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Made of iron

Mimi Hutcheson is training for the Ironman triathlon, but the psychiatrist says preparing the mind mentally is just as important.

By SHERYL KAY

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 16, 2000


LUTZ -- Although she runs 4 or more miles a day and cycles 130 miles and swims 500 laps in an Olympic size pool every week, Mimi Hutcheson regards her workout as "taking it easy."

The 46-year-old psychiatrist from Lutz is trying to prevent burnout.

Since 1992, Hutcheson has participated in three Ironman competitions, a fiercely demanding test of athletic ability consisting of a 21/2-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run. She has learned not to be too demanding on herself.

"In 1994 I overtrained," Hutcheson says. "I was too beat up and had to quit during the biking. You have to learn how much to push and how much not to push."

Now she must be extra cautious as she prepares for her fourth Ironman on Oct. 14 in Kona on the west coast of Hawaii. About 1,500 athletes from around the world will join her.

Hutcheson made the cut for Hawaii by placing first in her age group at a qualifier last November in Panama City Beach. Her time was 11 hours, 30 minutes.

"I was very pleased with my time," she said. "It was only 10 minutes slower then my time in '92, and I was a lot younger then."

Her best event, said Hutcheson, is swimming. She has been at home in the water since age 5 and was a member of the Greater Tampa Swim Association and the Academy of the Holy Names swim teams.

"I'm always the first out of the water, but then it's all downhill from there," she said. "It's like I'm thinking, "How long can I stay ahead of these other people now?' It's like push, push, push."

Mental attitude is everything, Hutcheson said.

"I don't get into a comparison game," she said. "I pay attention to my body and how it's doing. You've got to remember nobody else really gives a damn how you do at the race; the only one who cares is yourself. It's a really freeing idea to know, because there's so much pressure otherwise that isn't even real."

While the competition is still several months away, Hutcheson is often pondering the day and the potential outcome.

"Oct. 14 is my sister's birthday, my grandfather's birthday, a good friend of mine's birthday who recently passed away and three of my patients' birthdays," she said. "In my little head, to psyche myself up, I'm saying, "This is the day I'm going to win in my age group.' At this point I would like to do really well; I would love to win," she said. "I think it's vaguely, slightly possible, I just have to take it one day at a time."

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