SHEPHERDSVILLE - Michael Rice’s newest title was hard to achieve but is impossible to take away: He is now a triathlete.
Rice recently completed his first full triathlon competition in the Ford Ironman Louisville contest.
A full triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bicycle ride and a full 26.2-mile marathon run.
Rice completed the three events in a time of 13 hours and 37 minutes, an average time in a competition where just finishing is considered a success.
“On the bike I pulled a groin muscle at mile 100,” he said. “I had some issues but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.”
Rice didn’t initially start out hoping to become a triathlete. He ran in high school and began again five years ago to get into better shape.
“I found out I was halfway good at it,” he added.
Rice began competing in local events such as the Papa John’s 10 Miler in Louisville. He worked his way up to full marathons, competing in Chicago and at Disney World along with the Kentucky Derby Festival’s annual event.
Last year, Rice, at the suggestion of friends, participated in a half-distance triathlon at Oak Ridge, Tenn.
“I was intrigued,” he admitted. “At the time I didn’t even know hardly how to swim.”
Rice completed half distance events at Oak Ridge and Virginia Beach before trying a full event. He competed in Louisville’s Ironman along with friend, Tim Patrick.
“(Patrick) was inspiring, he really helped me,” said Rice. “This is an individual sport but it’s also a team effort.”
Rice, a Bullitt County YMCA board member, trained by swimming at YMCA locations throughout the Louisville area.
“Most of my running was in Shepherdsville, a lot on Conestoga Parkway,” he said. “I rode bikes in Shepherdsville, down Beech Grove Road, to Lebanon Junction and Bardstown.”
Despite hours of physical training, Rice admitted the toughest part of the triathlon was the mental challenge.
“You have to stick to your game plan,” he said. “It’s concentration. In a marathon you’re hyped up but in a triathlon you’ve got to be calm.”
Along with Patrick, Rice also credited local running legend Swag Hartel, owner of Swag’s Sports Shoes, as his sponsor in many competitions.
Patrick, who lives near the Hillview area, finished in 11 hours, 50 minutes. Rice credited Patrick in preparing him for the Ironman.
Rice also acknowledged the love and support he received from his family.
“The kids are bragging about me in school,” Rice laughed. “This is motivation for them, it helps keep them out of trouble. It lets them know that anything’s possible.”
Rice’s son, nine-year-old Ethan, enjoys running and earned an award at the Mount Washington Spring Festival event. Son Jonathan, 14, also runs, though Rice said it was for staying in shape to play baseball.
Among all of his motivation to complete the Ironman, Rice credited his sons for being his biggest support and motivation.
“When I finished, the most exciting thing was my kids seeing me, my dad and my friends,” he said. “It was as much an accomplishment for them as for me. I never saw a smile so big on my kids’ faces.”
Up next for Rice is a return to the Chicago Marathon in October, followed immediately by the New York City Marathon. He also plans to participate in a future triathlon, though he admitted he’s asking a lot of himself.
“I think I should have my head checked,” he joked.