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August 5, 2019


Aug. 17 Race Brings Community Together For Active Event

Photos above: Blair Rathjen, an Advanced Practice Clinician with ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca, participates in the Waupaca Triathlon.

Photos above: Dr. Greg Hiltgen, who practices at ThedaCare Medical Center-Waupaca, has participated in the Waupaca Triathlon since 2013.

August 5, 2019


Aug. 17 Race Brings Community Together For Active Event

WAUPACA, Wis. – For the last 19 years, Blair Rathjen, a ThedaCare team member, has been swimming, biking and running her way to the finish line of the Waupaca Triathlon, cheered on by supportive community members lining the race route.

“The best part is the positive energy on race day, and the feeling of accomplishment when crossing the finish line,” said Rathjen, an Advanced Practice Clinician with ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca who has participated in the triathlon both as an individual and as part of a relay team. “Triathletes seem to support everyone around them, especially at the smaller races like in Waupaca, which is why I always keep coming back.”

Rathjen is among several ThedaCare providers who will participate in the Aug. 17, 2019 community event, putting their passion for active living into practice. The race’s long course consists of a 1/2-mile swim, 20-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile run. Participants also can choose a short course, kayak option or a Kids Triathlon. ThedaCare is the platinum sponsor of the Waupaca Triathlon, which starts in downtown Waupaca’s South Park.

“I like to challenge myself, and triathlons are a little addicting,” Rathjen said. “I compete against myself and always have a goal of just to finish. If I can beat an old overall time or a specific event time, that is an extra bonus.”

To get ready, Rathjen runs year-round and adds in swimming and biking in the summer. Her two young children – ages two and four – help keep her active and flexible, and she often runs while pushing a double stroller that weighs about 90 pounds. She enjoys seeing her kids excited about going outside and being active, and she likes helping motivate others.

“Being in healthcare, I find it especially important to be a good example to those around me whatever the setting,” Rathjen said. “In communities when I see others being active, it motivates me to get out there even when I might not want to be, and I hope I can do that for others.”

For those interested in trying a triathlon, Rathjen suggests finding one like the Waupaca Triathlon that has an achievable distance and start training, preferably with a family member or friend to keep motivated.

Dr. Greg Hiltgen, who practices at ThedaCare Medical Center-Waupaca, has participated in the Waupaca event since 2013 and triathlons in general in 2012, following heart surgery in 2011. Dr. Hiltgen said before he had his faulty aortic valve replaced with a mechanical one, he was left short of breath and unable to exercise much.

“So I do it to keep my heart in good shape,” he said. “I think of it as continuing cardiac rehab.”

To prepare, Dr. Hiltgen mainly swims during the winter months and adds in biking and jogging four months before the triathlon event. The biggest challenge for him was simply getting started. At first, he’d get winded after about 25 yards of swimming.

“Gradually it became easier,” he said. “Last year, I swam the mile swim at scout camp with my grandson. In contrast, the short course triathlon swim is only 400 yards, which is about a quarter-mile.”

He also uses the triathlon to help encourage others in his community.

“Staying healthy is important to me because I do not want to develop a second form of heart disease, namely coronary artery disease,” Dr. Hiltgen said. “I feel it’s important to set a good example for others, both the community and within ThedaCare, because it might motivate someone to get more active and try a triathlon.”

For Dr. Hiltgen, the best part is simply finishing the triathlon.

“I always look forward to the announcer for triathlon, saying ‘Greg Hiltgen is in the house,’” he said. “It’s just a great feeling to know you accomplished a long term goal.”

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization serves a community of more than 600,000 residents and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the regions. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 31 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.

Media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public Relations Specialist at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.