The Journey of a Georgia Tech Ironman

As the Georgia Tech women's basketball team recently completed its foreign tour to Croatia and Spain, another Yellow Jacket is preparing to represent the Institute abroad. Colin Wegner, a third-year chemical engineering student, will compete in the 2023 Ironman World Championship in Nice, France, on Sept. 10.

Wegner is a fourth-generation Georgia Tech student, following in his family's footsteps to attend his dream school, just as he followed in his father's footsteps as a child when the two would run together. At the age of 12, Colin and his dad, Torsten Wegner, signed up for a sprint triathlon. They haven’t slowed down since, although Colin does believe he's caught up to his dad.

"He's a good cyclist,” Colin said. “I'm definitely stronger than he is now – finally, after a long, long time.” When asked if Torsten would agree, Colin replied, "Grudgingly, yes." 

After honing his skills over the years, Wegner decided in early 2022 to cross an item off his bucket list by competing in a full 140.6-mile Ironman Triathlon – a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle race, and a 26.22-mile run. On a November day in Panama City Beach, Florida, Wegner crossed the finish line with a time of 12:02:10, qualifying him to compete in the upcoming world championship in the 18 – 24 age group.

"It always seemed like such a lofty goal,” he said. “But here I am, a normal college kid getting ready to compete on such a grand stage."

Dealing with the already busy schedule of a Tech student, Wegner has learned how to balance the addition of his rigorous training schedule, which includes early morning trips to the North Georgia mountains as he prepares for the hilly terrain he'll face in September, both on foot and on the bike. The training can be just as mentally taxing as it is physically, but with one competition under his belt, Wegner understands that there are no shortcuts on the road to France.

For his first Ironman, he says, “I would take days off here and there and sometimes cut my runs short because I was hurting or tired. But, after feeling unprepared for the run during the race, I realized how important it is to train to run through that same pain on race day. I feel much more prepared this time by just being far more consistent and pushing through soreness and really leaning into the 'hurt locker,' as it's called." 

Applying the same competitive drive to the classroom, Wegner has maintained a 4.0 GPA through his first two years at Tech. He credits the supportive nature of the Institute for allowing him to pursue his dreams of competing at a high level.

Wegner is still deciding what path he'll take after completing his degree, and while he doesn't foresee competition becoming his day job, he's eager to see where his dream takes him.

"It's very mentally and physically grueling, but I love the competition and even enjoy the training. It's something I’ll carry on throughout my whole life. Whether I end up doing really well, we'll find out, but making a career out of it is not the plan right now," Wegner said.

When the starting gun is fired in early September, Wegner will be proudly donning a Georgia Tech tri suit while his family ­­– and the entire Tech community – cheers him on.