Intermediate School teacher prepares to compete in IronMan World Championship triathlon

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SEP.22, 2022—It’s a sunny, but cool morning outside the Pal-Mac Intermediate School. There’s a bit of dew in the grass, but it’s an improvement over the pouring rain that preceded the morning. Standing outside the gym, is long-time Phys.Ed teacher Dave Bradshaw, who knew it’d be best to ask him questions in a place he enjoys, the outdoors.


Bradshaw is preparing to lead a large class on the day’s unit: The one mile run, which takes students around the outer looped dirt track around the athletic fields. The exercise is well-known at the Intermediate School, and it’s something Bradshaw has been at the helm of over the course of the last 20 years he’s taught at the school.


“This is not a pressure thing, just do your best,” Bradshaw said.


Additionally, he encourages his students to simply finish the mile-long trek. It’s fitting, given the shirt he’s wearing; a navy blue t-shirt that reads “finisher” on both the front and back. 


For Bradshaw, finishing a run isn’t just an encouragement for his students, it’s a motto he lives by when it comes to his own goals, specifically when it comes to competing.


When he’s not teaching class, or coach cross country, or being a father and husband: Bradshaw is a triathlete. His sport of choice: Triathlons.


A triathlon is a large-scale athletic competition that features three parts: swimming, biking and running, all in that order.  And in two weeks, Bradshaw will compete in a major triathlon of his own, the 2022 IronMan World Championships, which will be held in Kona, Hawaii.


Bradshaw will have to swim for 2.4 miles, followed by a 112 mile bike ride, capped off with a full marathon run at 26.2 miles. Seems like a lot, but he’s calling this journey a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to compete with roughly 2,500 athletes across the world. 


All of the racers have had to qualify by doing an Ironman. The World Championships represent the top 1% IronMan triathletes in the world. 

“I mean there’s a lot of emotion,” Bradshaw said. “I’m excited, I'm anxious, nervous.”


In addition to the logistics of getting his gear to the Island, Bradshaw says the nerves have built up over wanting to be able to complete the competition. 


To understand why he feels this way, you gotta understand this competition is years in the making. 


Bradshaw has made Kona his mission since 2013, which was his first IronMan challenge. In 201, he hired and started working with a professional coach to help him qualify. He successfully qualified for the event in July of 2021, with an eye on competing on the world stage just a few months later. 


His hopes were suddenly changed when the event was postponed due to the COVID pandemic. Soon a new date of February 2022 was established. Not so fast. The competition was again delayed until October.


“It’s been a year of the race is going to happen here, it’s going to happen here, okay now it’s going to happen here,” Bradshaw said. “But all signs point to we’re going to be racing.”


Despite the constant delays, Bradshaw has not been able to sit back and relax, far from it. Since the day he set out to train to qualify, he’s been training to stay in shape. He’s trained by himself almost every day, which includes training at 5-6 a.m. before school, and then training when he gets home from coaching. The regiment includes working out on the weekends, too.


He’s also been trained by Qt2 System, and his coach, David Zimmet. He says RVE Bike and Skate, a local bike shop, has been very supportive as well. 


“It’s tough,” Bradshaw said. “Then when you’re done training, your body is recovering because it’s tired, so it is a hard balancing act. Then, you know you got your family and you want to spend time with the kids because they’re growing up, and they got their sports. It’s a lot.”


While the work may be grueling, Bradshaw is no stranger to the competitive field. He said his first triathlon took place back in 1998, when some of his fellow co-workers at Wegmans encouraged him to take on the competition. Already an established runner, he accepted the challenge, though he said he didn’t take on another triathlon until 2011. 


From there, he said he was hooked.


Through every training, and every competition, including his upcoming trip to Hawaii, Bradshaw says he’s had a wide net of support to help keep him going.


“From my family, friends, the District, co-workers, my coaches, and my team,” Bradshaw said. “It’s been awesome.”


Before we walked outside to do our interview, Bradshaw was standing in a hallway at the school to greet students as they walked in the building at the start of the day. Several students walked up to ask him about the upcoming mile unit, but also about his upcoming challenge.


When asked how his passion for endurance sports meshes with his role as a teacher, Bradshaw said he doesn’t force students to like what he likes, but he does try to get them to understand the importance of living a long, healthy life. 


After all, it was the very same mile run that inspired Bradshaw’s own passion. He says back when he attended the school, his teacher, Mr.Gardner, inspired him to give his all on the course. Back then, it was called the nine minute run walk, but the message remains the same.


“I can show the kids that if you find something you like early on, and you stick with it, this is where you can get to,” Bradshaw said. “This is what you can do.”

Bradshaw will take on the IronMan on Saturday, Oct.8. For more information on the course, and how to follow the competition, click on this link.

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