Nickel setting pace as state?s top triathlete

Kevin Nickel, a 1999 graduate of Goessel High School and a 2003 graduate of Tabor College, capped a strong triathlon season June 26 by winning a 31.8-mile race at El Dorado.

Nickel?s time of 2 hours, 1 minute and 25 seconds was about 31?2 minutes faster than his time at Memphis, Tenn., in May, where he qualified for the U.S. Cham?pion?ships in Septem?ber at Des Monies, Iowa.

Nickel?s season started with a win at Emporia April 17. Finish?ing well in the swim portion and then dealing with a tight hamstring during the bike and run segments, Nickel paced himself to a first-place finish in the 15.8-mile race in 54:27.

Nickel then returned to Columbia, Mo., this spring after suffering a nasty bike crash there in 2010.

?I picked up a lot of road rash,? he said of his mishap, which didn?t prevent him from taking fourth in 2010.

Careful training this year enabled Nickel to win this year?s 15.8-mile event in 58:33. He was one of only two competitors to finish the race in under an hour. He took home $500 in this first race of the season where prize money was offered.

He placed fourth May 22 in the Memphis May Triathlon that qualified him for the national cham?pion?ships.

?I had a good swim and bike, but was really disappointed in the run,? Nickel said.

Parts of Tunica, Miss., where the race was held, were watching the flooding on the Mississippi River carefully, but the triathlon went as planned.

Even so, Mother Nature made this race more interesting than usual. Nickel finished the 1,500-meter swim in 21:26. A thunderstorm was in progress when he emerged from the water and began the 40-kilometer (24.86 miles) bicycle race in pouring rain. Lightning flashed and thunder exploded all around while Nickel was on the bike. In spite of the elements, he averaged 25.70 mph on his racing bike.

?With the steady rain during the bike race, my socks and shoes were soaked at the start of the run,? he said, ?and I really miscalculated my nutrition for this 32-mile race.?

Nickel finished the 10-K (6.2 miles) run in 43:33 seconds, giving him an overall time of 2:04:57.

?I got out of this race what I wanted?a top-10 finish punches my ticket for Des Moines,? he said. But Nickel missed qualifying for a professional license by one place.

The largest event of this season for Nickel was the Kansas Ironman 70.3 Triathlon in Lawrence June 12 with 1,476 participants. Nickel came in 40th overall and seventh in his age division.

The race was comprised of a 1.2-mile swim, 56 miles on bike and a 13.1 mile (half-marathon) run.

?I had a good swim, but the wetsuit that I wear kept me bouncing over rough water,? he said. ?It acted like a life jacket.?

Nickel?s age group was the last group to start the swim, which is when his timing chip started. Each age group wears a different color swim cap.

?I must have passed people with five different colored caps as they struggled through the choppy waves,? said Nickel, who finished the swim in fourth place in his age group.

Nickel averaged 23.03 mph on the bike segment and was still fifth in his age group. He finished the run in 1:27:34. His total time of 4:26:26 was similar to last year?s.

At El Dorado late last month, Nickel finished first in each segment of the race against mostly Kansas and Oklahoma competitors. The water temperature was too warm for wet suits, but the weather cooperated and did not create unusual circumstances.

Nickel ran track at Goessel High and Tabor. He resides in rural Newton and works in Hutchinson for Pinnacle Sports Performance.

Nickel said he enjoys helping people achieve strength, speed and agility goals.

A member of the Kansas River Valley Triathlon Club in Wichita, Nickel is sponsored this year by Pinnacle Sports Perfor?mance; Bicycle X-change, Wichita, and Brooks Sports Inc., Bothell, Wash.

He plans to participate in several local events in Wichita, Derby and Hutchinson before heading to Des Moines for the national championships Sept. 4.

Although there are no official state rankings for triathletes, Nickel is not aware of any Kansan who has finished ahead of him this season.

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