In any sport, one must push themselves to the limit and beyond if they want to be the best competitor, though some sports require a person to be at their peak just to participate.

One such activity is the triathlon and Pauls Valley resident Ray Samford has been preparing since January to tackle his toughest one yet. A little over eight months of training and a final warm up today is what will be put to the test when he takes on the Iron Distance competition in Oklahoma City Saturday.

“I like the fact that even though I’m in my 40’s that when I coach softball or play with my nieces or nephews I can keep up with them,” said Samford, who works for Oklahoma Forestry Services. “They say that 99 percent of the people that make it to the starting marker will make it to the finish... that getting through the training regimen is the hard part. If I go by those stats I should do all right.”

Samford, who is now 41, must overcome a combined 140.6 miles of swimming, cycling and running and pull it off in at least 17 hours. He said a computer program he put his data into stated he might finish in around 12 hours, though he is certainly more concerned with just being able to participate and not reaching the awards podium.

Training for Samford started as a nine hours a week process, building up to 19 hours a week by the time August arrived. He never did more than two sports a day, taking about an hour for swimming each time, one to three hours for running and one to eight hours for cycling.

“My grocery bill probably doubled,” said Samford. “It’s almost like a fourth sport.”

When the call to start is made at 7:15 a.m., Samford must complete a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile marathon run at Lake Hefner where the event will be hosted. He said there isn’t one event he is particularly worried about, though he said endurance will be a factor for the bike ride because it is so time consuming.

Support for Samford has been there since he made the commitment to compete, often riding with the Valley View bicycle club or swimming at the Bosa pool with fellow PV resident Loren Cronin. He said there have been a few who thought he was a little crazy, but plenty have been impressed with his dedication.

“It kind of got to the point where whenever I saw somebody I know instead of them asking how I was doing they’d say ‘how’s your training going,’” said Samford. “There’s been a lot more support than I would have thought.”

While this will be the first full triathlon for Samford, he has run in half Iron events and smaller competitions since he was 16. He made the attempt to train for a professional event when he was in his 20s, but blew out his knee, only getting it fixed properly in recent years. He has previously competed in other places like Lubbock Texas and Tulsa.

One word of advice that Samford offers to those who would consider competing in an Iron event is that if they are married to have their spouse on board. He added that it is not much of a spectator sport, but his Wife Jennifer has been there every time to cheer him on, sometimes reminding him to train when he was too tired.

Samford hasn’t decided what the next challenge will be, but said he’ll be fulfilling a wish that goes back to when he first saw a triathlon on TV as a child. He sees this as something he can check off his list of things to do and plans on spending more time with his wife again.

“I’ll probably keep in triathlons, but the Iron Distance I’m not sure about,” said Samford. “My wife and I are trying to adopt a baby so I don’t know if I will have 19 hours a week to train.”

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