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Suter and Palm up to Ironman test

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Local athletes competing in Hawaii next weekend

Seven weeks isn’t enough time to recover from an Ironman triathlon, much less train for one.

Still, Whistler’s Paul Suter and Mae Palm are determined to give it their best shot next weekend in the World Ironman Championships at Kona, Hawaii. Both athletes qualified for berths in the world championships at Ironman Canada, with Suter finishing 10th in the men’s 40 to 44 age group, and Palm winning the women’s 60 to 64 category.

"I don’t think I have time to be nervous, but I’ll probably get nervous closer to the race," said Suter. "Right now I’m excited to be going, and to tell the truth I’m also excited to get it over with."

Suter has competed in four Ironman triathlons to date, and for the recent Ironman Canada race started training last November. With a coach, he has put in anywhere from about 17 to 25 hours of training each week. Qualifying for the championships meant he had to keep his training regimen up.

"It’s been a long season and to lengthen it by two months is tough. The hardest thing is to stay motivated to do the training. Christine (Paul’s wife) kept me going though when I didn’t want to do the training. My kids also rode their bikes beside me, which helped a lot. I couldn’t have done it without them," said Suter.

On the advice of his coach, Valerie Burke, Suter been training indoors at home with the heat turned up to try an acclimatize to the Hawaiian weather. He has also sought advice from other Kona veterans, including Whistler’s Murray Coates.

"I got some good pointers, but I’m guessing that the only way to learn is to go and do it, and learn the hard way," said Suter.

Aside from heat and humidity, Suter is also concerned about the notorious crosswinds that have been known to knock cyclists over in some years.

Time is the one thing Suter does not have to worry about.

"I don’t have any goals. I’d like to be able to finish and feel good about my race," said Suter. "I’d like to enjoy it and experience it and learn from it, because hopefully I’ll be back to compete for an age group title in the future."

Mae Palm also doesn’t have any expectations in her third World Championship appearance, although she would like to finish in the top five in her age category. She is excited to have 13 other women in her division this year, more than twice as many as she usually faces.

"I guess I’m ready for it," said Palm. "I just take it one stroke at a time, one spin at a time, one step at a time, and hope I don’t get injured or anything."

She hasn’t had the time to train properly, but has been creative about training. She has ridden her bike home to Squamish from work in Whistler several times recently, and fits in runs whenever she can.

"Once you’re fit, your body is used to this kind of thing, so a lot of it is a mental thing," said Palm, who won the world championship title in her age class in 2001. An experienced ultra marathon runner with 100 marathons to her credit under four hours, Palm first raced Ironman in 2000 at the age of 60.

She’s looking forward to becoming a grandmother in January, so she can get some training in chasing her grandchild around.

Although she’s capably of placing well in Kona, she knows it will be difficult with several of the women in her category just making the jump from the 55 to 59 age group.

"It’s kind of funny that everyone can’t wait to get a year older so they can compete in a higher age group and finish better," said Palm.

"I won’t lose sleep if I don’t win the gold or silver or the bronze, I just want to finish. To be in the top five or on the podium is just icing on the cake."

Because of financial concerns Palm was undecided whether to race at all. She recently started a new job, and hasn’t earned vacation time or benefits. Registration alone costs $600 U.S., and airfare is expensive as well.

She is still looking for a corporate sponsor that would enable her to spend more time training, and attending events, and is grateful for all of the support she has received. "Every little bit helps," she said.

Palm is dedicating her race to Ray Peters, a legendary Squamish trail builder who is battling cancer.

"At the race they ask everyone what they are there for, and this year my answer is Ray Peters," said Palm.

The Ironman takes place on Oct. 18, starting at 10 a.m. Pacific Time. You can follow the race from start to finish at IronmanLive.com (www.ironmanlive.com).

The Ironman includes a 2.4 mile (3.8 km) swim, a 112 mile (180 km) bike race and a full 26.2 mile (42.2 km) marathon.

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