Reardon ‘tris,’ succeeds
If at first you don’t succeed, “tri and tri” again.
That’s the formula local triathlete Mike Reardon used, and it worked for him, paying off in a trip to the Ironman Triathlon World Championship Oct. 23 in Hawaii. Reardon had been trying to qualify for the race for five years and hit paydirt two weeks ago in the Vineman triathlon July 29 in Santa Rosa, Calif.
“It was great,” said Reardon, who came in fifth in his age group at Vineman, and thought he might have missed his chance, as only the top four qualify. “It’s kind of like the Super Bowl of Triathlons.”
Reardon, 35, will be one of nearly 1,500 competitors ages 18-81 at the championships in Hawaii. He set his sights on qualifying at the Vineman, one of a handful of Ironman Championships qualifiers in the U.S., when he started training Jan. 1.
But even after finishing a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile cycling leg and a 26.2-mile run (the same distance as a marathon), Reardon couldn’t be sure his goals became reality. He also had to sweat out the evening after the race to find out the competitor who finished third in the age group didn’t need the slot, as he already had qualified for Hawaii. Reardon finally found out at the awards ceremony the next day that he was going to Hawaii.
“It was terrific,” he said. “I had probably 10 friends there. The whole auditorium was packed. It’s like a dream come true to go to Hawaii.”
Reardon, who lives in South Lake Tahoe and trains in the area’s high elevation and thin air, knows Hawaii will be a different experience, even from the hot, sunny Vineman race. Average temperatures during the Ironman Triathlon World Championships range from 82 to 95 degrees, and the humidity hovers around 90 percent. Hydration and food, already at a tenuous balance in the Ironman qualifiers, are even more critical in Hawaii.
“I don’t know what to expect with finishing because it’s the top age-group (finishers) from all around the world,” Reardon said. “You race against the clock. There’s no chance to win because there’s professionals from all around the world.”
Reardon is targeting a finish around 10 hours in Hawaii, but doesn’t know how conditions will affect him, especially the brutal heat and stiff winds. Last year, men’s champion Peter Reid, 29, a Canadian racer, finished the race in eight hours, 24 minutes and 20 seconds. Women’s champion Natascha Badmann, 31, of Switzerland, won the race in 9:24:16.
“There are different triathlons, but this is the one everybody wants to come to,” said World Championship representative Tracy Keanaaina. “I think everybody wants to come to Hawaii.”
Reardon was watching last year. He made the trip to Hawaii to see the race, but soon decided he couldn’t stand being there without competing.
“I said to myself, ‘I ain’t going back out there unless I qualify,'” he said. “It was just eating me up to watch everybody else race.”
Cycling, clearly, is Reardon’s strong suit. He has perfected his bike leg riding with the local Alpina cycling club to the point where he had the third-fastest bike leg overall in Santa Rosa.
“Definitely, the cycling is what gets me there,” Reardon said. He plans on making it even better, with at least one ride of more than a hundred miles a week to complement his marathon-length training runs and lake swims. Reardon trains, on average, 20-22 hours a week.
The race in Hawaii begins and ends at the pier in the town of Kailua. The bike stage takes competitors north on the Kona Coast to the village of Hawi, and then returns along the route to the Keauhou resort area, south of Kailua. The marathon course travels through Kailua and back along the same highway for the bike race. Contestants run back into Kailua, coming down Alii Drive to meet more than 30,000 cheering spectators before crossing the finish line on the pier.
All told, the race covers 140.6 miles. But for an Ironman competitor, that doesn’t represent the long haul. Reardon once told himself he never would attempt anything longer than an Ironman race. Now, he’s at least entertaining the idea.
“I don’t know,” he said. “My plans could change. I feel like I’ve got to conquer this distance.”
At any rate, Reardon sounds like a man in triathlon for the long term. And that may mean more trips to Hawaii.
“I think it’s a lifetime thing,” he said. “I’m not just in it for a couple of years. I’m a workout junkie, I guess.”
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