Adventure Arkansas: The IronMan

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A 2.4 mile swim, a 112 Mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile Marathon finish that’s what it takes to become an IronMan. There’s an estimated 150 people in Northwest Arkansas who have finished this endurance race. Sean Bailey takes us to a gym in Bentonville to talk with local IronMan competitors ranging from those just starting out to the winner of the first ever IronMan competition.

Chip Beard says, "That’s the first thing you gotta know, is that you can do this. It is possible." Chip Beard is an IronMan coach and competitor, training athletes of all levels to endure one of the longest physical challenges on Earth.

"It’s incredible. A lot of my athletes come to me, and they don’t even know how to swim. Taking someone from not knowing how to swim at all to watching them cross the finish line, it's a thrill for me. I love empowering them, teaching them, helping them grow and accomplish their goals."

One of those Athletes is Jackie Saumweber, "Standing on the starting line is one of the first times it starts to get really real with what you're about to do, and the level of insanity starts to sink in.  But it’s a great atmosphere. There’s thousands of athletes and supporters there so the energy is really high."

Bella Vista resident, Gordon Haller, knows that feeling all too well as he stood on the starting line of the very first IronMan in Hawaii in 1978. "Just calm down and relax. You did the training, do the race and enjoy the day. You know when it comes down to it, you’re gonna push hard. So you don’t have to be nervous about the pain that’s gonna be there because you’ll overcome that and you’re gonna run through it anyway." Hard work pays off at the finish line.

Jackie says, "You’ve been up and down as far as the emotions go. Once that finish line comes into sight that all disappears, and you start crying and laughing all at the same time. The second wind comes about 100 yards before the finish line.

Why do they attempt it?

Gordon explains, "A lot of people take it as a challenge. That was our original purpose to see if we could even do it. And there are a lot of people, actually just about everybody, if they’re doing their first one especially."

Chip says, "You want to accomplish something great, and the IronMan is very great and very difficult! So getting to that point, once you’re there it is a lifestyle, it’s just what we do."

Jackie explains, "Triathlons in general are more of a lifestyle than just an event. So this was the first in my journey. I’m not sure how many there will be. I’ll have to recover from the first one, but it will be a lifelong passion for sure."

38 years later and for athletes attempting their first IronMan, like Ryan and Steven, the race is more mental than physical.

Ryan Dagley says, "Training for IronMan knowing that you can achieve more than what you really think. You always think you’re at that limit and then your mind and body can take you to another level. I think it’s fun to continue to find those levels that you can get to. Everyday is an adventure doing that."

Steven Herrmann says, "Training for IronMan almost everyday you wake up and find out you can things you never ever thought possible, and that equates over into other areas of your life."

Chip says, "I really want people to get into this sport and realize they can do it and then watch their lives change."

The next triathlons in NW Arkansas are Sprint the Bend later this month at Horseshoe Bend and the TRI-49 in September.

If you are thinking about this triple challenge yourself, visit the GPP Fit NWA Website, Gordon Haller's Athlete Facebook page, or the 2016 Arkansas Triathlons List.

Segment Sponsored by: Adventure Arkansas.