Twice during a 10-week stretch last fall, Curt Hupe heard those magical six words"Curt Hupe, you ARE an Ironman"that he had spent countless hours, over several years, building up to hear.
On Sept. 7, in Madison, Wisconsin, Hupe completed his first Ironman, which culminates with the finish-line announcer barking out Hupe's name and accomplishment. It took him more than 15 hours to complete.
Mind you, to earn the Ironman title, Hupe swam 2.4 miles, then rode his bicycle 112 miles, and then ran 26.2 miles.
The Ironman, he said, "is such an amazing feeling; [it] can make you a bit emotional."
Hupe completed his second Ironman on Nov. 16 in Tempe, Ariz.
"Like anything that's worth doing, [an Ironman] takes effort," said Hupe, 38, who grew up in Peotone and now lives in Mokena, Illinois. "An Ironman is very challenging in that it takes a ton of dedication and determination. Training isn't easy. It takes months of early mornings, late evenings and long weekend days of training. When race day comes, there's a saying that it's just a very long training day with 2,500 of your friends, and it's catered. I take it to heart. Most anyone who's willing to put in the required training could become an Ironman. It's just like a diet; most people don't succeed, as it takes a lot of dedication and determination. Fortunately, I have a great group of triathlon buddies to keep me on track."
Hupe, who is openly gay, is the COO for a small software development company ( ChartNet Technologies ) and the owner of CCH Printing, a small printing company. He has been hooked on endurance-sports since 2007when he ran his first-ever marathon.
Hupe finished the 2007 Chicago Marathon, which was ended early that year due to the unexpected heat. He ran again six weeks later, crossing the finish line of the Florence ( Italy ) Marathon.
He continued running in 2008 and 2009, and added triathlons to his resume in 2010. In 2014, he completed the New Orleans Half Ironman, Racine Half Ironman, Ironman Wisconsin, North Shore Century bicycle ride of 100-miles, Chicago Marathon and Ironman Arizona.
Over the past seven years, Hupe has run 13 marathons, eight half marathons, four half Irons, two full Irons and several other running and obstacle events.
His 2015 slate includes the Ironman Wisconsin ( in Madison ), the Mi Titanium ( in Michigan ) and Ironman Louisville, among others.
"I love the people," involved with endurance-sports, Hupe said. "To this day, there are some very special friendships that go back to when I first started in 2007. Even though it's a race and your goal is to do better than your last race, everyone helps and encourages each other. I have to admit, there are some bragging rights that come with endurance-sports, too.
"There are a lot of great things about endurance sports, though the best part is the people. I absolutely love my running and tri buddies. Over the years I've made some great friendships that will last forever. They are like family. Endurance sports take a lot of time, so it's nice that you're spending that time with people you like. The worst part [is], the time commitment. Sometimes you have to sacrifice other things to get in time for training."
But his memories are endless, such as his first half Ironman, when one of his coaches, Jamie Thome, surprised him during the run, "and it just made my day," he said. "I was so happy to see her. Someone was able to catch that moment and it's still one of my favorite pictures." Then there was the marathon he ran in Fargo, North Dakota, when his timing chip came off his shoes sometime during the 26.2-mile course, so he didn't get an official time.
So why keep doing the endurance sports?
"Honestly, you learn to love them … and it's hard to stop," he said. "You build a bond with the people and training with them becomes a natural part of your weekend. When I first started, there were a few awesome coaches [who] really inspired me from the very start and were a big reason I kept doing these races."
Hupe has long competed in his events while supporting the Team To End AIDS ( T2 ), an endurance training program that benefits the AIDS Foundation of Chicago ( AFC ). Hupe has fund-raised close to $50,000 for AFC through T2.
"If it wasn't for the support and encouragement from friends and family, I wouldn't continue," he said. "These events take a lot of dedication and without the support from those close to you, it wouldn't be as rewarding."
His biggest supporter is, without question, his mom.
"She's a staple at my races and supports not only me, but all my running and tri buddies," Hupe said. "Having her and my stepdad, Bob, at my races means the world to me and it's a great feeling knowing they're there cheering me on."
Hupe's Ironman training is at least an hour a day running, biking, or swimming, and he does so four days during a week, plus one day of strength training, and a long training day of two to eight hours on a weekend day. "The most challenging part for me is trying to balance all the different disciplines of the sport," he said.
The Madison Ironman is considered one of the most difficult in the U.S. due to its hilly terrain. "It takes a lot of training and determination to complete that course," he said. "I was very nervous going into the race as I wasn't 100 percent sure I was going to be able to finish the bike course in time. Turns out, I had plenty of time."
Hupe completed that race in 15 hours and 25 minutes. "It was incredibly special to have so many [friends] cheer me on. Two of my closest friends and my Mom also made the trip to cheer me on," he said.
"The Ironman in Arizona was supposed to be the 'easy' Ironman as the bike course is mostly flat. However, this year brought 20-plus MPH headwinds. Ironman AZ has never had winds like that. It was brutal, and increased my bike time by at least 45 minutes. The swim was a bit more aggressive than I expected and the water was a tad choppy towards the end.
"Overall, I had more fun at Arizona. Going into the race, I was much more confident and the finish was incredible."