COLUMBUS — Sarah Langan has always been active.
The local woman spent her early years in pools and at the river swimming whenever she found the time. After starting a family, she decided to take up running.
“When I first got into running, I couldn’t even make it 1 mile,” Langan said. “So I started following these training programs online and I worked my way up from there.”
Langan started running when she was in her mid-30s. Since then, she has completed three full marathons and eight half-marathons.
Two years ago, she added a new venture.
“A friend from work asked me to do a triathlon in Grand Island with her,” she said. “That summer I trained from a sprint triathlon to an Olympic triathlon status. I completed my first half-Ironman triathlon in Boulder and came home from that to keep training.”
She joined several Facebook groups for triathlon athletes and bought the book “Be Iron Fit” to follow the training program.
“Between the book and asking questions on the Facebook group, I just trained,” Langan said.
Then she decided to sign up for a full Ironman triathlon in Wisconsin.
The event gives participants 17 hours to complete a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 24.6-mile run. Langan knew it was time to buckle down.
She ran the Lincoln Marathon in May to prepare and started to bike more.
“I knew that Wisconsin was very hilly, or at least the Ironman trail was,” Langan said. “So I biked up north of Columbus and found every hill I could and biked it over and over and over.”
Finding time to train wasn't always easy for the mother of two daughters, but she was able to make it part of the regular routine.
It also helped to have her three biggest fans, including husband Troy, at home.
“My daughters love it,” Langan said. “They’re my No. 1 supporters and are behind me 100 percent. Ironman was the only race they didn’t get to go to because of school, but they have been to each of my other marathons.”
Langan, who works as a nurse anesthetist at Columbus Community Hospital, said it's really a family effort.
“Sometimes I forget shoes I need to run,” she said. “So I could be in the middle of nowhere with just a bike and my husband would have to bring me my shoes. That is after he finds me.”
The more grueling training sessions are tackled alone while shorter training days are spent together as a family.
“When I run, they run. When I bike, they bike,” Langan said.
She also found others to help along the way.
“I have a very good friend who helped me on my long bike rides when I trained,” Langan said. “The book said I had to do five three-hour bike rides. Those can get very boring, so my friend agreed to tag along with me. On the way, she was able to get a routine down, too, and get in shape. It was a big help to both of us.”
As last month's Ironman event approached, Langan and her husband drove to Wisconsin to get a feel for the race.
“We drove the running part and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, how are we going to do this?’” Langan said. “Just the biking part alone was 112 miles and the hills there were massive. But the day of Ironman was a fun and great one."
Support from the spectators provided a boost.
"The crowd was spectacular because they were with you every step of the way. The weather was great, which made the swimming portion even better. I didn’t want the swim to end," she said. "It’s why I love triathlons, it lets me get back in the water."
Seeing her husband in the crowd helped Langan keep going. She also found inspiration from other competitors. They were young and old and of all different sizes, working toward a shared goal of completing the race.
“Everyone is out there to help each other across the finish line. That’s what it’s all about — finishing," she said.