For Fallon, winning comes from competing
Paul Danzer: Community sports
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
It was not exactly a walk in the park. Nor a refreshing dip. Nor a relaxing bike ride.
But don’t expect Bill Fallon to describe the 15 hours, 27 minutes and 11 seconds he spent on May 7 traversing hill and, well, more hills, as anything other than a whole lot of fun.
Heck, what could be more fun than swimming 2.4 miles in a chilly lake, biking 112 miles over mountain roads, and running a marathon for good measure?
Well, winning the race, perhaps — though that hardly seemed important for Fallon when he reached the finish line of the inaugural Ford Ironman St. George in Utah earlier this month.
“It’s just nice to do something that nobody else has done before,” Fallon said.
The Vancouver man, who turns 70 on July 11, said he entered the Ironman St. George because it was a new race on the Ironman calendar and in a town where some friends live. He never expected to win a trip to Hawai’i.
And when he did that — qualifying for the Ironman World Championships by being the first finisher in the 70-74 age division at St. George — Fallon politely declined.
His daughter Shannon, who Bill describes as an enthusiastic supporter of her triathlete father, congratulated him for making an adult decision.
“I’m happy with that decision,” Fallon said. “It means I don’t have to train all summer long. I have some other things I want to do.”
Ironman triathlons are life-altering events. Not only because the race is a test of the limits of physical, mental and emotional endurance. But because the effort invested in training for an Ironman requires a focus, discipline, and lots of time.
Having now completed 11 of the triathlons, Fallon — and his wife, Janet — are keenly aware of the absorbing nature of the effort.
But, Fallon explains, it is no lonely pursuit. The time shared with fellow fitness enthusiasts at La Camas Swim and Sport or Propstra Pool is among the rewarding parts of this hobby. And it is the absorbing nature of Ironman that makes it so enjoyable.
Bill Fallon, you see, didn’t go to St. George to win anything. He didn’t plop down the $550 entry fee with thoughts that the watch awarded to age-group champions would make up for the substantial investment.
He chose to enter as motivation for his winter fitness routine, and as a good excuse to visit Bill and Nita Woodward, friends through Vancouver Bicycle Club who live part of the year in southern Utah.
Besides, he figured he was at the upper end of the 65-69 age division. Athletes at the younger end of each five-year age group tend to win most races, so coming home with another trophy didn’t dawn on Bill. With the new Ironman calendar, Fallon was placed in the 70-74 division based on his birth year.
“My main goal was just to finish and not feel too bad,” Fallon explained. “My time was real slow.”
But his steady-as-you-go approach served him well in a race heavy on hills. While others were calling it quits, done in by their exuberance, Fallon just plugged along.
Which is what he has been doing since he survived two different cancers about seven years ago.
“That’s another reason I don’t get intimidated by any of this stuff,” he said. “I know what’s serious and what’s not. This is fun stuff.”
Winning an Ironman race wasn’t the only fun Fallon had on this trip. Just days after the triumph, he and Janet hiked about halfway down the Grand Canyon. Such excursions are one reason Fallon doesn’t want to be tied down by training for triathlons during the summer.
In addition to being free to hike, he an Janet are involved with the Clark County Running Club. They are the race directors for the first two runs in the club’s series of Wednesday 5-kilometer fun runs, which begin May 26. He will continue training, of course, but doesn’t expect to try to complete a 12th Ironman.
“I think this would be a good note to retire on,” he said.
Indeed it would be. But, Fallon said something similar after completing an Ironman in Brazil back in 2007.
And, as he proved this month in Utah, quitting doesn’t come easy to Bill Fallon.
Paul Danzer covers Community Sports for The Columbian. Reach him at 360-735-4521 or firstname.lastname@example.org.’