During the season he won races at Columbia, Mo.; Leawood, Mo.; Emporia, El Dorado, Lake Afton, Hutchinson and Derby. The second-place finish in Lawrence and Oklahoma City during the season were significant accomplishments along with the Las Vegas race.
Nickel is sponsored this year by Pinnacle Sports Performance, Hutchinson; Eddie U Massage Clinic, Wichita; Brooks Sports Inc, Bothell, Wash.; Bicycle X-change, Wichita; and Endurance Company, Columbia, Mo.
The role of the sponsor for an amateur triathlete is to help cover the cost of racing equipment.
“It really is a team effort to have a successful season,” Nickel said. “During the course of the year I rely heavily on a bike mechanic to keep my bike tuned, massage therapist and physical therapist to keep me healthy, and coaches and equipment sponsors to ensure I’m doing everything possible to be competitive.”
Some sponsors give additional discounts if the athlete performs well during the season. Very few of the races give cash prizes to the winner or top finishers in the amateur divisions.
The distance of 70.3 miles (half of the Hawaii Ironman race) has become a popular distance internationally and has allowed Nickel to train religiously on the flat lands of Kansas.
The national rankings currently have Nickel in 53rd place in the U.S., but when the professionals are removed, he expects to be among the top 20 individuals in his age group in the amateur division.
Although Kansas does not post rankings, Nickel is unaware of any Kansan who has finished ahead of him in local races.
“People ask me a lot if I am ready for the Hawaii Ironman (140-mile race),” Nickel said. “I will likely move to the Ironman distance in the next three to five years. However, I want to be competitive when I make that move and not just finish the race. My training has not reached that point yet.”
Even though Nickel lives in Harvey County, he finds that the hills southwest of Hillsboro provide some of the best training for long runs. He figures he has spent 700 hours training this last year, with much of the winter training indoors.
When he trains outdoors, he does not take along musical devices.
“I really enjoy being out in nature and experiencing the seasonal changes in the weather,” he said.
His favorite 100-mile route for bicycle training takes him from Newton through Peabody, Marion and Burns, where the roads are always peaceful with traffic low.
Although he relaxes a bit between seasons, it won’t be long before he’ll hit the road again, getting ready for the triathlon season that begins in early April.
Delbert Peters writes articles about Goessel High School sports.