This Year, Choose Joy

A new year allows for fresh beginnings: to do something you’ve never dared; start or finish that perfect project; set new goals and aspirations; or find personal peace within the hardest of circumstances. It is hard to imagine that an IRONMAN Triathlon—a grueling race of more than 140 miles that is longer than a traditional triathlon—would accomplish all of the aforementioned goals. For one long-time Scripps Ranch resident, training and completing the IRONMAN did just that…and more.

As told by Dave Jones, IRONMAN: 

The Start of a Dream

The first IRONMAN Triathlon took place in 1978 in Oahu. I was at Madison High School in San Diego and I was fascinated by the race. Around that time my parents went to Oahu and “all I got was a T-shirt.” I wore that T-shirt until it was full of holes.

At San Diego State University (SDSU) I swam for my lifeguard certification, took part in bike races from Tecate to Ensenada, and ran the America’s Finest City half-marathons, but I could never put together a triathlon, much less an IRONMAN.

After college, “life” took over. By 1986 I had rented a room in Scripps Ranch and in 1992 I married my wife, Kathie. We ended up buying the home where I first rented that room. I developed a small business and became a proud father.

A Time for Healing

On Labor Day, Sept. 5, 2005, our family’s life was tragically changed when a CAL FIRE tanker truck hit our SUV as we drove through Scripps Poway Parkway on Pomerado Road. Scripps Ranch Fire Engine 37 responded. We left the accident scene in four ambulances and a life-flight helicopter. Kathie, me, and three of our four children—Hannah, then 8; Madison, 12; and Andy, 22—were in the SUV.

Kathie took the T-bone impact and never recovered from the traumatic right brain injury. We began the process of healing from a variety of injuries. Scripps Ranch responded on a community level: neighbors, schools, local stores, and our church all provided support, meals, and prayers. My parents, who live in Kearny Mesa, were able to spend many hours caring for us as we healed.

Training to Recover

In 2006 “I’m much too young to feel this damn old” became my life theme song. I was barely able to complete the 4th of July Fun Run. Then some of my friends got me moving again. I started coaching Scripps Ranch girls’ soccer, playing beach volleyball, and adding short runs.

Those “short” runs turned into longer training runs after my Scripps Ranch friends talked me into signing up for the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. I was 53 years young when I ran, and completed, my first marathon!

It felt good, but I wanted more. I started lap-swimming to help my body recover, then swimming at La Jolla Cove, eventually joining Scripps Ranch Masters swims. In the back of my mind was the youthful question, “How much is a triathlon bike?”

Dreams Can Come True

As our youngest, Hannah, prepared to leave for college, she asked, “What are you going to do now, Dad?” I had been a soccer coach and cheer dad for many years, so she worried about me as an empty nester.

At age 56 I finished my first triathlon on Fiesta Island with TriClub San Diego. My dad, who taught me to run, was there to witness the proud moment. During the next three years I completed more marathons and six triathlons, finally registering for my first full IRONMAN in Tempe, Arizona. A full IRONMAN is a 140.6-mile distance that includes: a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, then a 26.2-mile run.

Forty years after that first IRONMAN Triathlon took place, on Sunday, November 18, 2018, I took a dream from my youth and made it a reality. In that 14 hours I smiled through the pain and lived out my dream, finally reaching the finish line and hearing the words, “You are an IRONMAN!”

I am blessed with caring friends woven throughout this training journey, including Coach Jerry and friends at Scripps Ranch Masters, Coach Gleason at Ventura Cove, and Rick at Pulse Endurance Bicycles. A great group of “younger guys” became my training partners, making me better and stronger. Finally, our children, Katie, Andy, Madison, and Hannah, have grown into wonderful adults. They marvel at my training and try to figure out Christmas presents for their IRONMAN dad.

Lessons Learned in Training

Through the years I have learned to:

  • Do the opposite of what I feel, otherwise I become too self-focused and depressed.
  • Learn the names of every caregiver. While each works to care for us, they also have outside lives.
  • Support a variety of nonprofit organizations as well as families who have experienced tragedy. Donating starts out as a benefit to others, but it quickly becomes an exercise that benefits and inspires me.

Above all, I have encouraged our family to “Choose Joy” in their spiritual lives and pray “outside of themselves” for others.

In 2019 I have a couple of races planned and I’m open to another full triathlon. I enjoy this healthy lifestyle and I’m blessed to participate in this life. I update our life journey monthly at davekathiejones.blogspot.