Photo courtesy of Vince Brockman
As if completing law school, raising a family and running more than 20 marathons wasn’t challenging enough, Vince Brockman completed his sixth Ironman triathlon Sunday.
Brockman, a 1988 Ohio State Moritz College of Law alumnus, completed his first triathlon in the mid-1980s while he was still in law school. A former cross country runner in high school, he said a friend encouraged him to try it.
“The triathlon craze first started in the mid- to late ‘80s, and I was hooked,” Brockman said.
A triathlon is a three-stage endurance event beginning with swimming, then cycling and finishing with running. Competitors strive for the fastest overall time, though the distance of the three stages varies depending on the type of triathlon.
Though Brockman had participated in sprint triathlons — which generally include a half-mile swim, 13-mile bike and 3.1-mile run — he made an interesting discovery after completing his first Ironman triathlon in 1992.
“The longer the race, the better I was compared to my buddies,” he said.
Brockman continued to compete in marathons and Ironman triathlons, including two in 1994: the Ironman European Championship in June and the Timex Ironman Canada in September.
But in 1997, Brockman took a decade-long hiatus from racing. Between his wife, three children and job at the Scotts Miracle-Gro Co., he didn’t have enough time for long-distance races. Training for triathlons, especially at the Ironman level, is grueling and time-consuming.
“If you want to do well, you should be biking 200 to 300 miles per week,” Brockman said, adding that finding time to swim and run is generally easier.
Gregory Van Amerongen, president of the OSU Triathlon Club, agreed.
“It requires six hours of training per day, at least,” said Van Amerongen, who has completed a half Ironman. “I hope to get to do an Ironman one day but I don’t have time now.”
Van Amerongen said he understands how Brockman could be “addicted” to Ironman triathlons.
“Once you do one, you’re like, ‘When’s the next one?'” Van Amerongen said. “We call it the bug — the triathlon bug.”
And in 2005, after gaining 20 pounds as a result of decreased physical activity, Brockman was bitten again.
Around that time, Brockman said, the CEO of Scotts decided he could either cut health care benefits or take a more active approach to helping employees. Subsequently, a medical facility and gym were built for the company’s employees near its headquarters.
From November 2005 to January 2007, Brockman used the gym and the help of a physical therapist to shed the weight while working toward another goal.
“The Disney Marathon was a ploy to get my kids to support me,” Brockman said.
He decided that if he could do the marathon, which weaves through Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., he could do another Ironman, which he completed in October 2008.
“It helps me to have an event to shoot for,” Brockman said. “It’s a great stress relief to work out.”
Brockman’s sixth and most recent Ironman triathlon, the Ford Ironman Arizona, took place in Tempe, Ariz. He completed the 2.4-mile swim in an hour and 19 minutes, the 112-mile bike ride in about seven hours, and the 26.2-mile run in about five hours.
By comparison, Brockman’s best race was the Ironman in Europe, which he completed in about 11 hours.
Though Brockman had a good swim and was “a lot more relaxed” than in the past, he said it was a day that favored strong cyclists — it was raining and hailing on race day.
For Brockman, one of the most inspiring moments of the triathlon came during the biking portion. Built for swimming and running, Brockman said the bike ride challenged him and took him longer to complete than he expected.
But seeing an amputee riding his bike reminded Brockman of a death in his family and the fragility of life, so he biked with the man for a portion of the ride.
“I was so motivated by that,” said Brockman, choking up. “That’s what the Ironman is all about.”
Though Brockman is inspired by his competitors, he inspires others as well.
“The great thing is my two sons made a pact that they’re going to do a marathon when they’re older,” he said.
Brockman said his kids, ages 11, 9 and 4, “get jazzed” about the races. Because his children missed six days of school when they traveled to Arizona with Brockman, he said that he and his wife arranged a project for one of their sons comparing time and distance measurements using the ankle bracelets worn by the competitors.
Though his family is supportive, Brockman’s wife joked that this Ironman would be his last.
But Brockman has different plans.
“I will continue in some fashion,” he said, naming the Ford Ironman Wisconsin and Ironman China as two races he’d like to complete.
Brockman is still involved with his alma mater, participating in the Moritz College of Law’s new Short-Term Assistance Registry program, which provides employers with students and 2010 graduates to hire for short-term projects.
Lauren Fellure, a fourth-year graduate student studying law and business, has been working with Brockman at Scotts since October. Though Fellure was unaware of Brockman’s Ironman accomplishments, she described him as down-to-earth and easy to talk to.
“He’s one of the first people there who approached me,” she said.
On Monday, Brockman was already back to work as the executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of Scotts.
But it seems he can’t shake his Ironman routine. Brockman said he went for a quick run during his lunch break.
“I only did 3 miles,” he said. “But it felt good.”