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A year of 5 a.m. pool swims hadn’t fully prepared him for the challenge. Then he focused, one freestyle stroke after another, a kick in the head, an elbow to the face, and after nearly two hours of swimming he was on the beach racing toward his bike and dry clothes.
He wiped the sand from his feet, changed, clipped into his pedals and was off into the rising temperatures for 112 miles of flat city streets.
“You never get to stop pedaling,” Dowdy said.
Though he’d trained extensively, Dowdy had never actually covered the full mileage required of an Ironman triathlete. The distances of each event by themselves require absolute determination. When grouped together in one day, they require the discipline of proper pacing and an iron will.
Dowdy said there was a third element that helped see him through the day.
“I realized you need encouragement from other people,” he said. “You could probably do it by yourself and I’m sure there were guys out there who drove down by themselves, raced by themselves and drove themselves home.
“But it makes a huge difference to have people encourage you—both people who are running it with you and people cheering from the sidelines.”
A person’s body can just lock up and say, “No more,” Dowdy said. His son Micah, in fact, had completed an Ironman distance race in North Carolina last year but was unable to finish this year because of a bacterial infection that cropped up and took him out of the competition after mile 19 of the marathon.
Still, Dowdy said, completing an Ironman is so much easier than living as a bivocational pastor.
“It was hard and there were a lot of early mornings and late nights of training,” he said. “But when I think of the day-in, day-out balancing act bivocational pastors endure, I remember that a triathlon only hints at what these guys experience in their ministries.”
After 140 miles, 14 hours and 47 minutes, of swimming, biking and running, Dowdy crossed the finish line of Ironman Florida.
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