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SOUTH JORDAN — One of the world's most grueling athletic events will unfold Saturday in St. George: an Ironman triathlon on a course considered one of the toughest out there.
In an Ironman race, competitors try to cover more than 140 miles through swimming, biking and running, without a break. And they do it within a strict time limit: 17 hours.
For many of us, that might seem like the definition of insanity. But a group of athletes from South Jordan say they don't see it that way at all.
Team SoJo, as they call themselves, consists of more than a dozen guys from South Jordan, all in their 30s and 40s, each with a goal: compete in the St. George Ironman Triathlon.
I know there's a lot of guys that have goals to finish (the race) in a certain amount of time. My goal's real simple: finish.
"I'm hoping for better (results) than last year," said team member Larry Adams.
The triathlon consists of a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride, and then a marathon, 26.2 miles.
"Everybody will finish," said team member Paul Shoemaker.
Shoemaker is the ringleader. A financial advisor with Merrill Lynch, he played quarterback at BYU in the ‘90s.
"In football, I never ran more than a mile. I didn't know how to swim," he said, describing his pre-Team SoJo fitness level.
But when the St. George Ironman started three years ago, he put it on his bucket list and started training.
"We're getting old. We're not as fast as we were," Shoemaker said. "I was much faster back then; not as fast now, but I can go a lot further."
Small mortgage company owner Bryan Pettit said the training got him in the best shape of his life.
"I know there's a lot of guys that have goals to finish (the race) in a certain amount of time," Pettit said. "My goal's real simple: finish."
Literally, (the Ironman competition is) a death march. It's designed to put your body to the limits.
–Creighton Lowe, althetic trainer
For Greg Anderson, the oldest member of Team SoJo at 47, the goal is to heal.
"Three years ago, December 31, I shattered my back up skiing," he said. "The stronger you get, the better off you are to come back from any injury.
"If you put your mind to it, anything can be done," Anderson added.
Adams knows about comebacks. In his 20s he survived testicular cancer, enduring the chemotherapy and major surgeries.
"I was ready to be done, and the I said, ‘I can't do that,'" Adams recalled. "You do that about 10 times: ‘I'm done. I can't take this.' And then you regroup and wipe your tears and keep going."
His situation is not unlike this triathlon.
"I'm crossing my fingers for Larry (Adams)," Shoemaker said. "Nobody thinks he can do it, but that's part of his motivation."
"It's not pretty, but that's life," Adams said. "You just gotta suck it up."
Just doing the training itself is no small feat. Team SoJo has logged 62 hours biking, 43 hours running and 37 hours swimming during their training. That's a grand total of 142 hours and more than 1,500 miles — a big reason why they call it the Ironman.
"Literally, it's a death march," said Creighton Lowe, a trainer at Lifetime Fitness. "It's designed to put your body to the limits."
Lowe added that he considers Ironman even tougher than the Olympics.
Electrical contractor Travis Ferran knows exactly how tough it is. He did the triathlon last year. After hitting the wall in the bike segment, he somehow fought to finish.
This year, Ferran will help his team go the distance.
"We're all rooting for everybody to make sure we make it," Anderson said.
"When you've got a bunch of buddies, and a bunch of friends that are doing it, it helps," Pettit said.
"Actually, it's the only way to do it." Last week, organizers announced big changes to the
Ironman triathlon in St. George, which won't be implemented until 2013. The length of the race will be cut in half, they said, due to difficulty and declining registration numbers.