August 26, 2005

Bob Jordan takes on Ironman Canada (again)

This post is for Bob Jordan, the husband of one of my best friends, Terry. In two days, Bob will race 140.6 miles in Ironman Canada, held in Penticton, British Columbia. If you read this on or before August 28, send good vibes and well wishes to Bob, who’ll be wearing bib number 1608.

Bob, who heads the FBI in Oregon, is no stranger to ironman-distance triathlon. He’s done about a dozen, give or take. An ironman triathlon starts with a 2.4-mile swim. The best athletes knock that off in well under an hour. Then, out of the wet suit and into the bike shorts for a 112-mile ride. The best will sit some five hours in the saddle. The day’s work ends with a marathon, the whole 26.2-mile banana. The youngest pros and elite triathletes will complete the full ironman in eight hours or so, but most times are double digits, with finishes between 10 and 17 hours, the maximum time allowed.

(Anything over that cutoff is a “DNF” – “Did Not Finish.” Man, they have to change that. A person trains for six months to a year, completes the grueling course in 17.5 hours, and he or she did not finish? Brutal! How about changing that to “FOOT” – “Finished Outside the Official Time.” I’ve run marathons where the sponsors roll up the finish line and the clock at six hours. But don’t tell me that the person who fights her way to that line in seven hours didn’t finish. Of course she did! I have a problem with DNF. Did Not Finish should be used only when a person did not finish – not when he finished, albeit slowly. A finish is a finish.)

Penticton doesn’t have the altitude or peaks of the Coastal Range just north of Vancouver (above, a glacier near Whistler Blackcomb, which you’ll reach after a stunning ride out of Vancouver on Highway 99, the Sea to Sky Highway), but the Ironman Canada bike course does serve up two peaks at Richter Pass and Yellow Lake that exceed 2,500 feet. The assault on Richter requires seven miles of climbing. You’d better have done your hill work. (And you’d better save something in your legs. You’ve still got a marathon to run before midnight.)

I’m proud of Bob Jordan. Inspired and awed by him. Terry awes and inspires me, too. Let me share a little bit of why. It’s an incomplete view, bullet points only. To tell you everything about Terry and Bob and their extraordinariness would require a book.

In 1997, Bob and Terry’s five-year-old daughter, Emily, wrote a letter to the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), asking the WTC to grant her dad a coveted slot in the Hawaii Ironman, granddaddy of ironman races and holy grail of iron-distance triathletes. Five days after he received his slot, Emily died of leukemia.

Two years later, Terry became an ironman, completing Ironman USA in Lake Placid, New York. (She has a moving chapter in Kara Douglass Thom’s Becoming An Ironman: First Encounters with the Ultimate Endurance Event.) She did it for and because of Emily and with the love and support of Bob, her ironman, and she’s been channeling her energy ever since into raising funds and awareness for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). Between them, Bob and Terry have raised tens of thousands of dollars for LLS, and Terry sits on the board of directors of its Oregon chapter. And, at last count, she’s a four-time ironman, having recently completed the Ironman Coeur d’Alene in Idaho.

(If you pay the least attention to grammar, I know you’re wondering about the lower and upper case “I” in ironman: The word is capitalized only when it refers to a product or 140.6-mile race sponsored by the WTC. Lower case “ironman” refers to the 140.6-mile ironman distance or a person who completes that distance. There are ironman-distance triathlons sponsored by organizations other than the WTC. These are not capitalized, but the people who complete them are still ironmans. [My Spellcheck is going bonkers on that one, but I’ve yet to see the word “ironmen” relating to triathlon in print anywhere.])

Terry works with LLS’s Team in Training, which provides fundraising and training support for people wanting to take on an endurance event like a marathon and also do some good in the battle against cancer. Bob and Terry fly all over the country, running marathons, inspiring people, speaking to, motivating and supporting athletes, and keeping Emily’s beautiful, positive spirit alive, well and very much in the moment. They fit ironman races between their fundraising, challenging themselves to show what we humans are made of, how much we can endure, and how precious and amazing our lives are.

In December, Terry will run the Honolulu Marathon for Team in Training, and she hopes to raise another $5,500 for lymphoma and leukemia research. Click this link to find out more about her efforts.

Terry and Bob live outside Portland with their eight-year-old son, Timothy, who’s become quite a bike rider. In a recent email, Terry wrote, “Now I can run with ‘my boys’ and don’t have to get a sitter. Ozzie, our yellow lab, is up to 25 miles a week. He goes with Bob on weekends. Timothy is up to 10 miles at once with no problem. Life is good!”

Indeed it is. May we all, at enough points in our lives to sustain and fulfill us, feel wings on our feet.

And, on August 28, Godspeed to Bob Jordan.