Ironman Wisconsin Medical Director is an Ironman Himself
Madison, Wisconsin - For nearly 10 years, Lee Faucher, MD, has been part of the annual Ironman Wisconsin event.
He started working as a medical tent volunteer, then became the assistant medical director starting in 2004 and took on the role of medical director in 2008.
"I guess working medical in a tent was something that I was used to," joked Dr. Faucher, a 17-year veteran of the Air Force.
"Actually, my former colleague Michael Schurr asked me to help out and it was a chance for me to do something in and for the community outside of what I do every day," said Faucher, a UW Health surgeon who specializes in the surgical treatment of trauma and burns.
The Ironman Wisconsin medical tent is staffed by around 200 volunteers; each working 4-hour shifts, and treats an average of 400 patients a year. Treating around 400 people in about a day from a tent might seem a hard enough feat to accomplish, but after six years as a volunteer, Dr. Faucher had a new challenge in mind: Becoming an Ironman finisher.
"I kind of had the itch for a while," Dr. Faucher said. "Finally, my kids got a little bit older and I asked my wife and she said I could."
Only one other major hurdle remained. He needed to learn how to swim.
"I guess I could have kept myself alive if I was in the water prior to training," Dr. Faucher said. "But I never knew how to swim and breathe at the same time. Once I found out that I could swim, that I could train, I signed up for September 2011."
For the next year, Dr. Faucher would get up at 3am each day. The early mornings were tough, but allowed him to train without sacrificing time with his family.
And all the years of volunteering for the event provided Dr. Faucher with some ideas for his own training as well.
"I think during my whole training process I realized all the people I saw in the medical tent didn't exactly do everything right, so I was trying to think of what are those things that they did not do? Did they not pay attention to their body? Did they not drink enough? Did they not eat enough? Did they drink too much?"
"It's not that you just train to run, or train to swim or train to bike," continued Dr. Faucher. "You actually need to train to rehydrate and train to give yourself nutrition, too. That needs to be part of it."
And after a year of early-morning training, Dr. Faucher's persistence paid off. He became an Ironman finisher.
"I was ecstatic at the end," Dr. Faucher said. "I ran too fast through the finish line, though. I should have soaked it up even more. The amount of cheering that is going on is just fantastic. To realize you accomplished something like that is a pretty good feeling, so you need to let it soak in."
In his role as medical director of the event, Dr. Faucher has treated second-place finishers and last-place finishers, professionals and amateurs, finishers and non-finishers. Along with his experience training for and completing the Ironman Wisconsin, he's assembled some tips that he shares with competitors.
- Listen to your body
"The biggest mistake that most people make is that they don't pay attention to their bodies. I think people have to establish their goals - Do you want to finish by 3pm or finish?" says Dr. Faucher. "It's great to have a goal when you first start out, but you need to pay attention to your body and not have your goals be dead-set. Let them be suggestions. If you run behind getting out of the water, don't try to make it up in the first 20 minutes of the bike."
- Train to hydrate and eat
"Every athlete trains by swimming, biking and running," Dr. Faucher says. "I wonder how many actually train to eat and hydrate while preparing for the race. This needs to be done during training and during those triathalons done in preparation for Ironman."
- Follow your hydration and nutrition plan
"Do not continue if you cannot eat or drink," Dr. Faucher says. "Slow down and figure it out. Everyone should urinate at some time during the race. Doing this during the swim does not count. If you cannot drink and have stopped sweating, there is a real problem and need to get hydration."
- Have flexible goals
"Everyone starts the race with a finishing time in mind. If trying to attain that goal leaves you with a chance of not finishing, it is not worth it," Dr. Faucher says. "There is nothing like coming down that chute and having the announcer say your name and that you are an Ironman. It is absolutely amazing and makes all those hours training for the past year well worth it. Don't lose that chance because you want to finish a half hour sooner."
- Enjoy the scenery that comes with doing an Ironman
"The scenery is just fantastic, as are the people along the way. All the signs, all the families, pay attention to those things," Dr. Faucher says. "It's a joy, all the people cheering for you, through Verona, through Mount Horeb, through Cross Plains. The people actually part out of your way as you come up the hills, just like you see on TV."
Date Published: 09/06/2013