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Ageless Wonder

Madison’s Kahl is oldest athlete
entered in Ironman Louisville

This will be the 44th Ironman event
for the now 75-year-old

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

(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, Kahl’s 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 didn’t get into the triathlon until 1985. I had to figure out how to qualify first.”

Kurt Kahl

Photo 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 Louisville.
“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 back.
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. “I’m 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 don’t 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,” he said.
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. “It’s not about your age,” he told the crowd. “It’s 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 Kahl’s 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 Kahl’s training and dedication is inspirational to all who know him.
“It’s 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 age.

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