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Local triathletes discuss ins, outs of competing
Local triathletes Mark Arlow and Brian Baraniak train and compete together in Ironman triathlon competitions. - photo by Provided

Most active adults, assorted aspiring athletes, and some weekend fitness warriors, consider running a 10K (6.2 miles) or a half-marathon (13.1 miles) to be a daunting challenge.

How about consecutively swimming 2.4 miles in open water, biking 112 miles and then running a full marathon (26.2 miles)? Add it all up and that is an Ironman triathlon.

Quite a one-day workout, indeed.

For Richmond Hill residents Mark Arlow, 47, and Brian Baraniak, 43, it’s simply a challenge they relish, respect and consider the “full” Ironman race a reward to celebrate.

 Baraniak started training for triathlons after coaxing from a friend.

“I was 260 pounds and needed to get in shape. At first running hurt a lot, so I began biking. That felt better. Later, a friend suggested that since I run and bike, I might as well learn to swim and compete in triathlons. The rest is history,” he said.

That casual suggestion ultimately morphed into a competitive passion for triathlons.

“My first Ironman competition was the Ironman-Chattanooga, IMCHOO,” he said. “It was 94 degrees and 30 percent of the field did not finish due to the heat during the marathon segment.

“During (a half) Ironman in Boulder, Colorado, I suffered from altitude sickness,” he continued. “I wanted to quit. I almost died. I finished and survived, but it was ugly. I did everything wrong for that race. I was having fun until halfway through the bike portion.

“My favorite discipline is the bike. I am weakest in the swim. It is somewhat ironic because my daughter, Camryn, has won multiple Georgia swimming championships as a 10- and 11-year-old. She swims year round and is a straight-A student at Richmond Hill Middle School.

 “The Ironman Florida, Panama City Beach, is my personal record, 12 hours and 15 minutes,” he continued.

 “Training for a race takes a lot of time. I was training 18-20 hours per week for the IMCHOO.”

 Baraniak is self-employed as the owner of B&P Painting for the past 12 years. His wife, Tara, a member of the Richmond Hill City Council, has competed in the Haines City, Florida, half Ironman.

“(Tara) loves the triathlon scene and associated energy,” Baraniak said of his wife. “Tara and Camryn provide me with outstanding support.”

Arlow’s emergence as a triathlete came a bit more naturally for the former South African collegiate and Division One professional-level rugby player.

“My wife, Jeanne, a lifelong runner and Boston Marathon qualifier, inspired me to get off the couch and lose some weight. During, 2014-2016, I ran 15 marathons, sometimes with as little as three weeks rest in between. I started to succumb to over-use injuries,” Arlow said.

“At one point, Brian asked me if I would run with him for his Ironman training. We started training together. Eventually, I was introduced to the amazing folks at Coastal Triathlon. This helped me to cross-train in biking and swimming. Being around awesome athletes and being inspired by Baraniak, I decided to dabble.”

 Arlow’s “dabbling” led to the completion of multiple triathlons, which include four half Ironmans and one full Ironman.

“My Ironman PR is 12 hours, 43 minutes, 33 seconds. That ended the triathlon season on a high note,” Arlow said. “I was awarded the All-World Athlete Silver status by being recognized by the Ironman organization as a top 5 percent age group finisher.”

He said his athletic background gave him an advantage in running but he has since become more competitive on the bike.

“I take it easy on the swim. I am a strong swimmer, but not fast. I don’t mind. I can usually make it up during the bike and run,” he said.

“I train with my wife Jeanne, Brian, with other friends at the Coastal Triathlon Club. We train six to seven days a week,” Arlow said. “My motto is, under-prepare and overachieve. Do not over-train. Build a good base of mileage and you can do anything.

“Race day is a special day. The only way to get good at races is to go to races and experience them,” he continued. “My wife, Jeanne, is my training partner and best friend. My son, Jacques, just graduated from Richmond Hill High School. He is my wingman and a great crew chief. Jennifer, my daughter, is an angel and keeps me in check. She makes sure I don’t take myself or anything too seriously.”

Baraniak offered these training tips:

“Build a solid base. Seek advice from those that are successful or have been doing (triathlons) for a while,” he said. “There is a ton of information online, but don’t believe it. Like anything you read online, be selective and verify. You have to find out what works best for you and your specific needs.”

Not only does one need to be physically fit to compete in an Ironman, their checking account should be correspondingly “fiscally” fit. Average Ironman entry fees are about $750. Racing shoes for the marathon can easily coast $160 or more. For that 114-mile bike jaunt, expect to pay at least $5,000 to be competitive. One also needs special biking shoes, which can run $150.

Add to the mix, travel, meals and allied expenses, it obviously entails an inordinate amount of time, physical and monetary resources.

Nevertheless, Baraniak cautioned prospective triathletes not to feel priced out of competing.

“It is possible to defray some of the costs associated with triathlons by purchasing used equipment, training and traveling with friends, and if one is lucky enough, finding a sponsor or two.”

For those who follow Arlow and Baraniak on social media, they will recognize their omnipresent/routine race day post:

“There may come a day when I can no longer compete in triathlons – today is not that day.”

