Triple M's Pat Gallagher to take on Ironman

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Posted by on September 03, 2008 at 10:55:58:

Step 1: Learn to swim; Step 2: Compete in Ironman Wisconsin

One year ago, veteran Madison radio DJ Pat Gallagher seemed like one of the least likely people to compete in Ironman Wisconsin, the daylong endurance combo of swimming, biking and running that leaves the most fit athletes feeling as limber as statues.

Still, Gallagher plunged into Ironman training for the Sept. 7 event. Literally plunged. First, he had to learn to how to swim.

And before last fall, he also had never run any distance longer than Crazylegs, which is five miles � just a slice of the Ironman's 26.2-mile marathon pie.

But he could ride a bike. Since 2000, Gallagher, midday DJ and program director at WMMM-FM (Triple M, 105.5), has done four AIDS charity rides of about 500 miles, each over one week. Ironman features a grueling 112-mile course.

So why enter Ironman?

Why has Gallagher, 43, trained for countless hours and dramatically altered his life, to compete in Ironman Wisconsin?

He'll smile and say it's a mid-life crisis then admit that's not true.

"I set a goal and have done everything possible to reach the goal," he says. "I want to finish the race. I want to hear (the announcer shout), 'You're an Ironman.' "

Of the 2,200 registered athletes for Ironman Wisconsin, Gallagher is one of many first-time participants, who hope to complete the 2.4-mile swim, hilly bike ride and marathon run before midnight � 17 hours after entrants enter Lake Monona.

He joined a team based at Endurance House, a triathlete's store in Middleton. The 45-person squad split into three groups, ranging from experienced Ironmen hoping to qualify for the World Championships to Gallagher's team called Glow Sticks. The moniker stems from how Ironman participants are given bright glow sticks to keep them visible while running groggily in the event after dark.

Gallagher, a 1982 Oregon High School grad who earned a degree in broadcasting at UW-Platteville, says he never participated in sports as a young man. Instead, he entered Madison radio after college graduation in 1986 and has enjoyed a successful, lengthy broadcast career here.

In 2000, he did the AIDS charity bike ride with his wife, Laura, who joined the event's crew. His initial training was more tortoise than hare; he often could ride only halfway from his North Side home to Triple M's then-Near West Side studio.

Building his running stamina was similar to his biking experience. His first two-mile training runs last fall usually required a break after one mile. Late last February, he completed the New Orleans Mardi Gras Marathon.

Learning to swim, though, has been a struggle.

"Had I stepped back (last winter) and looked at this logically, I would have thought, 'I just can't do this.' Swimming was not coming to me at all," he says. "It was not clicking."

In June, he turned the corner. Now he's completed a two-mile swim in frigid lake water and feels ready � although he expects many swimmers to lap him even though Madison's Ironman swim course is only two laps.

"I didn't know the last 11� months would be as crazy as they were," says Laura Gallagher. "It was a bigger time commitment on his end than I thought it would be."

She adds: "Up until about two months ago, I was really worried because it seemed like he was just learning how to swim."

She's confident now about her husband's ability to complete the swim. He finished the Ironman distance in an adequate time last weekend during a prep race.

His training's most noticeable effect is weight loss. He's dropped 25 pounds from training. "And I eat constantly," he says.

A few days from Ironman Wisconsin, he's able to offer potential first-time Ironman competitors training advice.

"My first reaction is: Do it. But there are things to keep in mind. It takes a whole lot of your life. It's a major, major commitment. You can't go at it halfway. It takes time away from your family. (On Aug. 16-17), I spent 10 or 11 hours training.

"It's also expensive. And you have to make sure your family, friends and co-workers understand what you're doing. Let them understand and they can support it."

Ironman Wisconsin

When: Starts at 7 a.m. Sept. 7

Where: Throughout the Madison area

(Wisconsin State Journal)

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