He doesn't resemble Arnold Schwarzenegger. Nor Sylvester Stallone. Not even the fabulous Bo Jackson.
But by this time next month, Michael J. Hickman believe's he'll have done something those other, more famous, tough guys can't do he'll have completed a triathlon. And he'll be proudly wearing his "Ironman Canada" T-shirt to prove it.
The 43-year-old Lawrence accountant is now on a rigorous training schedule to participate in the "Ironman" triathlon competition: Swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, then running 26.3 miles.
He and local optometrist Kent Dobbins will participate in the Ironman Canada competition, which will be held Aug. 25 in Penticton, British Columbia.
Hickman admits he's an unlikely candidate for the grueling Ironman competition.
"I WAS A nothing in high school," he said during an interview last week in his downtown Lawrence office. "I was not athletically inclined. I did not participate in any intense levels of track or football. I played a little baseball with very little success."
Hickman said his road to the Ironman competition probably could be traced back about seven years ago, when he walked into a local clothing store to buy a new suit.
"I said I need a size 34 and the guy kind of laughed at me," Hickman said. "He said you need a size 43."
The tailor essentially told him he was bulging out of his clothes and needed a whole new wardrobe.
"I went home, got on the scales and I was 198 or 199," he said.
To shed 40 pounds, he went to a local sporting goods store and bought a pair of $100 running shoes.
SHORTLY AFTER that, he took his first run about a mile from his office at 825 Vt. to the Kansas River and back.
"I died. I came in here, I couldn't hold a pencil that afternoon. I missed lunch. I took a shower. I was still sweating. I was in bed probably at 6 o'clock that night. I woke up the next morning and I couldn't even get out of bed, my legs hurt so much," he said. "I couldn't believe that a mile run would do that. But I was completely out of shape."
But he waited a week and his weight slipped up past the 200-pound mark. So, determined to shed the pounds, he ran the course again. It still hurt but not as bad.
"I got to the point where I could go twice a week. I got to the point where I was moving it up to three times a week," he said.
HICKMAN THEN started running north across the Kansas River bridge to the river's levee. He liked the smooth surface and the quiet environment of the running trail atop the levee. He began skipping lunch every day and running.
"Within six months I had shed real close to 55 pounds and I was at 155," he said. By this time he was up to 10 miles during his lunchtime runs.
His wife tried to talk him into running in some local competitive 10-kilometer runs. But he decided he wanted something bigger. So about 1 years after he began running, he entered the 1986 Honolulu Marathon.
There, disaster struck. He got food poisoning at the pre-race carbohydrate-loading party and missed the race.
"I was heartbroken about the whole thing," he said. He then stopped training regularly. And after awhile, he had to start over rebuilding his muscle tone.
HE STARTED running local 10-K runs and began to enjoy the camaraderie of the races.
In 1987, he regained endurance and ran in his first marathon, the New York City Marathon. Then he decided to run in the Honolulu Marathon in 1988. This time he finished it and his wife did, too.
"In 1988, I started doing triathlons," he said. "I really started to enjoy more the cross-training of the swimming and the biking mixed with the running."
Last year he ran two 10-Ks, two half marathons, two biathlons (running and biking), six triathlons and one marathon.
"Typically, in my age group, I'm about in the middle," he said. "The only time I've gotten a plaque for anything is when I did my first triathlon and in my age group was the fastest of the first-timers."
He has participated in the Topeka Tin Man triathlon, but the distances are much shorter than in the ironman competition: An 800-meter swim, a 20-mile bike ride and a seven-mile run.
HICKMAN SAYS he's now in the heaviest part of his training for the Aug. 25 Ironman Canada competition.
"I've got a coach, Clark Campbell, a professional triathlete who lives here in town," Hickman said. "He's ranked ninth in the world in triathlons. . . . He asked what the goal was, and I said a finisher's T-shirt in Ironman."
There are five Ironman competitions: Ironman Hawaii, Ironman Canada, Ironman Japan, Ironman Australia and Ironman Germany.
The workouts are grueling. For example, on Saturday he was to run 40 minutes and ride his bike four hours. And today he is to run two hours and then ride his bike for an hour.
Last week he worked out twice a day, building up his swimming endurance in Lawrence's municipal pool.
"IT DOESN'T seem like the tiredness stops," he said. "But at the same time, if you asked if I could go out and run right now, yeah, I could."
He says there are some side benefits from all the training. He's able to keep up with his kids. For example, his 14-year-old daughter who just finished competing in track challenged him to a 100-yard dash. He said he edged her out by about an inch.
"She said `No fair. No fair,'" and wanted to race again, Hickman said. after five minutes they went at it again and he nosed her out again.
"And her comments were `I can't believe you beat me. I can't believe you beat me. You're OLD!'" Hickman said, laughing.
Hickman said he isn't worried about his time in Ironman Canada.
"My true expectation is to finish," he said. "This is a race that they close it after 17 hours. This is a race that only finishers get T-shirts. And I truly expect to finish it."
He says he hopes to compete in Ironman Germany next year.
"It's been fun. It really has. I don't think I'll quit, either," he said. "If I do, I'll probably end up at 200 pounds again."