Bryan Palmer, a 1999 Woodstock High School graduate, made his own motivation to start training for triathlons by challenging himself to do something practically unattainable. 

“My initial motivation was proving to myself that I could do something that seemed impossible. I could barely swim 50 yards when I began training, and now a 2-mile swim is a typical training day,” said Palmer, who trains with a team based in Madison, Wis., where he lives.

Triathletes compete in three areas during a single competition: swimming, cycling and running. There are a number of governing bodies that host and oversee triathlon events, but Palmer has been competing with what is probably the most familiar triathlon organization in the world, the Ironman.

Ironman hosts two types of races: the full Ironman and Ironman 70.3, the latter named after the total distance of the race (a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run). This is exactly half of an Ironman race. 

Ironman races also include a cutoff time to finish, in most cases 17 hours. The extreme distances and tight time limit are what make these races both challenging and attractive to competitors like Palmer. 

While training for a marathon can often be accomplished by runners in their free time, training for a triathlon can feel more like a second job. In the case of Palmer, who works in architectural lighting, a typical training week includes up to two hours of training per weekday, more than two hours on Saturdays and up to six hours on Sundays.

He has a sponsorship through Endurance House, a triathlon and running store.

Palmer was one of 2,200 to finish the Sept. 11 Ironman Wisconsin in Madison, which had more than 3,000 registered participants. Despite having struggled with severe back pain for the last training season, he persevered through training and reminded himself of the significance of the race date. 

“[The race was] a way of remembering how bad [Sept. 11, 2001] was for so many people,” said Palmer. “To remember those that gave their lives that day, and countless days afterward fighting in our military. I used that as my motivation on race day to keep pushing forward as well.”

His long-term goals include qualifying for the Ironman World Championship hosted in Hawaii. For 2017, Palmer is planning on competing in up to four half Ironman events, and will also be cheering for his girlfriend as she enters her first Ironman.

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