The sound of raindrops hitting the roof woke Father Dan Callahan, SA, early on the morning of June 24.
He was set to compete in the Tupper Lake Tinman triathlon, but the heavy storm brought on feelings of hesitancy, and he wasn’t sure if he was going to participate.
“It was just torrential,” Father Dan described. “I said, ‘I am definitely not doing this! I do not need to prove anything, I’ve done enough of these.’”
But after some prayers and a cup of coffee, Father Dan decided to head to the site of the event to at least assess the conditions. While there, he ran into some friends, who quelled any uncertainty he had about competing.
“I got out of the car to look, and I walked over to where everything was and I ran into a couple people I knew and I said, ‘Well, maybe I can do this!’” Father Dan said.
In the end, it was the right call.
Pushing through the rain, Father Dan finished the Tupper Lake Tinman triathlon in eight hours, five minutes and 35 seconds. The 72-year-old Guardian of the Friars placed first in the 70- to 74-year-old age group.
Known for participating in several IronMan events over the years – and affectionally nicknamed “The Iron Friar” – Father Dan competed in his final IronMan event last year. However, he decided to participate in this year’s Tinman, which features all the same IronMan events, but in half the distance.
Throughout the 1.2-mile swim, the 56-mile bike ride and the 13.1-mile run, Father Dan made some new friends, and was even reminded of a triathlon from years past, considering the elements that came with this year’s Tinman.
Still, despite early apprehension and the inclement weather, it was a marvelous experience.
“Every year it’s a different story,” Father Dan said with a smile. “You just never know what’s going to happen. Every year is unpredictable. You just never know what you’re going to get.”
Making new friends
Father Dan began the triathlon with the swimming event. After he jumped in the water, he was joined by a trio of gentlemen. The men wore shirts that were decorated with images of the state of Maryland – and images of a certain crustacean.
“I looked at their shirts and said, ‘Yeah, Maryland is for crabs!’ I don’t know how, but we got to teasing each other,” Father Dan explained with a laugh. “He said, ‘You got that right!’ One of the men, James, then looked at me and said, ‘You’re 72? Good on you, but I think you’re really 27!’ I said, ‘I think you’ve got that backwards!’ We kept joking with each other. That’s what it’s all about!”
After the swim, Father Dan encountered the same group riding along the bike path. He pulled ahead of them, but they eventually caught up with him during the run. When Father Dan crossed the finish line, the trio was there to take his photo and offer some more playful banter.
“We had a really great time,” Father Dan said.
Braving the Weather
While the camaraderie among participants was in full swing, so was the rain.
The downpour struck hardest during the bike run, Father Dan said, and it reminded him of an IronMan he participated in 15 years ago.
“All I could remember was doing the IronMan in 2008 when there was three-and-a-half inches of rain,” he explained. “You didn’t even need to take off your wetsuit. You could swim the whole thing!”
Notwithstanding, his familiarity with the course gave him an advantage despite the weather. Father Dan estimated that he’s competed in around 20 Tinman triathlons, as he often used it as a warmup for the IronMan.
“It started off misty. But then it started to rain. Coming back, we had to run through about four inches of puddle! I was trying so hard to keep my feet dry!,” he said. “The good thing about Tupper Lake is that the mountains are more rolling than they are steep climbs. The course is familiar. It isn’t so bad, so I was able to keep a good pace.”
Father Dan is registered for another half-IronMan event, the IronMan 70.3, on Sunday, July 9 in Geneva, New York. He’s unsure if he’s going to compete, though, as the date marks the Feast of Our Lady of the Atonement.
He’d like to be at Graymoor to celebrate his usual 11 a.m. Mass. But for now, nothing is written in ink.
“I’m contemplating,” Father Dan said. “I’ll wait and see.”