Arlow and Baraniak have earned the title “Ironmen.”

Most active adults, assorted aspiring athletes, and some weekend fitness warriors, consider running a 10K (6.2 miles) or a half-marathon (13.1 miles) to be a daunting challenge.

How about consecutively swimming 2.4 miles in open water, biking 112 miles and then running a full marathon (26.2 miles)? Add it all up and that is an Ironman triathlon.

Quite a one-day workout, indeed.

For Richmond Hill residents Mark Arlow, 47, and Brian Baraniak, 43, it’s simply a challenge they relish, respect and consider the “full” Ironman race a reward to celebrate.

 Baraniak started training for triathlons after coaxing from a friend.

“I was 260 pounds and needed to get in shape. At first running hurt a lot, so I began biking. That felt better. Later, a friend suggested that since I run and bike, I might as well learn to swim and compete in triathlons. The rest is history,” he said.

That casual suggestion ultimately morphed into a competitive passion for triathlons.

“My first Ironman competition was the Ironman-Chattanooga, IMCHOO,” he said. “It was 94 degrees and 30 percent of the field did not finish due to the heat during the marathon segment.

“During (a half) Ironman in Boulder, Colorado, I suffered from altitude sickness,” he continued. “I wanted to quit. I almost died. I finished and survived, but it was ugly. I did everything wrong for that race. I was having fun until halfway through the bike portion.

“My favorite discipline is the bike. I am weakest in the swim. It is somewhat ironic because my daughter, Camryn, has won multiple Georgia swimming championships as a 10- and 11-year-old. She swims year round and is a straight-A student at Richmond Hill Middle School.

 “The Ironman Florida, Panama City Beach, is my personal record, 12 hours and 15 minutes,” he continued.

 “Training for a race takes a lot of time. I was training 18-20 hours per week for the IMCHOO.”

 Baraniak is self-employed as the owner of B&P Painting for the past 12 years. His wife, Tara, a member of the Richmond Hill City Council, has competed in the Haines City, Florida, half Ironman.

“(Tara) loves the triathlon scene and associated energy,” Baraniak said of his wife. “Tara and Camryn provide me with outstanding support.”

Arlow’s emergence as a triathlete came a bit more naturally for the former South African collegiate and Division One professional-level rugby player.

“My wife, Jeanne, a lifelong runner and Boston Marathon qualifier, inspired me to get off the couch and lose some weight. During, 2014-2016, I ran 15 marathons, sometimes with as little as three weeks rest in between. I started to succumb to over-use injuries,” Arlow said.

“At one point, Brian asked me if I would run with him for his Ironman training. We started training together. Eventually, I was introduced to the amazing folks at Coastal Triathlon. This helped me to cross-train in biking and swimming. Being around awesome athletes and being inspired by Baraniak, I decided to dabble.”

 Arlow’s “dabbling” led to the completion of multiple triathlons, which include four half Ironmans and one full Ironman.

“My Ironman PR is 12 hours, 43 minutes, 33 seconds. That ended the triathlon season on a high note,” Arlow said. “I was awarded the All-World Athlete Silver status by being recognized by the Ironman organization as a top 5 percent age group finisher.”

He said his athletic background gave him an advantage in running but he has since become more competitive on the bike.

“I take it easy on the swim. I am a strong swimmer, but not fast. I don’t mind. I can usually make it up during the bike and run,” he said.

“I train with my wife Jeanne, Brian, with other friends at the Coastal Triathlon Club. We train six to seven days a week,” Arlow said. “My motto is, under-prepare and overachieve. Do not over-train. Build a good base of mileage and you can do anything.

“Race day is a special day. The only way to get good at races is to go to races and experience them,” he continued. “My wife, Jeanne, is my training partner and best friend. My son, Jacques, just graduated from Richmond Hill High School. He is my wingman and a great crew chief. Jennifer, my daughter, is an angel and keeps me in check. She makes sure I don’t take myself or anything too seriously.”

Baraniak offered these training tips:

“Build a solid base. Seek advice from those that are successful or have been doing (triathlons) for a while,” he said. “There is a ton of information online, but don’t believe it. Like anything you read online, be selective and verify. You have to find out what works best for you and your specific needs.”

Not only does one need to be physically fit to compete in an Ironman, their checking account should be correspondingly “fiscally” fit. Average Ironman entry fees are about $750. Racing shoes for the marathon can easily coast $160 or more. For that 114-mile bike jaunt, expect to pay at least $5,000 to be competitive. One also needs special biking shoes, which can run $150.

Add to the mix, travel, meals and allied expenses, it obviously entails an inordinate amount of time, physical and monetary resources.

Nevertheless, Baraniak cautioned prospective triathletes not to feel priced out of competing.

“It is possible to defray some of the costs associated with triathlons by purchasing used equipment, training and traveling with friends, and if one is lucky enough, finding a sponsor or two.”

For those who follow Arlow and Baraniak on social media, they will recognize their omnipresent/routine race day post:

“There may come a day when I can no longer compete in triathlons – today is not that day.”

Arlow and Baraniak have earned the title “Ironmen.”

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