Quitting crossed Jeff Pearson’s mind several times. Once six weeks prior to the start of the 2012 Ironman Florida when he couldn’t run because a slip on slick concrete at Superior Man 70.3 resulted in 10 staples and a concussion. Friend and longtime training partner Tom Morgan motivated him to keep going, and together they did several training rides and runs leading up to 140.6.
And, again during the 2.4-mile swim at Ironman Florida. The waves swelled larger than previous years, and he hadn’t swam since August. But, he reminded himself that quitting is harder than actually doing an Ironman – and, harder than getting razzed by friends at the post-race party Sunday night. So with less than ideal conditions and a nagging shoulder, he moved to the edge to avoid the choppy chaos and kept swimming.
An hour and 43 minutes later – his slowest swim of the seven 140.6s he’s raced – he was done and running up the white sandy beach to T1. “I was just so happy to be done with the swim,” Jeff said over coffee at Kopplin’s last weekend.
Jeff’s come a long way since his first triathlon in Annandale where he dog paddled and mountain biked. He’s raced Ironman Florida three times (his first ever was there in 2001) and Wisconsin, Arizona, Cozumel and Coeur d’Alene each once. And, he’s continued to run, with 53 – fifty-three! – marathons on his legs since 1985.
Nearly three decades of racing culminated November 3 in Florida – complete with fireworks and a 500,000th finish.“I saw the fireworks about 100 feet before I crossed [the finish line],” he said.
But, he didn’t think they were for him because they lit up before he finished the race.
Turns out the fanfare was for him – even though the race director kept calling him Jorge.
Jorge – er, Jeff – was Ironman’s 500,000th all-time finisher. It couldn’t have happened to a better person.
The details: Jorge was all set to be the 500,000th finisher, but then he stopped to kiss his wife just feet from the finish line. While Jorge was mid-kiss, Jeff ran passed him and claimed the big finish. “He didn’t look too happy,” Jeff recalled.
Jeff sure was, though!
“I just felt great, and I couldn’t wait to see someone and tell someone,” he said, remembering the moment’s excitement. He spotted teammate Christina Meier first and soon after all the other Minnesotans who raced or made the trek south to spectate. No one quite believed him that he was the 500,000 finisher because the race announcer kept talking about Jorge.
After he got his finisher’s medal, the race director congratulated Jeff and let him know he’d be in touch about the milestone finish. He called the next week with more well wishes and a finisher’s jacket. Given all the hype Ironman gave the 500K finish – including talk about it at the mandatory pre-race meeting – everyone thought perhaps the lucky triathlete would get a surprise trip to Hawaii for the sport’s championship race. While that didn’t happen (yet?), Jeff did commemorate it with an addition to his m-dot tattoo.
A few cocktails in, scheming for the tattoo started at the Minnesota group’s post-140.6 party Sunday night. “It’s the perfect time to decided to get a tattoo,” Jeff laughed. Friend and training partner April Morgan did some Panama City Beach tattoo shop research and by Monday afternoon, Jeff had 500K tattooed below his m-dot.
So, what’s next on Jeff’s race calendar? In 2013, watch for him at the Pikes Peak Ascent, the 50K Trail Mix as well as a handful of triathlons around MSP and maybe a marathon (or two). Another Ironman will likely be on the 2014 calendar.
And, someday, Kona. “I dream about it,” he said, smiling.