Ironmen finishers and training partners Don Coordt (left, a former Rotary Club of Del Mar member) and Al Tarkington
Al's triathlon bike
In October 2017, Al Tarkington was the oldest finisher in the 39th annual Ironman World Championship, a race that includes a 2.4 mile open water swim, a 112 bike ride across hot, windy lava fields, and a 26.2 mile marathon.  At our February 15, 2018 meeting Al talked about his motivations to compete in Ironman races and his training regimens.
The Ironman began to settle an argument over which discipline was the toughest: swimming, biking, or running.  Now, 40 years later, the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii include over 2,500 athletes who earned their spot by qualifying in one of 44 races held worldwide.  Al went to watch his first Kona Ironman in 1983, and in 1991 he completed his first Ironman race.
For Al, three factors are important in his triathlon success:  i) an understanding and supportive spouse (he and his wife Steve just celebrated 55 years of marriage); ii) time and commitment to train (retirement certainly gave more time for training; and iii) funds (bikes typically cost $5,000-10,000 and international qualifying races can be an easier route to the championship). 
Most weeks during the year Al trains between 10 and 12 hours.  The training time ramps up to 20-24 hr/week in the months immediately before the race, and then to as much as 40 hr/week in the month before the race.  Al said he likes to arrive in Hawaii one week before the race to acclimate to the weather and the time zone. During this week he’ll train very little and load up on carbohydrates to maximize his glycogen stores.  Al thinks of nutrition as the “4th discipline” behind his swimming, biking, and running training.  The swim alone consumes nearly all stored glycogen, so during the bike ride replacing lost calories and maintaining adequate hydration, particularly in the windy, hot conditions, is critical for making the finish. 
Al remembered the post-race dinners when contestants gather to talk about the race. Most vow never to do the race again, but in the subsequent weeks, most forget about that vow and resume training.  For Al, Ironman is a lifestyle and a means to stay physically and socially engaged. As Ironman founder John Collins put it: Ironman is an opportunity to “Swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, run 26.2 miles- Brag for the rest of your life”. Al has certainly earned the right to brag!