Over the last five years, Dustin Mabe has transformed from a couch potato to an Ironman.
After leaving the U.S. Army – and becoming increasingly inactive – Dustin decided to take up running, and he completed Kingsport's famous Crazy 8s race. But he didn't stop there – this fall, he completed the 145-mile Ironman Chattanooga.
On Sept. 28, 2014, I completed Ironman Chattanooga. This was the inaugural event, which consisted of a 2.4 mile swim, 116-mile bike ride (usually 112 miles) and 26.2-mile run. I completed the race in 15 hours and 3 minutes, which makes me one of the largest men in the world – at 6'8", 285 pounds – to ever finish an Ironman.
The swim started 2.4 miles above Chattanooga in the Tennessee River and ended downtown, next to the Tennessee Aquarium. The bike course left from there and made its way into Georgia, where it was a hilly double loop before returning back to Chattanooga. The run course was a double loop that crossed the Tennessee River to the north shore area before finishing next to the Tennessee Aquarium.
My road to Ironman started in 2009. I had become very inactive in my life after getting out of the U.S. Army in 2005 and weighed nearly 300 pounds. I started with the Crazy 8s in Kingsport when my wife and some of her coworkers at Holston Valley Medical Center decided to run it.
From there I stepped up and did four half-marathons. After a few injuries – including a knee surgery, I decided to try multisport triathlon, thinking the swimming and biking would be easier on my body. I got a basic road bike and completed my first sprint triathlon a few months later. I ended up training with some amazing Ironman triathletes in the area, which motivated me to make my goal to complete an Ironman.
The following year, I decided to race at Ironman Augusta 70.3 (known as a half Ironman). This consisted of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and 13.1-mile run. I completed that in just over 7 hours. The following year, I continued my journey by completing Ironman Raleigh 70.3 and Ironman Augusta 70.3 again, and then I made the decision to race at Ironman Chattanooga since it was in my home state.
On Jan. 1 of this year, I officially started my training schedule. I hired a triathlon coach, who helped me plan all of my training. The training started with lifting weights, pool training, shorter bicycle rides (typically less than 30 miles) and runs in the three – five mile range. As the year progressed, training intensified to the point of 2.5-mile swims, 18-mile runs and 100+ mile bike rides. I raced Blood, Sweat, Gears 100-mile bike race in Boone, North Carolina, and Lake Logan Half Iron in Waynesville, North Carolina, as training races prior to Ironman Chattanooga.
An important part of the training was figuring out nutrition. You have to learn how to fuel your body for more than 140 miles.
I just hope that I can motivate people to do things they never thought possible. I want people to know mental toughness and a strong will can make your body do unimaginable things. It isn't an easy road, and it often hurts, but it is a journey worth taking. The training and obstacles you overcome in the process will redefine you and make you stronger and more confident. You will find your limits and then find ways to push those limits until you complete your ultimate goal.
I graduated from St. Paul High School in 1992. I attended East Tennessee State University on an Army ROTC four-year scholarship from 1992-1996 and received a commission in the U.S. Army as a chemical officer. I graduated from the U.S. Army Chemical School and Chemical Defense Training Facility in 1997. I received my doctor of pharmacy degree from Shenandoah University in 2002. I have been employed by Bristol Regional Medical Center as a pharmacist since 2004.
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