by Kim Rankin
“Strong and steady” were the words Madison, WI photographer Clint Thayer used to describe theIronMan WI performance of custom sports photography client Michael Thompson. “He never stopped, but just kept going.”
When Thompson crossed the finish line Sunday night, a support team of family and friends were there to meet him. Not letting himself or his team down was Thompson’s motivating goal from the beginning.
“I know there are going to be spots that will be crappy,” shared Thompson before the race.“I’m not obsessed with how long it takes. It’s a matter of getting it done. When I get to that point when I don’t want to go, when my body says I can quit… I don’t want to be the person who says, 'I couldn’t find a way to overcome.'”
The desire to overcome life's challenges is something Thompson shares with his brother, Chris, who has battled cancer. “My brother told me his personal goal is to be able to stand up out of his wheelchair unaided as I cross the finish line. He’s going to be there to give me a hug. So when I’m out there on the course, and I don’t want to move forward, I’m going think of him, of how he struggles to get up out of his wheelchair. I’ll go forward. I'll get to the end.”
Going forward is something Thompson did amazingly well all day Sunday. His performance on the bike was especially outstanding. “He flew!,” said Thayer as he narrated Thompson's IronMan through the lens. Thompson entered the 112 mile bike leg of the race ranked 280th in his age division. He left his bike ranked 191st. While reporting from the course, Thayer said “He is passing people like crazy. He came over the climb at Midtown looking strong and digging deep.” Thompson wrapped up the day with an equally strong marathon, averaging eleven minute miles.
Thompson’s road to IronMan WI 2012 started with a run five years ago. He did the CrazyLegs Classic, an 8-km race, with a group of friends - motivated primarily by the free beer at the end. “I started big, fat, and lazy,” he said, “but realized after running a bit with a buddy that I was losing weight. Hanging out and running with friends encouraged more interest [in sports].”
Thompson entered his first marathon in 2007. He completed two triathlons in 2009, the Lake Mill Sprint and the Olympic distance race of the Wisconsin Triterium in Verona. In 2011, Thompson completed the IronMan 70.3 Racine in just over six hours. His girlfriend, Jodi Hemp, was also instrumental. Hemp and Thompson have been together for over ten years. "She encouraged me to sign up for IronMan WI," said Thompson. "Without her support every day, I would not have made it."
Thompson’s buddies took that encouragement and created a goal. Travis Welch (Ironman WI 2008), Shawn Killebrew (Ironman WI 2009) and Brett Fenner (Ironman WI 2010) were vital to Thompson’s motivation and training for Sunday’s event. “We talk daily. We run or bike every time we're together,”said Thompson. Jessica Laufenberg of SBR Coaching was also instrumental in Thompson’s preparation, planning every workout from December 2011 until IronMan Wisconsin on Sunday, September 9, 2012.
“Anyone who says they do this by themselves is lying," said Thompson. "Everything your support team says and does every day makes it easier or harder to reach the goal.”
Congratulations to IRONMAN Michael Thompson, his brother Chris, and Team Thompson for turning goals into reality!