Jonathan H. Schmidt's road to the 2007 Iron Man Triathlon all started with a dare, of sorts. He was talking with his father-in-law, a devoted runner, about the Quad City Triathlon at West Lake Park in Davenport, Iowa. "I joked, 'maybe I could do that,' which he didn't put a whole lot of stock in, so I really did it just to surprise him. It all escalated from there," says the 27-year-old manufacturing project engineer for John Deere.
Jonathan competed in his very first triathlon, the John Deere Corporate Games in Waterloo, Iowa, in May 2006. At the time, he was at Engine Works in Waterloo. Completing the 500-yard swim, 5-mile bike ride and 2-mile run gave him the confidence to try other events. These included several "sprint" length triathlons (usually a 500-yard swim, 15-mile bike ride and a 5K run), longer Olympic distances (a 1.5K swim, a 40K bike ride and a 10K run), and even half-marathons (70.3 miles).
But the Mt. Everest of triathlons is definitely the Iron Man, which Jonathan completed on April 15, 2007, in Tempe, Arizona. The Iron Man consists of a grueling 140.6 miles - a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile marathon. And while 1,800 entered, only 1,400 finished the race. "They close the course if you don't finish certain parts by the designated time. If you can't finish in 17 hours, you don't officially finish," he explains. With a time of 13.5 hours, Jonathan was one of those finishers.
"I don't know how to explain how I got into this, because while I was an athlete in high school, I never really got into running. Some people can't wrap their mind around it, but just being able to say I did it was the motivation for me," he notes.
Self-taught for the most part, he did seek advice from other runners and cyclists. In a sport where many of the top competitors are in their 30's, Jonathan still has time to chase those personal bests. "I'm hoping I haven't reached my prime yet," he says, noting that the extreme nature of triathlons is the attraction. "It's not something a lot of people are committed to doing. It's also the only [competitive sport] I can think of where you can go shake the hands of male and female pro athletes. You're doing the same thing these guys do, just not as fast."
Jonathan recently transferred to the Seeding Group in Moline, IL, where he is continuing his weekly training. Future plans include running the Quad City Marathon again, and trying another Iron Man event next year.
"If I could travel back three to five years and say I'd be doing this, I wouldn't believe me. I just got hooked on the feeling [of competing], and will do it as long as I can. You never know what kind of shape you can get into, and what challenges you can meet."