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A long day's journey


All Lyn Brooks and Darryl Haley hope to do is finish the race.

Stephen Sussman would love to improve his time.

And Kevin Gerold just hopes to be standing when he crosses the finish line.

Modest goals?

Not when the event is the 16th Gatorade Ironman Triathlon World Championship.

Not when the challenge is a 2.4-mile ocean swim, followed by a 112-mile bike race and a 26.2-mile run through scorching heat and high winds in the lava fields of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

Brooks, Haley, Sussman and Gerold will be among the 15 triathletes from Maryland competing in this year's Ironman on Saturday. More than 20,000 athletes enter the 20 qualifying events conducted each year in advance of the Kona race, and others, such as Brooks, Haley, Sussman and Gerold, qualified for the grueling event by entering their names in a lottery drawing.

"Finishing the event just gives you an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment," said Brooks, a Towson resident and the only woman to finish all 15 previous Ironman World Championships. "My eyes still kind of well up when I see the lights of the finish line and hear the crowd cheering.

"It's a very personal thing for me. It has nothing to do with anyone else. You get a T-shirt for finishing the event, and all of mine are stored away in a trunk in my basement. I'm proud of them, but I'm not out showing them off. That would only cheapen the accomplishment."

Brooks, 47, shares the record for most appearances at the Ironman World Championship with Scott Tinely. She says that she never goes to Hawaii with any delusions of winning and that she will continue to keep her streak alive "as long as the thrill is there."

"It [the streak] is a fun thing to hang my hat on, but it's not a driving force for me," said Brooks, owner of L. Brooks Productions Inc., a company that organizes and promotes biathlons, triathlons and various other running and cycling events. "It takes too much time and energy to get in reasonable shape to finish standing up. Even my modest workout program takes a lot of hours. There's no easy way around preparing for this event."

Brooks' "modest" workouts consume more than 20 hours a week, and that figure nearly doubles as the event grows nearer. She alternates her daily workouts, running 16 miles and training with weights one day and combining a mile swim with a 70-mile bike ride the next.

"Way back in the beginning, the belief was you had to log mega-miles of running, swimming and biking, but now I've learned that quality and intensity can go a long way," she said.

Haley learned that lesson in the NFL, and now he's out to show the rest of world that thin and wiry athletes aren't the only ones who can complete the 140.6-mile course under the 17-hour limit.

"When someone questions my ability or asks me why I would try this, my first response is, 'The bumblebee shouldn't fly, but it does,' " said Haley, a former offensive tackle with the New England Patriots and Cleveland Browns who is 6 feet 6, 295 pounds.

"Throughout history, triathletes have always been these small, wiry guys and women, and I want to establish that bigger people can do them, too. Even men and women that don't fit the norm of a triathlete can do it given the proper time, willingness and patience."

For a guy who couldn't swim the length of an Olympic-sized pool just over a year ago, Haley has made enormous strides. The 34-year-old Prince George's County resident completed his first

triathlon and first ocean swim last May in St. Croix, Virgin Islands; he finished the Greater Hartford (Conn.) Triathlon in June; and recently he completed the Mrs. T's Chicago Triathlon, which includes a .9-mile swim, a 24.8-mile bike ride and a 6.2-mile run.

When Sussman, a pharmacist at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore, competed in Hawaii for the first time in 1993, his mind was telling his body to continue running, but his body wouldn't listen. With little energy left after the cycling leg, Sussman, 44, had to walk a majority of the marathon.

By the time the Pikesville resident crossed the finish line, 13 hours, 39 minutes had passed and more than 1,200 of the 1,500 entries had finished, including five-time champion Mark Allen, who set the course record that year in 8 hours, 7 minutes, 45 seconds.

Now, two years later, Sussman has set his sights not only on finishing, but also completing the event in "around 11 hours."

As a volunteer in the medical tent at last year's Ironman Championship, Gerold, a physician at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, got to see the toll the event can take on its participants.

With the humidity expected to be near 90 percent and temperatures pushing the 100-degree mark, Gerold is aware of the potential for heat stress and dehydration, but the 41-year-old Connecticut native, now living in Baltimore, plans to be among the 1,500 competitors.

"I'm a late-blooming jock," Gerold said. "I've been using my brain most of my life. I never really thought of myself as an athletic-type. Maybe that perception of myself will change after I do this."

State of iron

Marylanders competing in the Gatorade Ironman Triathlon World Championship Saturday in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii:

Name, Age ... ... ... ... ... ... Home

George Altieri, 37 ... ... ... .. Colum.

Lyn Brooks, 47 ... ... ... ... .. Balto.

Marge Burley, 50 ... ... ... .... Balto.

Terrence Conway, 56 ... ... ..... Salis.

Brian Davis, 24 ... ... ... ..... Bethes.

Kevin Gerold, 41 ... ... ... .... Balto.

Darryl Haley, 34 ... ... ... .... Mitchellv.

Mike Little, 48 ... ... ... ..... Colum.

Steve Manning, 34 ... ... ... ... Ft. Meade

Britt McCormick, 27 ... ... .... Colum.

Charles Racoosin, 40 ... ... ... G. Mills

Chris Riley, 51 .... ... ... ... Annap.

Ray Stevens, 53 ... ... ... .... Easton

Stephen Sussman, 44 ... ... .... Balto.

Ed Trottier, 52 ... ... ... .... Colum.

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