Lovelace finishes triathalon

Completely breathless, body failing and 25 yards to go, Ben Lovelace knew he had to keep pushing to cross the finish line.

Upon completion of a 70.3-mile triathlon, this SPU junior, soccer player and exercise science major achieved the most grueling feat thus far in his 20 years, coming in at second place in his age group.

In July, Lovelace ran with "Team in Training," an organization that raises money for leukemia and lymphoma patients, in the Vineman Ironman. The Vineman Ironman is a 70.3-mile triathlon, half of the Kona Ironman triathlon.

An Ironman triathlon is an endurance race composed of a 2.4-mile ocean swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride, and a 26.2-mile marathon on the island of Kona, Hawaii.

Each member of the team was asked to raise a total of $4,700, and Lovelace raised a total of $5,853.40, the third highest amount on a team of 60.

Lovelace was grateful to all friends and family who donated in any way they could. "Six bucks isn’t a lot to people, but it meant a lot to me. It got me out of bed at 6 a.m. some mornings," he said.

Monday through Saturday, he would train rigorously, whether it was running a 13 miles, swimming in Ballard at 6 a.m. three days a week or spending his Saturdays going on 60- to 80-mile bike rides, as he strived towards his goal.

Once soccer season came to a close in the fall of 2006, Lovelace set a goal of running the Whidbey Island Half Marathon in the following spring and started training.

Over the course of six months, Lovelace ran two half marathons and participated in two triathlons. All would lead to Lovelace’s ultimate goal of completing his half Ironman in July.

On July 22, at 6:46 a.m., the gun went off, and Lovelace discovered a new side of himself over the course of the proceeding five hours.

"When they hit the gun, I remember hitting my watch and being like, ‘I’m actually doing this,’" he said.

The race took place in Sonoma County, Calif., and began with a 1.2-mile swim through the Russian River.

Next came a 56-mile bike ride. With family and spectators watching, Lovelace recalled hearing them cheer as he rode past.

Sonoma is known as part of California’s famous wine country, and Lovelace recalled the steam coming off the beautiful vineyards as he rode past them.

Referees on motorcycles were stationed along the course of the triathlon, and due to a technicality of drafting behind another participant, Lovelace received a four minute penalty.

Drafting occurs when cyclists ride closely behind another and, while the front cyclist takes on the head wind, followers ride easily behind. As Lovelace was passed on the course by a group of 30-year-olds, he was blocked in behind another cyclist and received the penalty on technicality, he said.

The last leg of the triathlon was a 13.1-mile run. With two miles to go, Lovelace said he knew he had to push hard to finish the race. He pushed so hard in fact that he was running in the upper 90th percentile of his heart rate.

Coming into the finish line with 25 yards to go, Lovelace collapsed. As he tried to stand back up, both his knees buckled, causing him to fall back to the ground. Yet, receiving any help would disqualify him from the race.

The finish line was surrounded by hundreds of spectators screaming and cheering. Lovelace, with a body that had all but given up, got on his hands and knees and crawled across the finish line.

"I just remember this tunnel of people cheering me on. They were the extra strength that pushed me across the finish line," he said.

As soon as he crossed the finish line, Lovelace fell flat on his face, he recalled. He was picked up and carried to the medical tent where he spent the next hour in and out of consciousness.

Finally to the point where he was able to walk, Lovelace and family attended the Ironman’s award ceremony where he was presented with a medal.

Looking back on his experience, Lovelace said he felt subject to an entire spectrum of emotions. "There’s points where I’m moving and I’m running and I just don’t feel my body, and there’s times where I feel like I’m carrying the weight of the world on my back," he said.

Over the following five days, Lovelace ate every hour on the hour, and even after four hours of sleep, he woke up starving. From his intense training, he dropped in weight from 182 pounds after soccer season to 163 pounds, according to the doctor he saw after the race.

Despite some setbacks and extreme physical exhaustion, Lovelace said it was a very humbling experience.

Through Team in Training, Lovelace met a 4-year-old girl who suffered from leukemia. "Knowing that someone so small and innocent had to go through something like that was a solid drive," he said of his experience.

As for the future, Lovelace plans on continuing to train and participate in marathons and triathlons in order to prepare to do two half Ironman triathlons in 2008: the Boise 70.3 and the Lake Stevens 70.3.

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Title: Lovelace finishes triathalon | Author: Melissa Daniels | Section: Sports | Published Date: 2007-11-28 | Internal ID: 6164