Hunter "Hamster" Hobson and the Ironman
When Hunter Hobson was on the ground in Iraq, he didn't have much time for triathlon training. Like, none.
"I was living in a Humvee and eating MREs every day and didn't shower for 30 days," he explained this week. "No opportunity in that environment to train at all."
Even after he was no longer on the ground and was merely flying F18 Hornets off aircraft carriers, Hobson--a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps and squadron commander in charge of 220 men--still didn't exactly have time to train for an Ironman, which had been one of his lifelong goals.
"You never felt like you had a spare moment to take a breath," he said. But then he spent a year at Fort McNair's war college, studying national security issues and strategic environment analysis and reading and writing, where "all you're responsible for is yourself and getting your reading done," he said
So he ramped up his training, and a buddy convinced him to enter the lottery for the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. This buddy had entered the lottery 19 years in a row and had never won a spot. So naturally in Hobson's first try, he won one of the 150 spots for U.S. athletes. (More than 7,000 people apply, and yes, his buddy was furious.)
Anyhow, that's why Hobson--who's based at the Pentagon, and whose call sign is the thoroughly excellent "Hamster"--is in Hawaii this weekend for his first Ironman event. He's done dozens of half-Ironmen, but never the real thing. There are hundreds of people in Hawaii trying to win world championships or age groups, and Hobson isn't one of them.
"There's 200 knuckleheads like me; we're coming out here to finish the race," he said. "I'm not trying to win in my age group or anything like that. There's no way that's going to happen, unless lightning strikes the first 100 guys in front of me."
His parents and wife are in Hawaii, and his buddies back home have promised to follow his progress online. Hobson has played sports his whole life, and ran track and cross-country at Illinois State, but this is sort of different.
"It's just something I've dreamed about forever, have always wanted to do. It's kind of amazing that I'm here to do it," he told me. "Without a doubt it would be the biggest athletic achievement of my life."
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