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Monday, March 18 , 2019, 9:42 am | Fair 59º

Sports: A Noozhawk Partnership with Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table, The Lab, and American Riviera Bank

Andrew Maxwell, a Homegrown Ironman

{mosimage}A 22-year-old Dos Pueblos grad, Andrew Maxwell, shows that he has what it takes to be an Ironman.


There are few things in this world that will earn you uncontested bragging rights for the rest of your life, and Andrew Maxwell has done one of them: the insanely punishing Ironman Triathlon Championship.

With a 2.4 mile ocean swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a 26 mile run, the Ironman championship, held at Kona, Hawaii, requires a level of athleticism, commitment, mental strength and sheer bravado that even our highest-paid professional sportsmen and women may not have. And if you ask Maxwell, the 22-year-old Dos Pueblos High School grad may tell you he couldn’t guarantee to himself 100 percent that he could do it when he first sat down with his coach about a year ago to discuss the option, but he was sure that he wanted to go for it.

“I told (my coach) that I wanted to do my first Ironman distance triathlon, and I wanted it to be the championship in Hawaii,” he said.

Luckily, he was prepared. A swimmer and water polo player since junior high, Maxwell switched over to cross-country running by his sophomore year at DP. It was while working as a lifeguard (at Los Banos and later East Beach and Ledbetter Beach) that he got into the idea of becoming a triathlete, which led him to winning his age group in the Carpinteria Triathlon in 2001. A string of triathlons followed, like the Escape from Alcatraz in San Francisco and the Santa Barbara County Long Course.

But as any serious triathlete will tell you, the Hawaii Ironman is in a league of its own.

“A normal distance triathlon will be something like a mile swim, a 24 mile bike ride and then a 10 kilometer run. When you jump up to that (Ironman) level, a lot of things come into play, because you’re out there for so long: nutrition, hydration, conditioning, training.”

Before the race, his biggest hurdle was the intensity of the training. Maxwell, who by this time had been competing alongside his fellow Buffaloes at the University of Colorado in Boulder while getting a communications degree, was logging in 350 to 400 miles on his bike, 20 - 30,000 yards in the water, and 50 - 60 miles in his running shoes every week.

During the race, his biggest hurdle was mental.

“The toughest thing ... was giving myself the confidence that I could do it.” He had to push himself out of his comfort zone of shorter races, he said. At the same time, he had to do it while racing alongside elite athletes from around the world with more experience in a race that is one of the most difficult to even qualify for.

The training paid off: Maxwell finished 8th of the 20 people in his age group, and 175th overall out of 2000 competitors, with a total time of nine hours, 42 minutes and 19 seconds.

But, it wasn’t his own finish that gave him the full impact of his accomplishment. In fact, he felt so worn out and broken down by the end of the race that he had to get hooked up to intravenous fluids to replace the water and electrolytes he lost. He even recalls thinking towards the end that he would never do it again (he changed is mind not too long after that).

No, it was later in the evening, towards midnight, that he realized what it was to be an Ironman.

“It’s kind of a tradition in Hawaii at the Ironman where around midnight everybody comes back to the finish line.” Midnight is the cutoff time, and people come back to cheer on the finishers.

“There were people in their 70s, and this year there was the first double leg amputee to finish ... watching those people come in was when it sunk in for me.”

Now that he’s accomplished what for many is a lifetime goal, Maxwell is, reluctantly, taking a break. School’s wrapping up and he’s got options to consider as he prepares for another round of training, perhaps for the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run. He may come back home and work for Teva, the Goleta-based outdoor footwear brand, or he may work with the McDonald’s corporation on their Healthy Choice campaign, teaching the importance of a good diet and active lifestyle. Whatever he chooses, there’s probably little doubt in his — or anyone’s — mind that he can do it.

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