Local athletes ready for Ironman Texas (w/video)

From left: Leana Elliott, Natalie Bayarena, Missy Janzow, Paul Sacco, Shayne Bollman and Chad Hall go on a training ride for Ironman Texas in Riverside Park on May 9. Janzow has been coaching Ironman athletes since 2007 and is training a group competing in the Ironman Texas on Saturday.
  • Ironman Texas

  • • 2.4- mile swim

    • 112-mile bicycle ride

    • Marathon (26.2 miles)

  • Ironman Texas

  • Natalie Bayarena, Victoria - first IM

    Crystal Cantu, Victoria - first IM

    Sandra Cowart, Bay City - first IM

    Leana Elliott, Victoria - first IM

    Shayne Bollman, Victoria - first IM

    Keith Schaefer, Victoria - first IM

    Paul Spinks, Victoria ...

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  • Ironman Texas

    Natalie Bayarena, Victoria - first IM

    Crystal Cantu, Victoria - first IM

    Sandra Cowart, Bay City - first IM

    Leana Elliott, Victoria - first IM

    Shayne Bollman, Victoria - first IM

    Keith Schaefer, Victoria - first IM

    Paul Spinks, Victoria - first IM

    Tressa McRae Story, Victoria - first IM

    Jason Browning, Tyler - first IM

    Chad Hall, Victoria - third IM

    Paul Sacco, Bay City - third IM

    Missy Janzow, Victoria - fourth IM

BY JULIE GARCIA

In the months leading up to her first Ironman Triathlon, an endurance event composed of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a marathon (26.2 miles), training became a full-time job for Crystal Cantu and a band of athletes from Victoria and Bay City.

"We started in December, and it built it up from there," Cantu, 32, said. "We'd get on (the bike) at 8:30 a.m. and sometimes we wouldn't be done until 3:30 in the afternoon. Training is like another job."

After seven hours on the bike, Cantu said the 12-member training group would run at least three miles.

All the months of training, time spent away from families and hours on the road, the race has finally arrived.

The Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas starts Saturday in The Woodlands at 7 a.m.

The race, which will have a 17-hour time limit to complete all three events, is sold-out of general admission tickets.

Cantu has competed in three half-Ironman events and said that a full-Ironman was always on her bucket list.

"I wanted to do something to push my limits," the mother of two daughters said. "A goal to see if I could conquer it."

The large group of Victoria athletes who registered also drew Cantu in.

"I figured I could do it now with training partners," she said. "When someone's down, the other brings them up."

Cantu and teammate Natalie Bayarena, another first-timer, will wear Wonder Woman costumes during their journey.

"If you can't have fun doing it, don't do it," Cantu said.

Local fitness enthusiast Missy Janzow will be participating in her fourth Ironman alongside Cantu and Bayarena. Janzow coached them, Leana Elliott and Paul Sacco and Sandra Cowart from Bay City.

Janzow said the race is all a mental endeavor.

"You don't say no, you can't stop," Janzow said.

No phones or mp3 players are allowed on the course. And though it's an individual competition, it's far from an individual effort.

"(Missy) will be there to drag us across the finish line," Cantu said, laughing. "Without them, I don't think I could do it. I love to talk to and I don't think I couldn't talk for that long."

Cantu said even if the talking isn't about the race, it's about not being by yourself for possibly 17 hours.

"They're my babies," Janzow said about Cantu and Bayarena.

This is Sacco's third Ironman. He said the challenge to see if he can do better than his previous time is what keeps him coming back.

The race veterans have an idea of what to expect from Ironman, but no race is ever the same.

However, food intake along the course is always important.

"Everyone should have a plan together," Janzow said. "You need to know what you're doing every hour and bring specific bags during the bike and run."

For first-timer Leana Elliott, she likes a Coke, a Snickers bar and some Fritos.

The key is to freeze the Snickers so it doesn't melt, she said.

Many of them have competed in the half-Ironman distance.

"Some of us went right past crazy to stupid," said Paul Spinks, a first-timer. "Most of us go up the ladder."

The group may not be crazy, but each has something they want to prove.

For Cantu, she wants to show her husband that she can do it.

"My husband told me, 'You remember how you felt after the marathon?' I did one marathon and could hardly walk afterward," Cantu said. "(He said) 'And now you want to add a bike and swim to it? You're crazy.'"

Elliott's knee surgeon flat out told her she couldn't do the race.

"Our friends think we're crazy, but it's about proving people wrong," Elliott said.

Janzow said the training experience has been fun and a far cry from what she went through getting ready for her first Ironman.

"When I first moved here 10 years ago, people didn't run in the park," Janzow said. "If you ran on the interstate, people would throw Coke cans at you."

But Janzow knew that if runners, walkers and bicyclists started populating Riverside Park, the bad element would move out eventually

"You just have to be visible," she said.