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Becoming Ironman: Transforming into triathlete

Oct. 11, 2010 at 5:11 a.m.

Chad Hall competes in the Augusta half-ironman race in Augusta, Ga. Hall began competing in triathlons five years ago to get in better shape.

Back in 2005, Chad Hall made a visit to see his physician. He hadn't been taking the best care of himself, and with his weight hovering near 220 pounds and a cholesterol level of 380, he was headed for some major health issues if he didn't turn things around. His physician recommended that he take up running, but with a local triathlon just months away, Hall chose to focus on the sport of triathlon to help him get into better shape.

Hall never really participated in sports growing up. He was good at band though, and went to college on a scholarship to play the saxophone - which ultimately led him to meet his wife Michelle, also a saxophone player in the band. So with little in the way of an athletic background, he had some work to do in preparation for the sprint triathlon he was planning to do. He went on to finish the Citizens Healthplex Sprint triathlon, and in the process of training for it, got "bit" by the triathlon bug. The next year he would go on to participate in seven triathlons, mostly sprint length (300-800 meter swim, 12-15 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run).

In 2007, he asked me to coach him and he began stepping it up a notch with training and the distances he was pursuing. He started adding some Olympic length triathlons to his resume (1,500 meter swim, 25 mile bike, 6.2 mile run) and also began thinking about racing at the half-ironman distance. "I would get comfortable doing one distance and then feel the need to challenge myself with the next longer distance race," he said.

He trained hard and completed his first half-ironman (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run) at the 2008 Austin Longhorn 70.3, with a finishing time of 7:15. In 2009, he competed in the Kansas 70.3 half-ironman and dropped his time to 6:35, cutting substantial time off but still not quite to the level Hall was aiming for. It was around this time he also starting toying with the idea of completing an Ironman length triathlon, a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run. "I had seen the race on the television but thought that could never be me," he said.

We discussed it - client with coach - and talked about the amount of time and dedication he would have to devote to training. Never one to be deterred, Hall signed up for Ironman Florida, and is set to compete in the event on Nov. 6.

What makes training and racing triathlon even more amazing for Hall is how he manages to balance the training demands of the sport with the demands of having a very successful career. He is the Operations Manager for Regional Steel, where he works an average of 50-60 hours per week while handling all the operations and human resources issues for a major company. He is married to Michelle Hall, who holds a demanding job herself, with a job as Executive Director of the Victoria Symphony. But as an observer I would say her favorite position is that of "triathlon Sherpa," always on the sidelines cheering on her husband and helping give him the support he needs to pursue his dreams.

Fast forward five years and Hall is now in the best shape of his life. His weight is down to 180 and his cholesterol level now sits at a healthy 140.

"I like the feeling of being in good shape and the fact that I took control of my health without relying on a pill," he said.

He is also making some amazing strides with his racing at the longer distances. He recently competed in the Augusta (Georgia) 70.3 half ironman and came away with a new personal record of 5:58:42 - cutting 37 minutes off his previous best and becoming a member of the "under six hour" group - a goal he was shooting for.

The Augusta race was the biggest on the circuit, with 3,100 athletes competing. Falling rain that day couldn't hold Hall back as he went on to finish the 1.2 mile swim in a time of 27:40, an average of 1:27/100 meters; the 56 mile bike course in 2:44:17, an average of 20.45 mph; and the 13.1 mile run in 2:32:17, averaging 11:37/mile pace.

"Everything just clicked that day. It was a beautiful city, and a very well-organized race. When the bad weather moved in, I somehow knew it was going to be a great day," he said.

When I asked him what he thought made all the difference in this race he said: "I think it has been all the heavy endurance training I have put in for my Ironman Florida training."

He still has a few weeks of demanding training left to go before he begins his taper down for the Ironman race coming in November. It has been amazing to watch Hall's transformation into a gifted triathlete and his journey that keeps him setting goals and achieving them. He summed it up perfectly: "I like finding where the line of impossible is and crossing it over and over."

I look forward to welcoming him to the Ironman club.

Missy Janzow owns Fit4U, a personalized coaching and nutrition service. You can reach her by e-mail at janzowml@yahoo.com or on the web at www.Fit4UVictoria.com

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