Lake Mills Triathlon: Debra Vaughan

by Deborah Proctor

Lake Mills Triathlon | June 2, 2013: When Debra Vaughan awoke early that morning it was overcast, windy, and cold. But it was a race day, the first triathlon event of the season, and she was ready to go. A couple hours later, she and her friend Beth were standing on the beach at Lake Mills watching the waves as the wind churned them into a frenzy, choppy enough to capsize even the lifeguards' boats.


We caught up with Debra shortly after the race to get her thoughts on the Lake Mills Triathlon and what motivates her to race competitively.

Focal Flame (FFP): When did you start competing in triathlons?

Debra (DV): In 2009, the year my first child was born.  My gym wasn’t going to work anymore, so my gym friends and I decided to do Devil’s Challenge as a post partum goal and way to stay together.

FFP: Other than Lake Mills, what other triathlons have you competed in?  

DV: Wisconsin Triterium Triathlon (WTT), Devil’s Challenge, and Ironman Branson 70.3. [Editor's Note: The photo of Debra at right is from the 2013 Lake Monona 20KRace.]

FFP: What motivates you to participate in something as challenging as a triathlon?

DV: I participate in sport, in general, to be an example to both my children and also extended family who have started getting in shape after watching me.I can get bored with just “going out for a run” so the triathlon is a good mix of events and...having an event to train for gets me out the door.

FFP: What do you enjoy most about the sport?

DV: Every race morning I wake up wondering why I do this. Every race start I look at the water and think “this is going to be long and hurt” and after every start horn I forget it all and have a great time!You meet so many fun people on race day and only a handful are competitive, the rest of you are swapping stories and helping each other across the finish line.

FFP: What challenges have you had to overcome in order to compete in this sport?

DV: My personal challenge has been learning that I can do much more than I ever thought I could.  You have to learn to wrap your mind around that many miles; to prepare for hundreds of different scenarios; to push yourself to get out even if you don’t want to.

FFP: Who/what is your greatest encouragement or support(er)?  

DV: My husband, Dave, hands down, especially for the 70.3 which came only 5 months after my son was born. There is no way that race could have been done without him behind me 110%. He not only watches the kids without complaint, he is my coach, my therapist, and my biggest fan.

FFP: The weather for the Lake Mills Tri was pretty nasty causing cancellation of the swim portion for some athletes. How did this affect you personally?

DV: Most of us didn’t get to swim. My friend and I looked at the water and said, “This isn’t our only race (we are signed up for a series of six races this season), we have nothing to prove,” so we went out for a training ride and run on the course instead. 

Race organizers,Race Day Events(RDE), cancelled the swim before any of the age group waves.* After we got back we learned we made the same call as the race director, just earlier. I'm glad they made the call.  And I was glad we all got to go out even if it wasn’t a true Tri.  I don’t pay money, get up that early, and drive an hour just to go home.

FFP: Is there anything else you would like to add?

DV: I am very pleased, overall, with RDE. They put on nice events and have a lot to offer. It has been remarkable of RDE to include awesome race photos in our race fee — pictures mean a lot! I don’t know of any other event that does that for you. I have recently gotten to meet Clint from Focal Flame Photography; now he congratulates me when I cross the finish line, which is fun.

FFP: Will you compete in this event again next year?

DV: Yes! It WAS a very nice course and I look forward to doing the whole thing on a nice day.

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*Behind the Scenes Story: I asked Race Day Events organizers Ryan and Lauren Griessmeyer about the challenging weather conditions the day of the Lake Mills Triathlon. Here is what they and Jon Krupa, President/Owner of Sports Management Associates, Inc.(SMA), in charge of timing the event, had to say.

Race Day Events (RDE): Race day "conditions were difficult (even for the strong swimmers)and many changes happened before the event...The direction of travel through the course was changed to minimize swimming directly into the wind and waves... After four waves of swimmers, 20+ persons rescued from the water, and two capsized lifeguards, the decision was made to cancel the swim to ensure the safety of all participants, lifeguards, and race staff."

Jon KrupaSMA: Lake Mills created a "unique situation where some participants had already swum while others had not. This was a major record keeping (statistical) challenge because the swim and bike are on the same timers. Fortunately, I had extra equipment along and was able to record non-swim waves separately. The challenge was to merge all the data to make results be as fair as possible under the circumstances while managing the integrity of data."

RDE adds: "SMA is the premier event timing business in the Midwest. Changing the format...during the event causes all kinds of problems for timing and scoring.  Jon from SMA... re-formatted the database and scored the event with no major problems and no delays.  This is not an easy feat and cannot be done by just anyone.  The SMA team saved the accuracy and integrity of the event."

"The right people for the right job," is what Focal Flame Photographer, Clint Thayer, calls RDE and SMA. "The racers could have been sent home, but the team found a way to make things happen and gave them something." Focal Flame Photography is proud to partner with Race Day Events and Sports Management Associates,  "can do" companies who make the most of a difficult situation.

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