June 10, 2002
Swim, bike, run to the finish line
By Bronwyn Wilson
Senior Staff Reporter
Upon hearing the cannon's earth-shattering boom, 1,800 swimmers will take off.
At that moment, a peaceful lake in British Columbia will turn into a frenzied froth of splashing arms and bobbing heads in rubber caps and goggles. The swimmers will have one thing in mind: keep going. Whatever happens, whether a whack in the face with someone's elbow or the loss of swim goggles to the bottom of the lake, the athletes will press on.
This summer, athletes in varying sizes and ages from different nations will share a common determination and spirit to complete one of the most difficult challenges an athlete can face Ñ Ironman Canada.
The event involves a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2 marathon race. Among the group of fit men and women who will be there to meet the challenge will be Woodinville High School (WHS) teacher Terry Ley.
Training for the event for the past year, Ley plans to successfully complete all three physical challenges when the event is held Aug. 25 in Penticton, B.C.
After completing the 2.4-mile swim, the athletes will arrive back on shore breathless and waterlogged.
Ley and the others will need to quickly make a transition from swimmer to biker, putting on running shoes, then mounting bikes in record times.
A kind terrain will not welcome Ley and his fellow competitors. "They say it's the hilliest of all Ironman courses," he says. No matter. Hill after hill, he'll push, pump, and peddle. He'll face dehydration and exhaustion, but will stick to his plan and watch his heart rate.
He explains, "The race is so incredibly long that you go through a lot of highs and lows. There are times when you feel terrible and wonder if you can make it. Often times, that passes and something gives you a boost and you're doing well again."
He'll receive encouragement from the people applauding on the sidelines when his bike sails by. He'll also have "special needs bags" containing food and drink items to aid with hydration and dwindling energy.
After 112 miles, he may feel like dropping, but he won't. Instead, he'll run and run and run. What will keep him going? Ley thinks back to the last 14 years of triathlons that he has competed, though this is his first time to participate in Ironman Canada.
"I think of anything and everything," he says, recalling his past competitions. "There are times that I think about my family, times when I think about school and new lesson plans ... I just try to not focus on how tired, how far I have to go, or how sore I might be."
Of course, every Ironman competitor has one thought in the forefront and that is to see the finish line Ñ the Ironman competitor's version of the Promised Land.
Smiling at the thought of the beautiful banner at the end of the race, Ley describes what it's like for runners to approach it.
"The finish line is so incredible. The whole town comes out to support the event and for miles, before reaching the finish line, you see the town's people cheering you on. People wave flags from all countries. It's such an emotional high."
As the spent athletes near the end, they'll accept cups of water from the crowd in order to cool off. A few may falter and stumble, even collapse. But the fans will keep urging the dead-tired runners to find strength and push on.
The best athletes will complete the race in just over eight hours but everyone has up to 17 to finish. "I have a three-tiered goal," says Ley. "One: just finish. Two: finish under 14 hours. Three: finish under 12." No matter how long it takes, finishing the race becomes an incredible achievement in itself. Ley will have his wife Lori, daughter Makenzie, four, and son Cameron, 20 months, to greet him when he finishes.
His quest to meet physical challenges, such as this, began years ago before his teaching career. At that time he had a desk job and was in need of exercise. Rather than join a gym, he decided he would train for a triathlon. Says Ley, "I enjoy seeing how far I can push my abilities." His first triathlon was a small one where the competition began in a swimming pool, not a lake. His second was at Blue Lake in Portland. "I've improved a ton since then," he says.
Last year, he and his family attended Ironman Canada as spectators. "I wanted both Lori and I to see how special it is and how emotional." The next day, Ley registered to compete in this year's Ironman event. With only 1800 spots available, the athletes converged on the hotel headquarters the night before registration, waiting in a long line that circled the hotel. "People stayed overnight in sleeping bags, others slept on the ground in blankets from hotels. It took me six hours of waiting in line to finally get registered," Ley explains and goes on to say that his training began in earnest the next day. Three days a week, he wakes before the sun rises and swims with a master's team at the Northshore YMCA pool. He also bikes two-three times a week. "After Lori and I get the kids in bed, I'll head to the garage to bike on my trainer." On Sundays, he takes a long bike ride at 5:30 am. He also practices how long it takes to make the transition from swimming to biking to running. "It can be a real challenge to get out of your wetsuit and into your biking gear when you're tired, wet, and have dirty feet. After biking, it can take a while to get your running legs back. You hear lots of stories of the athletes getting back spasms after they get off the bike."
Why does he compete in such a physically demanding way? Ley has an answer. He does it for the personal achievement, knowing that if he can achieve the Ironman challenge, he can achieve anything. "I'm excited to be able to say 'I'm an Ironman!'" he says. But there's another reason. He hopes to raise $2,000 for the March of Dimes, a charity that supports children by funding research, community service and educational programs.
Ley dedicated himself to helping children long before he thought of becoming a teacher. As a supervisor for United Parcel Service, he volunteered on the side at Children's Hospital working with terminally ill children. "Every time I went in, they had such a great spirit and enthusiasm. It really rejuvenated me," he says, noting that the experience impacted his decision to make a difference in kids' lives. Once he began teaching, he was appointed advisor of the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), an on campus organization made up of students who have an interest in business. "FBLA has chosen the March of Dimes as the charity of choice," says Ley. He mentions that the local high school chapters compete in the amounts raised for the charity. During his second year as advisor, Ley and his FBLA students traveled to the State Awards, which included a talk by a small, frail child who stood on a chair barely able to see over the podium. The child stated, "Without you guys I wouldn't be here." Upon hearing the words, Ley resolved that his chapter would be number one in donations. In the past five years, Ley's FBLA chapter has beat every goal set and raised over $15,000 for the March of Dimes.
Ley asks the community to support his goal to raise an additional $2,000 by sending donations payable to the March of Dimes, to: Terry Ley c/o Woodinville High School, 19819 - 136th Avenue N.E., Woodinville, 98072. Local businesses and citizens willing to sponsor Ley's training can reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Each donor will receive a tax-deductible receipt from the March of Dimes.