The iron couple: David and Suzie Olsen
The numbers are staggering. An Ironman triathlon consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a bike ride of 112 miles and a 26.2 mile run. For many recreational athletes, it takes weeks to accumulate that type of mileage. For Blue Earth residents Dave and Suzie Olsen, it’s all in a days work.
The couple has completed two Ironman triathlons and Ironman number three is quickly approaching in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, June 26.
The couple is hoping to improve upon previous personal records. Dave’s personal best is currently at 11 hours and 52 minutes while Suzie’s best is at 13 hours and 2 minutes.
Aside from the two previous Ironmans (Madison, Wis. and Louisville, Ky.) the active couple does six to eight “sprint” races each summer.
The finish line of an Ironman triathlon is merely the final product of 30 weeks hard training.
“We see 4 a.m. a lot,” David Olsen says. “If our workout is not done by 7 a.m. the workout usually doesn’t get done.”
The Olsens are busy people fitting in training for races, farming and raising their four children. During the peak of their training, the Olsens are running upwards of 50 miles a week while still doing swimming and biking workouts.
This past weekend, the iron couple did a 40K time trial on the bike in St. Peter Saturday morning, followed by a 22 mile run that night. The two were back at it on Sunday, riding their bikes a distance of 123 miles in Lanesboro.
The couple’s goal for their 2011 Ironman in Idaho is very simple.
“Finish upright and happy,” David Olsen says. “It is a bad omen to say any numbers.”
Olsen continues to say that one has to take into account a number of factors that could skew the finishing time such as weather, difficulty of the course, etc.
Nutrition is also a very important factor the Olsens take into consideration.
“During the event we try to take in 400 to 600 calories per hour,” David Olsen says. “Over the course of the race that amounts to 6,000 calories.”
The tricky thing about eating while competing is that the food consumed has to agree with your stomach. With this in mind, the Olsens consume easily digestible foods such as energy gels, gummy bears and nutritional granola bars.
“We also have an electrolyte drink like Gatorade to avoid dehydration,” Olsen says. “If you get behind on hydration and nutrition, it’s hard to make it up.”
While biking for long periods of time, the Olsens have also had non-traditional workout fuel.
“In Lanesboro this past weekend, we started to get really hungry and thirsty on the bike so we had a Pay Day candy bar and a root beer,” David Olsen says.
The pre-race meal the night before an event has also become somewhat of a tradition for this endurance couple.
“Before our first Ironman, we got to our hotel late and ordered some pizza and beer,” Olsen says. “We had a small amount, but it worked so well, we figured we better do it again for our next race.”
During the peak of training, any type of food is fair game. David will consume anywhere between 4,000-5,000 calories a day and Suzie comes in at a little less.
“It’s kind of fun (to eat that much),” David Olsen says. “You just have to remind yourself that everything you eat can’t be candy bar calories.”
Nutrition and training are two key factors for the Olsens in reaching their ultimate goal but other factors also bring added motivation.
“When you hear announcer Mike Reilly scream, ‘you are an Ironman’, it’s one of the greatest feelings in the world,” David Olsen says. “It becomes addicting after you cross the finish line. It’s what keeps you coming back.”
Suzie thinks about all the sacrifices she made in training to get her to the finish.
“You have one shot, it’s there and done,” Suzie Olsen says. “After 30 weeks of hard training, you don’t want to waste it.”
The couple also wears jerseys while competing to raise awareness for the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Association.
With these forms of motivation, the Olsens do not have any intention in stopping.
“It’s a challenge of the mind and body,” Olsen says. “I don’t know what we’d do without it.”
Olsen says it is satisfying for him and his wife to continue to improve as they get older.
“Getting faster over time when you are supposed to be getting slower is what makes it really fun,” he says.
Until the day the Olsens give up racing triathlons, their four children will continue to expect mom and dad to get up two to three mornings a week so they can work out for 5 1/2 hours.
Who knows, in a few years, Brandon, Kaitlyn, Karli and Brady, might even be joining them at the starting line of an Ironman competition.