October 10, 2012 - A triathlon is not the kind of fun experience that most teenagers seek at Cedar Point.
Brennan Flanigan crosses the finish line at the Cedar Point Iron Man. Photo submitted. (click for larger version)
Teenagers are more likely to enjoy roller coasters at the Sandusky, Ohio, amusement park but that was the last thing on Lake Orion High School student Brennan Flanigan's mind when he took part in an Iron Man Triathlon on September 9 at the park.
The Iron Man consisted of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run in one day on a course looping through a central point in the amusement park.
Flanigan completed the event in 16 hours and 20 minutes, despite not being a runner or competitive swimmer when he decided to do the triathlon. He, along with the rest of his family, got inspired to start training because of his mom.
"She decided to run a triathlon, so I thought, 'If she can do it, why can't I?'" Flanigan said.
Mother Anna Flanigan started training for a small triathlon with an Ohio friend mainly to bounce back from injuries she suffered in a car accident.
The rest of the family trained with her and joked about joining her in the triathlon.
They ran a few other earlier training events together until Flanigan and his mom decided to run the triathlon, although she was eventually unable to take part due to problems with her feet.
"It was more important for him to do it this year, because next year he'll be going away to school," said dad John Flanigan.
Brennan Flanigan went through long term training for the Iron Man because when he made the decision to compete, he did not know how to swim.
Along with assistance and a training schedule provided by Bonnie Karis, a coach from Fraser Bicycle in Fraser, Flanigan began training six days per week.
Three days were devoted to swimming for at least three hours per week, while the other three days were spent on six-hour bike rides in addition to running.
Over time Flanigan worked his way up to the full distance.
"It sounds like an unbelievable distance, but as you work your way through the training, you see how it becomes more realistic," said Flanigan.
By the time Brennan reached the Iron Man at Cedar Point, it felt like just another training day.
At first light the participants started the swim portion, an open water swim in Lake Erie, before setting off on the bike portion and finally the 26.2 mile marathon run.
Participants are classified as professionals or in age groups, starting as low as 18 to 19 years old and up.
Flanigan's parents estimate that there were 355 age-group members, with only three people in Flanigan's age group. They think that Flanigan was probably the youngest participant there.
Now that some time has passed, Flanigan intends to take part in another Iron Man in the future, and is planning to run a sprint (a much abbreviated course) in June with his parents.
He advised potential triathlon or Iron Man competitors to invest in a coach and, most importantly, believe in themselves.
"Out on the course, when you feel like you can't go any farther, just push through it," Flanigan said. "It's a great experience. You get to learn a lot about yourself and what you're capable of."