On the top of volcano in Kona, Hawaii, Roy Fenstermaker paused right in the middle of an IRONMAN race for two whole minutes.
“I decided that it was more important to soak up the view and enjoy that moment,” said the Farragut resident. “To be 71 years old on top of a mountain in Hawaii, doing what I was doing … I was just so grateful.”
After a stint in the Navy and college at Vanderbilt University, Fenstermaker worked as a chemical engineer in Oak Ridge.
He had always run and stayed in shape, even competing in races. But after he retired, Fenstermaker decided he wanted to take his fitness level up a notch … several notches maybe.
“I had the time,” he said. “I had seen ads for Fleet Feet’s training for triathlons,” he said. “I thought, ‘Why not?’”
An IRONMAN triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.22-mile marathon run.
A couple of years ago Fenstermaker signed up and began to train with a group under the direction of Shahin Hadian, Fleet Feet owner. He swam at 7:30 a.m. at Gold’s Gym, ran in his neighborhood and biked all over the area.
At his first IRONMAN in September 2015 in Chattanooga, a turning point came. Because he had had a little dizziness before the race, his wife, Michelle, made him promise to run straight to the medic tent at the end.
Roy was in the tent when he saw Michelle waving her index finger at him.
“I thought she was fussing at me at first,” he said.
He heard her say, “You won. You came in first.” and thought at first she was kidding.
“I came in first in my age group,” Roy said, “which meant I was a qualifier for the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, which was held 0ct. 6, 2016. My wife and I and daughter traveled there to have that great experience.”
Last June, Roy competed in Raleigh, North Carolina. He did so well he qualified to compete in the half IRONMAN world championship [2017 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship] in Chattanooga last month.
“I came in in the middle of my age group, so I was happy,” he said. “It was a tough course, so I felt good about it.”
“He had to bike straight up Lookout Mountain,” Michelle said. “My daughter and I stayed in the transition area, so we didn’t actually get to see him. Prior to the race, Roy and I had driven up Lookout Mountain to survey the course. It was a very difficult course.
“He also had to swim against the current in the Tennessee River for a half-mile,” she added. “He ran a course that was a two-loop run course. One day we drove to Chattanooga and we both ran one loop to survey the course. For the race, it was 13.1 miles. For that day, we did half of it. I run a lot slower.”
Roy is now 72 and he trains in some way almost every day — running, biking, swimming or working out with weights.
“It’s given me a lot of satisfaction that at my age I can still compete at this level,” he said. “It also helps me inspire others to know that anything is possible if you put enough effort into it.”
“We have a sign at our house that’s just one word,” Michelle said. “Inspire. That’s what he really wants to do.”
“Give it a try,” Roy said.