By Rebecca Bailey
On June 8, BYU professor Mark Peterson will attempt a feat that many of the world”s best of athletes only dream of.
The 55-year-old Korean Studies professor will be competing not only in a 26.2-mile run run, but also a 2.4-mile swim and a 112-mile bike ride in the upcoming Ironman Utah.
“Something happened when I signed up for this Ironman. Something clicked inside my head, and I”ve been running scared ever since,” Peterson said with a laugh.
His race training started in November and consists of daily and weekly intensity intervals with periods of rest between each concentrated workout.
“The thing that”s amazing is what your body can do if you condition it to do it,” Peterson said, after a self-proclaimed “not that bad” 100-mile bike ride that led him all the way into Juab County and back.
Peterson said proper food selection is essential for endurance and can get tricky with trying to balance health food with enough calories to sustain a continual 12-hour workout.
Preceded by carbohydrate loading the week before, his race-day diet consists of Power Bars, Sustained Energy power drinks – which he described with a cringe as something that tastes like granulated oatmeal – and sweetened gels packed with calories.
Ironman participants from Alaska to Florida and everywhere in between have come to Provo to learn the ups and downs of the course and have contacted Peterson for advice.
“Familiarization helps you handle the rough points along the course,” Peterson said. The rough points, he said, include five cattle guards, bumpy sections of road and unexpected hills.
Plus, he said he always likes to help out the “younger guys in their thirties.”
Peterson says he runs sprint triathlons, which consist of a .5-mile swim, a 13-mile bike ride and a 3-mile run, against former students for fun.
“For some people that sounds like a lot, but for me it”s a play day,” he said.
As for BYU faculty, Peterson won”t be alone in his endeavors. Accompanying him will be 66-year-old Jim Hansen, a professor of accounting and information systems, and Rod Boynton, associate director of the study abroad program.
Although Peterson has already competed in other triathlons and three half-Ironmans, this will be his first and only effort at a full-length Ironman competition.
“After this race, I”m retiring,” Peterson said – though it should be noted that by “retiring” he simply means “dropping down to easier triathlons.”
Peterson gave final advice that “anybody who just seriously works at it and slowly builds up can really do a lot of things that perhaps they never thought they could do.”