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Airman accepts extreme challenge

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Stacia Zachary
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
It started off as a way to build strength in a knee with a blown out anterior cruciate ligament and torn patellar tendon. Soon it became a replacement for running. Finally, it became an addiction.
Jonathan Kiley, 373rd Training Squadron instructor, began competing in off-road triathlons more than a year ago. He was first attracted to an article in Xterra Tri Magazine about extreme sports. It claimed to have the answer for people interested in testing the limits but bored with the humdrum of traditional multi-legged races. After entering his first extreme triathlon in June 2005, he realized the story wasn't all hype and a perfect fit for him.
"I realized I had found something that I could do and do well despite having an injury that is often considered a career-ender for athletes," said Kiley. "I bought the Triathlete Bible by Joe Freil and invested in a good mountain bike and have been riding and competing ever since."
To condition himself for competition, Kiley swims 4 kilometers during every other workout, runs a few miles at time on the off days and uses his free time to scout out rough terrain to cover with his mountain bike.
"People say you need to be serious about competing," said Kiley. "It's true. If you are not up to the challenge by being in good physical condition and have good mental agility, then you should move aside. Racing can be fun but it's tough, too."
Kiley makes sure his equipment stays in peak condition as well. He makes sure his bike has routine tune-ups and takes his bike to the Bicycle Shop before he goes to a competition.
"I can be in as good of shape as possible but if my bike isn't dead on, then I can hurt myself or not race as good as I might have," said Kiley. "Marty (Gibson) and the guys at the Bicycle Shop have been really great about answering any questions I have and always making sure I get last minute maintenance on my bike before I leave for a race."
After finding his niche last year, Kiley focused on qualifying in placement races to make sure he had a spot in the 2006 Nissan Xterra USA Triathlon Championship in Lake Tahoe, Nev. His first qualifying race was in Waynesboro, Va., at the Odyssey Off-road Triathlon where he placed first in the men's 25- to 29-year-old category and sixth overall. Next up was the Nissan Xterra East Championship in Richmond, Va., where Kiley placed fifth in his age group.
"This race was a lot of fun for me," he said. "It is a very popular race and I had to register six months in advance in order to compete. The race ran right through downtown Richmond and the James River for the swim portion of the race."
Arrowhead Trails Off-road Triathlon in Macon, Ga., was the site of the third qualifying race. This race took place five days after the one in Richmond.
"I wondered if I had it in me to compete and place high enough to qualify," he said. "I didn't feel I had trained enough but once the race started, I realized that rest and having fun was enough to do well."
Kiley placed third in his age group and 14th overall in this race. The fourth extreme triathlon, the EX2-ORT Triathlon, was held in Flintstone, Md. This race was very important to Kiley as he needed the points from this race to enter the national event at Lake Tahoe. With a lot of effort and sweat, he claimed third in his age group and was then ranked second in this region.
"Two weeks after this race, I found out I won a slot to compete in nationals," said Kiley. "The thought of passing up this opportunity was killing me but when I got permission to go, I jumped on the opportunity."
The plane trip to Reno and then the drive to Lake Tahoe were almost surreal for the newly transformed extreme triathlete enthusiast.
"I got there four days prior to the competition and scoped out the course with my brother-in-law and I realized how hard the race really was," he explained. "I still couldn't believe I had made it this far."
At the competition, Kiley recognized several faces from earlier competitions - a big comfort to him with all the unknown faces in the crowd and being in the presence of national Xterra champions.
"It's weird to say because they are all your competition, but when you go to nationals, it's like getting together with all of your family," he said.
The race began as any other. Kiley had a sense of anticipation similar to Christmas morning just before presents were opened.
"I never get that much sleep the night before a big race because my nerves usually get the better of me," he said. "I was more nervous than I had been because an unexpected front moved in dropping the temperature to just below freezing."
With temperatures barely above 40 degrees the next morning, Kiley prepared his gear and practiced the transitions of the gear from each leg of the race. The swim was the first leg of the race and with a sleeveless wetsuit, the cold water temperatures had an definite effect on his performance during the last two legs of the race.
"I guess I didn't get the memo but I was one of only 10 people who didn't think to bring cold-weather wetsuit to an triathlon in the mountains," he said.
Kiley considers the bike portion of the race his specialty. As the last leg of the race, he was now in a position to pull ahead.
"After the swim and halfway through the run, my arms start tingling because they were thawing out from the swim," he said. "I just kept thinking if I could get through this and on to the run, I would make up time. This is where I got my confidence back."
Although his original goal was to complete the race in 3:30, he finished at a respectable time of 3:53 minutes. Kiley placed 199 out of 333 athletes that actually finished all legs of the triathlon.
"This was, thus far, one of the greatest accomplishments I have done," Kiley said. "I have absolutely no intention of stopping anytime soon."