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Recreation

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Ironman Hawaii triathlon
Where: Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
When: Oct. 13
Events: 2.4-mile swim; 112-mile bike; 26.2-mile run
Website: http://ironmanworldchampionship.com
Courtesy photo
Mark Miller qualified for the Ironman Hawaii in August when he finished the Ironman Louisville in 10 hours, 2 minutes and 39 seconds. This is his first time in Hawaii.

Test of iron will and skill

Heat, humidity and wind await city man at the Ironman Hawaii

– He knows about the heat and the humidity, and, lord, the wind. He knows about the will-busting lava fields. Knows there isn’t a scrap of shade to be found anywhere in 140.6 miles.

Yes, Mark Miller’s seen the ultimate Ironman triathlon, Ironman Hawaii. From his couch, anyway.

“You know, it’s one of those events that’s televised, so if you’re into the sport and enjoy the sport, you watch the NBC broadcast and kind of see the conditions,” says Miller, 40. “You realize it’s one of those races where heat and humidity affect people, and it can be somewhat windy on race day as well.”

What’s different about all that this time is Miller won’t be observing it from the outside this year. He’ll be observing it from the inside.

That’s because, 3 1/2 hours south of here at the end of August, Miller finished the Ironman Louisville in 10 hours, 2 minutes and 39 seconds. That not only got him fifth in the 40-44 age group and 31st overall, it qualified him for Ironman Hawaii on Oct. 13, which is also the Ironman world championships.

“My first,” he says.

It’s also the culmination of a path Miller first stepped foot on eight years ago, when he was 32 and looking for a new challenge. A cross country runner in high school at Westview, he’d done some marathons and mini-marathons, but never a triathlon. And so, in 2004, he finally took the plunge.

“After that I was hooked,” he recalls.

It suited him, for one thing. In high school, he says, he gravitated to cross country in the first place because endurance events were always his niche.

“I was never really good at short-distance track stuff,” says Miller, who lives in Kendallville and owns the bike center at Spiece Fitness in Fort Wayne. “The longer the better for me.”

So maybe it was inevitable that, two years after taking up the triathlon, he entered his first Ironman – the granddaddy of triathlons, with its 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and full 26.2-mile marathon at the end.

Not that it was love at first sight or anything.

“The first one I did, in 2006, was in Madison, Wis.,” Miller recalls. “I’m not a very cold-weather type of a guy, and we had temperatures in the 50s and it was rainy all day. So it was a pretty miserable experience.

“But I survived it, I finished it, and it left me with that feeling like, ‘I want to do this again because I know I can do better than what I did there.’

“I was pleased with the fact that I finished one and it was my first one, and even though my experience maybe not what I hoped for, I wanted to do it again.”

A year later, he did, this time in Louisville.

“Of course it was the end of August and really hot and humid,” Miller says. “A whole different experience.”

And now it’s on to Ironman Hawaii – which will again be a whole different experience, not to mention a selective one.

Only 2,150 triathletes make it to Kona every year, and they come from all over the world.

The Ironman qualifying series includes not only events in the U.S. but in 13 other countries, stretching from Mexico to South Africa to Australia to Wales to Brazil.

“Just from talking with people and watching the race, the big challenge with Hawaii is just the fact that it’s going to be hot and humid,” Miller says. “And you can expect some wind as well.”

Bring it on.

bensmith@jg.net

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