Kahl is oldest athlete
entered in Ironman Louisville
will be the 44th Ironman event
for the now 75-year-old
Helen E. McKinney
(August 2012) Age does not limit Kurt Kahl
in any way, shape or form. At 75, the Madison, Ind., resident will be
the oldest competitor in the 2012 Ironman Louisville triathlon, which
takes place Sunday, Aug. 26.
It is amazing to think that Kahl did not even begin competing in the
Ironman competitions until age 50. Entered in the age group category,
Kahls first Ironman was in Kona, Hawaii, and I had to qualify
to get there, he said.
The Ironman movement had just begun in 1978 and, Kahl said, I
didnt get into the triathlon until 1985. I had to figure out how
to qualify first.
courtesy of Ironman Louisville
Kurt Kahl crosses the finish line at last year's Ironman Louisville as the oldest competitor in the event.
Kahl has proudly competed in 43 full-length Ironman competitions
17 of them in the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.
He said he has been very fortunate to have had the good health to do
so, and he attributes much of it to eating well.
Having had a career as a dietician has proved beneficial to him in terms
of training for the triathlons, he said. He is still employed part-time
as a dietician.
Kahl lived in New York State and Wisconsin before moving to Madison
in 1975. Kahl spent five years as a swim coach for the H20 youth program
in Madison, encouraging others to do what is part of the triathlon series
in which he now competes.
Every once in a while, Kahl will compete in a 5K run. He has always
been very athletic, having run in 5K and 10K races in the past. He said
the thing he has to train for is distance when it comes to the Ironman
The big thing is swimming, he said.
For the Louisville race, competitors are required to swim up the Ohio
River three-quarters of a mile to a buoy and then turn around and swim
He hopes to have the chance to swim in the Ohio River a day or two before
the event. He will do this to get a feel for the current and to
develop my stroke.
Prior to the actual triathlon, Kahl can be found swimming for an hour
and a half several days a week. He cycles twice a week, often riding
from Madison to Friendship, Ind. To work on his speed, he cycles to
Versailles, Ind., and back. For practice in running, he runs to Dupont,
Ind. He does all this to get me through it, he said.
He is not sure which of the three disciplines he prefers the most. Im
fairly descent at swimming and biking, he said. But he admits
that competitors can have problems with the bike, which in turn might
slow them down.
I was better at running when I started out doing the Ironman races.
I keep changing as I get older.
For Kahl, the whole idea of the Ironman series is to go to a triathlon
for the first time and enjoy the opportunity to be in that kind of a
race. You have three chances to beat the competition-swimming, biking
and running. If you dont win in one area, you have two more chances.
After competing in an Ironman triathlon, Kahl, like any other competitor,
needs time to try and recover. It takes three or four days to
get over the grueling workout your body goes through during the triathlon,
Kahl is friends with Madison residents John and Stacy Crawley, a married
couple competing for the first time in the Ironman event this year.
He and friend, Jack Fife, have competed in the Ironman races since 1987.
Fife, who is three years younger than Kahl, is a stiff competitor.
In 2010, Kahl at age 73 was honored at the prerace dinner the night
before the Ironman in Louisville as the second-oldest competitor, his
friend Bob Scott, then 80. Kahl was asked how he did it. Its
not about your age, he told the crowd. Its about your
training. My goal is to be there at 80, like my friend Bob Scott.
Kahl owned the honor as the oldest competitor in the event the very
next year and holds it again this year.
Stacy Crawley said of Kahls achievement, I have known Kurt
for a long time. Years ago, during my morning high school swim
practices, Kurt would come in and swim with us. Now he runs
by our office a couple of times a week on his way to Dupont. If I happen
to see him out, I take him a bottle of water. We speak briefly
about training and off he goes.
Crawley said Kahls training and dedication is inspirational to
all who know him.
Its amazing that someone 75 years old can
continue to train and maintain the physical demands required to
cross an Ironman finish line. The training, dedicating the
time required to continue to push the body through the physical
endurance also requires mental stamina. It is long
and taxing on the body in many ways. I honestly believe Kurt has
an upper hand in that he has so much experience in the sport.
Kahl gives the following advice for anyone interested in competing in
the Ironman triathlon who qualifies to do so: If you get to that
level, you need to be able to swim 2.4 miles and ride a long distance.
You need to try to run a marathon as well. You need to do these things
first to get the feel of it.
He also suggests competing in shorter distance Ironman or athletic races
before tackling a larger triathlon such as the Ironman. Anyone not used
to the rigorous pace of the race may not fair as well as Kahl has done
in the last 25 years. He is definitely a contender for those half his
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