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East County Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019 1 month ago

Lakewood Ranch triathlete searches for his limits

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From cycling to completing triathlons, Bryan Balak uses support of triathlon community to complete races.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

In October 2018, Harmony resident Bryan Balak reached the pinnacle of his triathlon career with the completion of the Ironman Louisville.

In 13 hours, 30 minutes and 54 seconds, he swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles and ran a marathon.

But being able to swim, run and bike for miles and miles wasn’t always a possibility for the 45-year-old athlete. 

About five years ago, Balak was focused on cycling as a way to continue to lose weight.

“I wanted to get into something else that kept me off of my feet because one of the things I struggled with was plantar fasciitis,” he said. 

Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of fibrous tissue along the bottom of the foot that connects the heel bone and toes and can cause intense pain in the heel.

His plantar fasciitis was a result of his weight, which at one point was 235 pounds. Five years ago, he started cycling after participating in Weight Watchers, a company that provides products and services to support healthy habits and helped him get to 190 pounds.

Balak said he joined Weight Watchers because he was unhappy with how he looked and felt.

Between cycling and healthy eating habits, Balak dropped down to 165 pounds and wasn’t in pain anymore.

Two years ago, he started running 5Ks, then moved onto short triathlons and has since completed two half Ironmans, which consist of a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride and a half marathon.

“I was searching for my limits,” Balak said. “Triathletes have a saying that’s, ‘Why be terrible at one sport when you can be terrible at three sports?’”

Once Balak decided it was time to move onto a full triathlon, he reached out to Tom Egan, the owner of All Out Endurance and a triathlon coach, to help him prepare. Balak trained with Egan and a group of others also preparing for triathlons.

For eight months, Balak underwent intense training starting at 4:30 a.m. every day to prepare for his first full triathlon, the Ironman Louisville.

“I would be out the door by 5 a.m. and either do a bike ride, run or swim — sometimes doing multiple workouts on the same day,” he said.

Balak has been waking up at 4:30 a.m. ever since to train; he completed his most recent triathlon, the Fort De Soto International Triathlon, on Sept. 14.

Although Balak doesn’t always want to get out of bed to train, he continues to do so because of the support from other triathletes.

“Everyone is extremely supportive of everyone,” he said. “It doesn’t matter whether you’ve done a full Ironman or a sprint triathlon. I haven’t met anyone in the triathlon community where they brought negativity to anyone’s accomplishments.”

Now Balak continues to train and participate in races not only to stay fit — so he’s there for his two daughters, Emma, 15, and Julia, 13 — but also because he loves the community that he has engrossed himself in over the years.

“It makes me feel good inside knowing I’m doing this to not only stay healthy, but I like being around these people,” he said. “You surround yourself with excellence, and it challenges you to be a better person, not only in physical shape but in supporting each other. It creates an enormous amount of positive energy in your life that once you have it, you want more of it.”

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