Anton Goes the Distance!

"I was so high on the atmosphere and the euphoria of knowing that I was so close to finishing, I literally felt like I was flying and that my feet were no longer on the ground."

I started doing triathlons about two years ago after seeing my wife having a great time participating in such events. I have always enjoyed swimming, knew that I would enjoy biking and have always run regularly to keep in shape, so I figured a triathlon was something I would really enjoy doing.

I started with the “sprint” triathlon, which typically is a quarter or a third of a mile swim followed by a 13-mile bike ride and a three mile run, before moving up to the Olympic version, which is twice those distances. As soon as I crossed the finish line in my first triathlon at Lake Lanier in Georgia, I was hooked.

In 2010, I entered eight events, including half Ironman distance races in Augusta, Ga., and Panama City, Fla. An Ironman event is a huge step up from a traditional sprint triathlon in that you cover 140.6 miles, comprised of a 2.4-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride followed by a full 26.2-mile marathon.

Heading to Hawaii

Earlier this year, I entered the lottery for a place in the Ford Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, in October. I was one of 200 lucky amateurs granted a place alongside the world’s best triathletes in the starting lineup. As soon as I found out that I had won the lottery, I joined the Atlanta Triathlon Club, where I was able to discuss training, nutrition and race ideas with trainers and other athletes, and participate in group bike rides, runs and swims.

After traveling with my family to Hawaii a few days ahead of the event, I got up at 4 a.m. on the race day and had a breakfast of oatmeal, banana and energy drinks before walking to the start line to receive my official competitor number. At 7 a.m., the cannon went off to start the race and mayhem broke loose. I waited for a few minutes to let the stampede of athletes pass ahead of me and then started to swim.

Swim, Bike, Run

My goal was simple: to relax and enjoy the experience and to finish the race within the 17-hour time limit. I was hoping to complete the swim in 75 minutes, but it took me a little over 90 minutes. Even so, I emerged from the water in good spirits and was excited to see my wife and kids at the transition area before getting on my bike for the second stage.

The bike ride was grueling. It was hot and humid and the course was very hilly. Although I started out making good time, the wind quickly picked up. One minute I was cruising, the next I was being battered by 60 m.p.h. headwinds and struggling to stay on my bike. At one point, I looked down and saw that I was going just seven miles per hour. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, the oldest competitor in the race (81-year-old Lew Hollander) passed me as though I was standing still! I started to worry that I might not make the 10.5-hour cutoff time for the bike stage.

Fortunately, I picked up time on the second part of the course and as I descended back into the main town, I was motivated by the people cheering me on. It was a great feeling to enter the transition area with 30 minutes to spare and knowing that I had seven hours to complete the marathon. I could walk it if I had to — but I was determined to run.

By this time it was already 5 p.m. and the sun was quickly setting. I got another mental boost from seeing my family again before I set off into the emerging darkness. Although I was feeling tired after the bike ride, the good news was that I wouldn’t have to run in the sun. The temperature and humidity had already subsided. The conditions were perfect.

Although I ran alone in the dark for much of the time, there was plenty going on around me to keep me alert. At every mile along the course, there were refreshment stations where you can pick up drinks and snacks like water, energy drinks, pretzels, fruit, crackers and chocolate. Despite the fact that I could hear music playing and people cheering me on, I was still alone in my thoughts for much of the time. I found myself thinking about my father, my family, my friends and my life. {photo4-right}

Floating on Air

The adrenaline was pumping through my veins as I headed into town for the last couple of miles. As you get to the final stretch, the crowds line the streets to cheer and call out your name. Somehow I again managed to spot my wife and kids, and suddenly I was floating. I was so high on the atmosphere and the euphoria of knowing that I was so close to finishing, I literally felt like I was flying and that my feet were no longer on the ground.

I crossed the finish line at 11:17 p.m. with 43 minutes to spare. Because of the heat, humidity and the winds, the event was much tougher than I had anticipated, but that just added to the sense of achievement I felt when completing the course and beating the elements. It really was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Editor’s Note:

Anton raised $10,000 for the American Cancer Society in his Kona4aCause Campaign in memory of his father who died of cancer in 1993.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap