Making up for lost time

John Browne
Published on October 18, 2011
Otto Ryan only took up ironman triathlons five years ago, but the 46-year-old Trepassey native has already earned a berth in next year’s world championships in Hawaii. — Submitted photo

Otto Ryan doesn’t spend much time thinking about what could have been.

But there is a tinge of regret the opportunities to participate in aa sport he’s grown to love weren’t there years ago while growing up in rural Newfoundland and Labrador

The 46 year-old ironman triathlete, who only took up the sport five years ago after learning to swim, has a goal to be the best in the world in his age group.

That goal was nowhere on his radar while growing up in Trepassey, because he never ran, swam or biked.

In fact, he only turned to running when his doctor advised he take up jogging due to his high blood pressure.

“My uncle John Curtis died a few months prior to my decision to go for a physical,” Ryan explained.

His decision to start running for the first time put him on the path to getting physically fit.

Ryan admits he “never broke a sweat,” growing up. He never played sports — organized or otherwise.

“I played guitar all my life,” he said.

The six-foot-four Ryan is down to 195 pounds from 230

“It feels awesome,” he said.

His first goal was to compete in the popular Tely 10 road race.

“My goals have evolved as I’ve improved. My first goal was to get through the Tely 10 which he did in 2007.

“That was the first year I did anything.”

Ryan, who trained for eight weeks to run the Tely, finished in 69 minutes.

A year later, a friend encouraged him to enter the half ironman in Corner Brook and then taught him to swim.

“I never thought I could do it, but I did,” said Ryan.

“The first day I was in a pool, I couldn’t get to the end of the 50 metres,” he admitted.

He didn’t own a bike— he’d been working out on a stationery machine — but soon acquired one.

Things have changed.

Ryan puts in about 13 hours per week training during the offseason. During racing season he’ll put in an extra seven hours a week for the three months preparing for an ironman.

He said the ironman experience was “an incredible feeling of accomplishment.”

He added the concept of a full ironman hadn’t entered his mind at that time.

However, two years ago some of his friends challenged him to compete in an ironman in Florida.

“Five of us went down there in November and I did pretty well. I broke 10 hours (9:57) which is a significant time.”

He recently completed his second ironman in Wales, where he was runner-up in his age group, a minute behind the winner.

That time earned him a slot for the world championships in Kona, Hawaii next year.

Ryan says he’s getting faster every day and improving in all three ironman disciplines.

“It’s going to be a learning experience, but my goal is to win my age group,” he said.

“At some point, I have a goal to become the fastest in the world at my age. I think I can.

“I’m not sure if that will feel satisfying or heartbreaking.”

“I mean, geez, I could have been as good as these guys when I was 20. It’s unfortunate that in growing up  in rural Newfoundland, opportunities like this never existed.”

The guy who beat me in Wales is the top-ranked athlete in Europe in his age group and has been at it (ironman) for 20 years.

“No good in crying over that, I suppose.” Ryan said, before adding, “I don’t think he’ll beat me again.

“He’ll be one of the guys I’ll be competing against in Hawaii and he won’t have as much luck with me down there.”