Archive for Tuesday, September 11, 1990


September 11, 1990


Kent Dobbins was filling out the biography form for the Bud Light Ironman Triathlon not too long ago when he came to these words: "In a few words, please tell us why you have entered the Ironman."

Dobbins, a Lawrence optometrist, thought for a minute, then penned something about accepting the challenge, that he wanted to be able to say he'd finished the incredibly grueling event.

Then Dobbins scratched that line out and scribbled: "Single-digit IQ."

It helps to have a sense of humor if you're a triathlete, particularly if you're 46 years old and presumably mature enough to know that swimming, biking and running for 140.6 miles in one day borders on lunacy.

YET DOBBINS, a former Kansas University gymnast and Vietnam veteran, will feel like a pilgrim in Mecca when he competes in the Bud Light Ironman Triathlon next month in Hawaii. It is, you see, the Super Bowl of triathlons.

"It's one of those things you do once, and may never do again," Dobbins told me.

You'd figure that if they scheduled a race with a 2.4-mile ocean swim, a 112-mile bike race roughly the distance between Lawrence to KCI airport and back and a 26.2-mile run yep, the marathon that they'd have to scour the globe to find enough people crazy enough to enter.

Hah. The Ironman Triathlon turns 'em away. Last year it received 4,000 applications from 46 countries. Officials can handle only around 1,300 competitors so they must be selective.

SO HOW did Dobbins earn an invitation? He was lucky. Most competitors have to reach certain qualifying standards, but 150 others are chosen by lottery.

"I had planned to try to qualify but I also entered the lottery," Dobbins told me. "Then I got a letter not too long ago that said, `Congratulations, your name was drawn from over 1,400 applications.' So it was a one-in-10 shot and I got it. Now I don't have to go qualify."

That doesn't mean Dobbins doesn't have to train. Typically, an Ironman Triathlete works 18 to 24 hours a week for months in order to build the stamina and endurance necessary.

On an average day, Dobbins will arrive at Robinson Natatorium at 6 a.m. to swim laps, then go to work, bike on his lunch hour and then run or bike every night after work.

Triathlons are nothing new to Dobbins he's been in plenty of them but never one with the brutal distances of the Ironman.

"A FRIEND of mine told me that halfway through the biking, you realize it's not a race, that it's a completion thing," Dobbins said.

Perhaps Dobbins' greatest fear is that he won't finish the 2 -mile swim his weakest event in the alloted time. All his water experience is in lakes and pools, not oceans.

"If you don't make it in two hours and 15 minutes," he said, "they don't give you a bike."

No bike and Dobbins will have made the long expensive trip to Hawaii in vain because he's traveling there to visit the finish line, not the tourist sites. His goal is to finish in 12 hours. That's right. A dozen hours of virtual non-stop mental and physical anguish.

"When people realize the training involved, they ask you why," Dobbins mused. "Then you don't have an answer. That's the sad thing. Still, guys older than me do it, so by golly. . ."

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