Sports Medicine Dr. Ryan Modlinkski said.

Norton Healthcare runs the show, serving as the brains and bandages behind the operation.

"That's what makes it a little bit exciting as a medical professional because it's different than anything you deal with here. here, things are pretty controlled and fairly routine. This is kind of like frontline chaos and you just deal with what comes and what's presented to you,” Modlinkski said.

Sunday's forecast isn't necessarily a winner, but these athletes are no strangers to adversity.

"We're maybe dealing with some rain and thunderstorms and potentially some slick or wet conditions for the bike and the run,” Modlinkski said.

“I try not to worry about things I can't control. If you can't control it, why worry about it. If it rains, we're going to get wet,” Lester said.

“A little rain, I'm fine with that,” Gallagher said.

It looks like Mother Nature may have picked the wrong crowd to mess with.

"If you're crazy enough to do 140.6, you're crazy enough to do it in any condition,” Lester said.

The race kicks off around 7:30 Sunday morning, and is typically around 10-12 hours to finish. There will be a ton of road closures and lane restrictions not only in downtown Louisville, but across the area.
Check this link for the most updated list: http://www.ironman.com/~/media/a12edab222c94c04944e40bddca7c9a4/2017%20louisville%20traffic%20impact%20web.pdf 

For information about Sunday's events, check out these links:

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