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Chagrin graduate uncovers Ironman
Chagrin graduate uncovers Ironman
By TONY LANGE
After exhausting his soccer and weightlifting know-how, JD Thalman, a 1996 Chagrin Falls graduate, discovered a lurking talent — or perhaps three lurking talents.
The 34-year-old will compete at the Ironman World Championship 70.3 on Sept. 9 in Henderson, Nev., near Las Vegas.
The half-distance triathlon includes a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and 13.1-mile run.
“It’s kind of one of those deals where I just got good at this late in life,” Thalman said. “It’s one of those things where I wish I had found it in high school, and things might be a little bit different, but I’ve got to go with what I’ve got.”
While at Chagrin Falls, Thalman played soccer for coach Mario Gerhardt, who remains the Tigers’ head coach for the boys varsity team.
Swimming, biking and distance running, however, were never really his thing, he said.
After his days as a Tiger, Thalman attended Northwood University in Midland, Mich.
“It’s a really, really small school. I think it’s the only school in the country where you can major in automotive marketing and dealership management, and that’s what I had wanted to do,” Thalman said. “I worked for car dealerships when I was in high school, and my guidance counselor at Chagrin recommended it.”
Thalman still kicked the ball around some in college, he said, but, after graduating in 2000, he eventually developed a new passion.
He moved back to Chagrin Falls a week after finishing his studies and found a job at Motorcars Toyota in Cleveland, which is owned by the Gile family, also of Chagrin Falls.
“When I got done with college, I really wasn’t doing anything other than work,” Thalman said. “It was one of those deals where you get done with school and you’re kind of focusing on your job and everything else, so I started weightlifting for a good five or six years, and I got pretty good at it. I went from 155 pounds to a 205-pound guy.”
Getting to the point where he was looking for other things to do, Thalman, ironically enough, sat next to an avid marathon runner during a friend’s wedding reception back in 2008. A couple months later, he started dating her.
“My wife went to Chagrin as well,” Thalman said of Kristen Worley Thalman, who graduated from Ohio University in 1997 and now works for Howard Hanna Real Estate in Chagrin Falls. “After we started dating, I joined her in biking and running and swimming, and one thing led to another, and we did Ironman Canada together in 2009.
“It’s just one of those things that kind of took over my life, and it’s been fun ever since.”
JD and Kristen got married in 2010, and now they have a 9-month-old daughter, Hailey.
Training twice a day, six days a week, Thalman said he swims roughly six miles a week, bikes more than 150 miles and runs about 30 miles.
Still working at Motorcars Toyota, he now is the used-car manager, and the Gile family is real understanding of his goals as far as triathlons are concerned, he said.
“And then my wife, who is as avid as I am, completely understands,” he said. “If I say, ‘Hey, hon, I’m going out for a five-hour bike ride,’ she gets it. I don’t have to explain to her why I need to, and she doesn’t look at me like I’m crazy. So I’m fortunate in that respect.”
Far beyond the “just race to finish” mindset, Thalman recorded a personal best time of 4:58 last year in the Ironman 70.3.
Untrained in swimming, the first leg of the race is actually a strong point for Thalman, he said.
“When I started in 2009, I was pretty slow,” he said. “The thing that got me through the swimming was I still had quite a bit of muscle built up through all the weightlifting I had done, so I could muscle my way through it. But it turns out that swimming is probably one of the things that I am better at. I learned everything by watching Youtube and watching guys that were faster than me. Now it’s just one of those things that comes naturally, and I enjoy it.”
A lot of high school athletes are good at running and swimming, but many young competitors don’t get involved in cycling until later in life, Thalman said.
“I’m excited to have kids that will go to Chagrin,” he said. “My wife and I, we always talk about maybe we should invest some of our time in starting a Chagrin Falls tri team at the school itself. I think it teaches you a lot of structure, and you have to have a lot of time management, obviously, and I think it would be good for any young person to learn,” Thalman said.
“For me to be able to get on a starting line with 1,500 of the best in the world, it means a lot to me,” he said about the upcoming world championship. “It’s cool. It’s an opportunity that I may never have again. You never know. There’s so much time spent, and you never know if you’re going to get injured or what’s going to happen.”
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