4 athletes take unique path to Ironman competition

The task is daunting.

It requires finishing a race of 140.6 miles in a single day by swimming 2.4 miles, cycling for 112 and running for 26.2 miles. That’s not even accounting for training, which is a year-long effort in itself.

And for four Luling triathletes, they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“They’ll tell us, ‘You’re crazy,’” said Brian Hartman Jr., then adding with a laugh, “and the language is a little harsher, honestly.”

Hartman Jr., along with his father, Brian Hartman, Daniel Licciardi and Marty Langan, are each preparing to compete at the Ironman North American Championship on April 28 in The Woodlands, Texas. The quartet will each compete in their individual age groups, but train together as part of the Black and Gold Endurance Sports team.

Aside from the Hartmans’ obvious family ties, the four did not know one another until meeting as part of the team, and were surprised to learn there were others like them in their hometown willing to put their bodies to such an extreme test.

The four are in the midst of their six-month, event-focused training for Ironman — and it’s rather intense. Licciardi estimates over three-to-four times a week for each event, the swimming will entail 8,000 yards, the running between 20 and 30 miles and the cycling more than 100 miles at the end of any given week.

“For people who have been athletes, they tend to get it,” said the 65-year-old Langan, who said a typical swim training session entails being at the door of the Elmwood swimming pool when it opens at 5 a.m. “For everyone else, it’s ‘I can’t believe you do that,’ or ‘You’re freaking nuts.’”

They all say the group collectively works as a motivator.

“If you plan a workout and you don’t make it, you feel awful, like you let your friends down,” Licciardi said. “You feel you’re there to support each other, especially on long rides and long runs. I consider these people like family.”

Added Hartman Sr., 48, “The camaraderie is the biggest thing for me, and that doesn’t just go for our team … it doesn’t matter what team you’re on or who you’re racing against, everyone is encouraging and helping one another. The friendships keep me going.”

The Hartman father and son duo each got into the triathlon game in similar fashion. Hartman Sr. was always active as he grew up, playing sports in high school before joining the military. Upon his return home from the military, he said he got sidetracked from his athletic endeavors as he helped raise a family and start a career.

“I found myself a lot heavier and more inactive than I’d like to be,” Hartman Sr. said.

He started riding a bike and then one day tried to convince his daughter to join a triathlon.

“She said she’d do it if I did the men’s one the next day,” he said. “It was my first triathlon and it was addicting.”

Hartman Jr., 23, said he’s played sports since he was 4 years old, including soccer and running cross country. He had stepped away from sports, however, before his father recruited him for a bike ride.

“I grabbed my mom’s old bike out the shed and jumped out there,” Hartman Jr. said. “I went to boot camp and to the military, and when I came back I bought my first bike.”

He entered his first triathlon in Houma and, like his father, he got the itch to keep going.

“I saw how well I did for as little training as I had,” he said. “I got the idea I could be competitive and slowly built myself up.”

Though not all that slowly. Hartman Jr. ranked sixth in the state among triathletes in his age group last season, a year after he first began competing.

Langan entered the Crescent City Classic over 15 years ago and that got him ramped up.

“The party afterwards was so great after, I decided it must be even better to do a marathon,” Langan quipped. “And after that, I thought, hey, it would be even better after a triathlon.”

His first competition in that realm was a short triathlon that took place the Saturday after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

“You can imagine how emotional it was,” Langan said. “But we all had so much fun. “The people are great and the workouts mean something.”

The Texas Ironman event will be the eighth Ironman completion Langan has entered.

“The feeling of accomplishment is pretty incredible at that level,” he said. “You work so hard. The first time I did one, I thought I was finished with it. Then two years later I was back at it.”

Licciardi, 45, struggled with his weight throughout his life and got into athletics in part as a means to lose pounds.

It was in part motivated by the passing of his father, who died at the age of 55 and battled diabetes in his life. Licciardi knew he wanted to find a way to get healthier.

“I wanted to stay in shape to grow older and see my kids grow up,” Licciardi said.

He shed 65 pounds after starting to train, and as time went on he got more competitive.

While one might believe the physical demands of these events might make the finish line seem like an oasis in a way, all agreed that crossing it comes with at least some mixed emotions.

“When you finish, you get that feeling where you’re glad it’s over, but at the same time you’re sad it has to end,” he said. “But there’s nothing like that feeling of accomplishment.”

Added Langan, “You almost have a depression after you’re finished the Ironman … which means you sign up for the next one as soon as you can.”

 

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