70-year-old Stagecoach triathlete prepares for Ironman World Championship
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After a 13-year hiatus from triathlons, Bob Hobkirk decided to train again.
Just after turning 70 in September 2018, the part-time Stagecoach resident competed in the Waco (Texas) Ironman 70.3 in October. Not only did he win the 70 to 74 age group, but his time of five hours, nine minutes and 22 seconds defeated everyone in the 65 to 69 age group as well.
“I wasn’t sure how I was going to do in Waco, so I was very surprised I won my age group by 29 minutes. I beat the age group below me by 21 minutes. That was kind of surprising to me.”
The victory qualified him for the 2019 Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Nice, France.
In the weeks leading up to that, Hobkirk has two more major events in two different countries, though.
Right now, he’s preparing for the Age Group National Championships in Cleveland, Ohio, where he’ll compete in an Olympic-Distance triathlon on Aug. 10. Ten days later, Hobkirk and his wife, Donna, will participate in the International Dragon Boat Federation World Dragon Boat Championships in Thailand. A week later, the couple will fly to Europe, where Bob will compete in the 2019 Ironman 70.3 World Championship.
The Hobkirks spend half the year in Stagecoach and half the year in Florida. To train, the retiree has been biking from his home to either Anytime Fitness or Old Town Hot Springs in Steamboat Springs.
“When I do swim, I swim at least a mile. I often run from the Hot Springs on the (Yampa River) Core Trail. I also run out here (in Stagecoach) around the reservoir,” Hobkirk said. “I put in somewhere between 12 and 16 hours a week of training. It’s a lot of training. It’s a short time. I’ve probably been maybe five or six months at it pretty hard.”
Three events in four weeks doesn’t seem to intimidate Hobkirk, though. For one, the paddling motion of the Dragon Boat race shouldn’t affect his training for triathlons. Secondly, Hobkirk is no stranger to back-to-back events.
In 1997, Hobkirk competed in his very first Ironman in Clermont, Florida, winning the master’s division.
“I was hoping I would get to go to Hawaii for doing that, but they didn’t allocate any slots for that Ironman. I had to compete in another Ironman competition in Canada. I actually qualified,” Hobkirk recalled. “I qualified for Hawaii and I had to do that like seven weeks later. That was pretty tough turnaround, but it was worth it.”
Of the three aspects involved in a triathlon, Hobkirk said he prefers biking. More specifically, he prefers biking in Colorado as opposed to Florida.
“The summer can be pretty brutal. Especially if you’re trying to do any training,” Hobkirk said. “I love to come out here to train because you can push yourself. In Florida, it’s so hot and humid, the heat is somewhat overbearing. Here, you can just train hard.”
Aug. 10: Cleveland, Ohio
At the Age Group National Championships in Cleveland, Hobkirk will swim about a mile in Lake Erie before biking about 25 miles, and then running about 6 miles along the waterfront.
“The Olympic hopefully should take me around two and a half hours, two hours, 40 minutes. That’s really kind of a training time frame. … I don’t think that’s going to stress me too much as far as France is concerned.”
If he places well, he could potentially make the U.S. triathlon team for the following year.
Aug. 20 to 25 Pattaya-Rayong, Thailand
A Dragon Boat is essentially a large canoe with 10 benches, seating two rowers per bench.
“Dragon boating won’t be taxing me like the triathloning will,” Hobkirk explained. “I think it’s going to be doable for sure.”
Sept. 7 Nice, France
Triathlons have taken the Hobkirks to Hawaii and even Brazil, but never to France. At the Ironman 70.3 World Championships, Hobkirk will race 70.3 miles. First, he’ll swim 1.2 miles in the Mediteranean Sea, then bike 56.7 miles before running a half-marathon.
“I had done six Ironman competitions and probably 20-plus marathons. I did Boston, too,” Hobkirk said. “When our son was in his senior year of high school, he was in sports, so my wife and I stopped doing them for a pretty good while.”
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