The business of balance
Writer: Cody Brumbaugh, Staff Writer
September 21, 2011
Filed under Sports
Joe Sullivan, vice president of business services at City College spends his leisure time in a different kind of suit. At 60 years old, he may be one of the best athletes at City College, participating in up to eight triathlon events a year.
On Aug. 27, Sullivan competed in the Santa Barbara Triathlon long course and took home third place honors for his age division. The next day, he competed in the sprint course and placed first among his age division.
“I used to say I run to ski, or I run to surf,” Sullivan commented. “Being fit allows me to do that more often if I’m given the opportunity. The question is ‘what quality of life do you want?’”
Training for triathlete’s goes far beyond the requirements for surfing enthusiasts.
Cross-country coach, Scott Fickerson said he recommends triathletes to train two to three hours a day commenting, that training is “very difficult, the challenge is the time involved.”
That number pales in comparison to what Sullivan does on a daily basis. He is up and training by 6:15 a.m. Monday through Friday before he goes to work and after work he trains again, nearly doubling Fickerson’s estimate. Then, on the weekend, he is out training by 7:00 a.m. so that he can fit in at least four hours of training.
“It’s what your body becomes used to and what you become used to,” Sullivan said. “After a while it becomes habit.”
Since he started competing in Triathlons more than 20 years ago with his eldest son, he has competed in hundreds of endurance sporting events most notably the Kona, Hawaii Half Ironman, Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, and is a 17 time finisher at the Wildflower Triathlon.
One year at Wildflower, he overcame severe nausea during the bicycling stage and the accompanying dehydration that followed during the running stage, all in a 95-degrees heat and high altitude to finish second in his age division.
“You hit that point where your body is just, ‘enough is enough’,” Sullivan said. “You just have to push through that.”
Sullivan said his motivation comes from watching his father, a World War II veteran, struggle with his weight and alcoholism. His unbalanced lifestyle caused him to be physically disabled by 38. He died at 57, leaving Sullivan inspired to live an active lifestyle.
“He was a loving and caring person, that much I hope to have kept as part of my life. But, I looked at the quality of his life and didn’t want to live like that. I chose to keep a higher quality of life.”
Sullivan has made triathlons his “healthy addiction” to keep his quality of life better. He shares this with his family. His wife ran with him for 20 years before her arthritis made it too difficult to run such long distances. His youngest son, a senior at San Marcos High, has been training and competing with him since the age of 8.
“There is nothing like a four-and-a-half hour father-son bike ride for family time,” Sullivan said. “He ends up hating me by the end of it though.”
His son beat him in a triathlon for the first time in 2010 and hasn’t stopped beating him since. Family vacations are usually planned around triathlon events. Every year for the Wildflower Triathlon, the family camps at Lake San Antonio for a few days before the event with “a couple thousand” friends.