Jared Ray was a Greenbrier High School freshman when he decided to take on a different challenge.
Ray, then a member of the Wolfpack's baseball team, put the diamond aside to train for his first triathlon. He was already a strong swimmer, having swam year-round for Greater Augusta Swimming. He bought a bike and a training plan and got started.
Ray, 16, has taken his pursuit seriously. The Greenbrier junior was the youngest of the many Columbia County residents to complete the ESi Ironman 70.3 Augusta, held Sept. 27.
He completed the event in five hours, 31 minutes to finish ninth in the men's 19-and-under division. The race was Ray's first triathlon of that length -- 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and 13.1 mile run. It also was his first triathlon of the summer. Ray said his summer job kept him from participating in a triathlon this year before the half Ironman.
"I'm proud of Augusta for being able to put something like this on," Ray said.
Martinez resident Daniel Kaminstein posted the best time among Columbia County residents to complete all three legs. He finished in 5:04.06 to place 56th among men ages 30-34. Sandra Murphy, of Evans, completed the event in 5:10.01 to finish eighth in the women's 40-49 division.
Ray said he benefited from joining a riding group from Chain Reaction Bicycles, a cycling and fitness shop in Martinez. The shop holds several rides during the week, from 25 to 60 miles.
Chain Reaction owner Phil Cohen said his business stayed busy in the weeks leading up to the race. Out-of-town participants shipped their bikes to Cohen for assembly and tune-ups.
The shop bustled with riders ensuring the fit of their bikes were correct.
"Unless you have a custom-built bike, the fitting process is very important, because you're taking an off-the-shelf bike and you want to make it fit exactly right," Cohen said. "It'd be like buying a suit. We do the modifications to make sure the bike fits properly."
For most, the training started long ago.
Ray fits his training around school and homework, which often means running at odd hours of the day. He bought his training plan for $25 on the Internet.
"You might think you can do it yourself," Ray said. "But you have to trust somebody smarter than you."
Lakeside Middle coach Dave Pitock trained for 18 weeks prior to the race.
For Pitock, who was a casual runner before his training, the Ironman was a chance to stay in shape and interact with others who were training.
"I had a great time doing it," Pitock said. "I probably won't do any more of that distance, because it was very tough."
Reviews of the race setup were overwhelmingly positive. The only contention of Pitock and others was that the running portion for many started during the heat of the afternoon.
But participants praised the setup of the run, with the course winding through downtown.
Evans resident JoAnn Lawson was among the spectators for the run, after completing the bike portion. She was part of a team, made up of three Columbia County residents. Grovetown's Debbie Hopkins swam the first leg, Lawson biked and Martinez resident Jennifer Bieller ran. The trio finished 10th in the team female division.
"I thought it was fantastic," Lawson said. "We had a great time."
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