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Township director to be one of thousands in Ironman triathlon this year

February 6, 2019

Thousands of people from all around the world travel to participate in the Ironman North American Championship triathlon in The Woodlands. This year’s race in April, however, will include one athlete that many already know.

John Anthony Brown not only works as the facilities manager at Huntsman International, but he’s also an elected official, one of seven directors on The Woodlands Township Board of Directors. Two years ago, Brown made the decision to compete in the 2019 Ironman triathlon — never mind that he hadn’t participated in an official race longer than a 10K before.

That’s all about to change, though.

“I never thought I’d be doing this, but my goal is to finish the race and not get hurt,” Brown said.

This triathlon is no small feat: athletes first swim 2.4 miles, then transition to bicycles for a 112-mile ride and finish up with a 26.2-mile run, the length of a full marathon. To make matters more intense, there are time-limit cutoffs for each portion. The event normally begins at 7 a.m. and participants must finish the entire race by midnight to be considered an Ironman finisher.

When Brown attended the 2017 Ironman in The Woodlands, he was a volunteer at the finish line.

“A lot of things happen when you volunteer and watch people do this. There are people of all ages, all body types. It’s a really tough event, both physically and mentally, but it’s really inspiring,” Brown said.

Watching the triathlon finishers sparked a desire in Brown to do it himself — to push himself and be an example for others.

“In the end, I hope to look back at it and be an example for somebody like me. If I inspire one or two people to do it, then I’ve done something,” Brown said. “I also want to be an example for my daughter, (to show her) to look at big goals and not be afraid.”

After doing research for the remainder of 2017, Brown started his official training regimen in February 2018. He began with swim training, first at Conroe Independent School District’s Natatorium and then at the YMCA along Shadowbend Place.

“I remember swimming my first 25 yards, and at that moment I was hunched over at the end of the pool, questioning whether or not I could do this,” Brown said.

But, he pushed through the pain and learned new swimming techniques and forms as well as how to swim without using a nose clip.

Brown now trains in the pool three days a week and eventually worked his way up to swimming 4,400 yards without stopping, which translates to 80 laps. On the weekends, he trains for the biking and running portions of the event.

While he said that he would routinely work out before this endeavor, the level of preparation for an Ironman is a complete change of lifestyle. He has to watch his diet and his schedule to make sure he’s doing everything in line with his training.

That, of course, is made easier with the help of his support groups — his family, friends and employer — whom he said has helped him tremendously through this process. Brown said he’s not nervous now, but the race is still two and a half months away.

“I wish it would come sooner rather than later, because I’ve been training so long that mentally I have to make myself go to the gym. I can’t take days off, even though I’ve been training for a year,” Brown said.

Until the race, Brown will continue to train physically as he mentally separates for the three different sections he’s preparing for.

“You might have to be a little crazy, but with commitment and practice the impossible becomes ‘I’m possible,’” Brown said.

jane.stueckemann@chron.com