According to Wendy Mader, if someoneâ€™s passionate about something, theyâ€™ll make time for it. And thatâ€™s just what the 37-year-old former world-champion triathlete does, fitting daily 2-hour workouts into her packed schedule as the coach for the CSU triathlon team.
Throughout her 10-year coaching career and nearly 20 years competing in triathlons, Mader took part in about 120 races, including the 1997 Ford Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, her first Ironman race.
â€œIt was awesome,â€ Mader said of her first turn in Kona. â€œI remember it like it was yesterday.â€
After seeing the top five finishers on the podium, Mader realized her dream of placing in the race.
â€œI wanted to chase that Ironman dream, but I didnâ€™t know how to train,â€ Mader said.
She later ended up qualifying for the World Championship in 2003 and 2007 before becoming the top female amateur Ironman triathlete in the world in 2008.
â€œIt was the first time I had placed in Kona,â€ Mader said. â€œAnd if youâ€™re going to podium, I mean, you might as well do it right.â€
Mader was always a natural athlete. She was raised in Grosse Pointe, Mich. as the youngest of three daughters.
â€œBoth of my parents were runners, and my mother was a triathlete,â€ Mader said.
â€œThey always exposed us to everything â€” soccer, baseball, T-ball, track and field and gymnastics â€“â€“ but what I really excelled at was swimming.â€
At 6 years old, Mader began swimming competitively and continued her athletic career, eventually going on to study at Northern Michigan University on a full-ride swim scholarship.
In 1992 at 19, she decided to try her first triathlon as part of a team. She swam half a mile and watched as her other teammates competed the separate legs of the race.
â€œI was watching it, and I was like, â€˜I can do that,â€™â€ Mader said.
After purchasing a mountain bike in 1993, Mader swam, biked and ran her way to complete her first solo sprint triathlon, finishing first in her age group and 12th overall.
Moving up from sprints and to a better bike, Mader began competing in longer distanced triathlons, and by 1995 she left Michigan for the â€œ300 days of sunshineâ€ that Colorado offered.
In the spring of 1996, Mader began graduate school at CSU, studying wellness management. Soon, she became involved in the CSU triathlon team, eventually coaching on-and-off since 2000.
â€œSheâ€™s a great coach,â€ said Danny Harper, the president of the CSU triathlon team. â€œSheâ€™s been around for a long time, and sheâ€™s very committed to us.â€
As someone who started training for triathlons alone, Cody Schlager, a member of the triathlon team and student at CSU, values Maderâ€™s knowledge as a coach.
â€œI spent all last year on my own and decided to just make it a group event (by joining the triathlon team),â€ Schlager said. â€œMy times have improved quite a bit after working with Wendy.â€
As someone who didnâ€™t get to experience the benefits of a coach for most of her triathlon career, Mader loves being able to guide those new to the sport.
â€œIn 1994 and 1995 I didnâ€™t have a clue, I just trained and raced,â€ Mader said. â€œI learned the hard way, so for me to be able to teach someone and educate them, thatâ€™s what itâ€™s all about.â€
As for her future in the sport, Mader thinks she has a few more years left in her as an Ironman athlete, with her ultimate goal being to go back to Kona at 40 and win her age group.
But no matter what the future brings, this long-time fitness devotee has no intention to stop competing in triathlons.
â€œIâ€™ll never be a pro,â€ Mader said. â€œPros come and go â€” they retire. I like to think of myself as an amateur, itâ€™s more of a life-long sport for me. Itâ€™s my thing, and it will always be my thing.â€
Senior Reporter Erin Udell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have what it takes?
Ironman triathlon: a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a marathon run (26.2 miles).
Olympic distance: a .93-mile swim, a 24.8-mile bike and a 6.2-mile run
Sprint distance: a .47-mile swim, a 12.4-mile bike and a 3.1-mile run