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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA Ironman shifting into higher gear

    Craig Pansing, an optical sciences graduate student and former UA cross country athlete, will be completing the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, in October. Pansing has been competing in triathlons since he was a freshman.
    Craig Pansing, an optical sciences graduate student and former UA cross country athlete, will be completing the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, in October. Pansing has been competing in triathlons since he was a freshman.

    Completing the Ironman World Championship on Kona, Hawaii, is arguably the greatest test of human endurance, but one UA graduate student and former UA men’s cross country athlete is up to the challenge.

    Craig Pansing, an optical sciences graduate student, has been doing triathlons since his freshman year at the UA, when he joined TriCats, the university’s triathlon club.

    “”I was a runner who wanted something else to do,”” Pansing said. “”I found out I was pretty good (at triathlon). And it was a fun group of people, which is pretty typical of track.””

    Pansing’s knack for the sport landed him a first-place finish at the Tucson Triathlon in March.

    From there, Pansing and three other UA students made the trip to the Florida Ironman in November, one of many qualifying Ironman events for the World Championship event in Hawaii.

    Pansing placed third in the 18- to 24-year-old age bracket, after finishing the 140.6-mile course (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run) in just under 10 hours.

    “”Ironman is a very emotional experience, especially when you cross the finish line,”” Pansing said. “”It’s a culmination of how you prepared your body; the months of training just for Ironman.””

    Ordinarily, only the first two to finish can advance to the championships in Kona, but Pansing jumped at the chance to advance after one of the top two finishers declined to go to the championship.

    “”It was pretty exciting when they called my name,”” he said.

    Now Pansing is working on completing his degree while training for the grueling October event.

    “”A lot of people call Hawaii the toughest one-day endurance event,”” Pansing said. “”It’s the same distances I did in Florida, but it’s hotter and there are a lot more hills.””

    Pansing now spends three two four hours a day either on the bike, in the pool or running, and says the key to the sport is working up to the maximum distances.

    “”Right now I’m focusing on short distance to prepare,”” Pansing said. “”The emphasis is on long, slow distance, so I might go out for five to seven hours on the bike.””

    TriCats head coach David Montoya said that training for an event like the Kona Ironman is particularly demanding on the athlete’s time and focus.

    “”To get in the physical shape takes 10 to 20 hours a week easily,”” Montoya said. “”Especially at (Pansing’s) level, it takes a lot of time, almost like a part-time job.””

    But Montoya said when you factor in more passive aspects of the training, like diet and sleep schedules, it can start to seem more like a full-time job.

    “”It really becomes your life, and things like school tend to take a backseat to the training,”” Montoya said.

    Montoya said that training for the three different sports is especially arduous because of the need to build a variety of muscles and skills.

    “”It’s not one set routine,”” Montoya said. “”You’ve got three different disciplines, and sometimes it’s hard try to cram in all the training and still remember to rest.””

    Pansing’s performance in Florida and advancement to Kona also helped him get a sponsorship with www.Trisports.com, an online store specializing in triathletes that was founded in 2000 by UA alumnus Seton Claggett.

    As a sponsored athlete, Pansing enjoys discounts on products and uniforms, which help offset the costs of travel and lodging, as well as the $475 entry fee. Endorsements like these are a big help to cash-strapped students like Pansing who want to compete, Claggett said.

    “”Making it to Kona is a giant accomplishment, and it’s no fluke that Craig will be there.”” Claggett said. “”He’s a great athlete, and the fact that he could put it together and make it is a big deal.””

    Pansing is a bit more modest when he talks about his accomplishments.

    “”It’s all about personal bests,”” Pansing said. “”You always have something to try and improve on between the three sports.””

    Pansing said the level of competition can be fierce, and with an event like Ironman, attitude can make or break an athlete.

    “”It really depends on how you go into it,”” he said. “”A lot of people are focused on winning.””

    Pansing will not be eligible for the $200,000 purse in Kona since he is competing within his age group. He will receive a plaque provided that he completes the race in less than 12 hours.

    “”I just think about it like I’m out there with 2,000 of my closest friends and we’re all training on the same day,”” he said.

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