Finishing Ironman easier than finishing this Ironman story

Finishing Ironman easier than finishing this Ironman story

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - They are fast, chiseled, thirsty, crazy and for the most part, the people who try the Ironman Triathlon are on the shy side of retirement age, with two good wheels.

Not coach Barry Stokes.

"I've got a bad knee," he said while riding a bike with me. "This keeps me in the game."

Now just try to keep up with him.

"Any point in it when you say these young guys are killing me?" I asked.
"Oh sure, generally during the ride though," Stokes said.

I met with him on one of his Saturday morning training rides. His group was tackling 60 miles that day. I've covered just about every angle of the 140-mile-long Ironman Triathlon, and I've finished eight of them, but I've never done a story on an Ironman Coach.

VIDEO: Watch John Boel's report

"I kind of wonder how much longer I'll be able to hang on," Stokes said.

The odometer on his life is going on 64. The odometer on his bike was going on 400 miles just that weekend as he bounded around like an energetic kid while he coached his clients.

"Ten minutes we ride and one minute we stretch our back, eat, drink," he said.

Added one of his clients: "He's just helping me with my speed work, so I'm doing more interval training."

"If I could get your emergency contact number," Stokes asked me. There's a reason he gathers emergency phone numbers and offers warnings about the dangers lurking ahead.

"Watch the sun," he said. "It's gonna be in the driver's eye."

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Stokes knows about drivers who don't see cyclists and cause crashes. I had to learn the hard way.

"A truck backed out in front of us out in the middle of the road so we all swerved right," Stokes said. "I felt something hit my back wheel. Nothing good ever happens when somebody hits your rear wheel."

Nothing good happens when a feature story becomes breaking news. I suffered a broken shoulder and broken collarbone. Stokes broke off and delivered special attention when a member of his physically fit flock went down.

"He's got me through four Ironman Louisvilles in a row," one client said. "This year, I've had a devastating injury. Barry went to all my doctor appointments with me and helped me get on track for next year."

Said Stokes: "It's personal for us. We spend an awful lot of time with these athletes and their families."

The old coach thought he had every aspect of triathlon training covered. Then he met me.

"I've ordered some arm slings," he said.
"Next reporter does a story, you've got a sling for 'em?" I asked.
"Ha, hopefully there won't be a next time," he replied with a laugh.

Now, I need a coach with a money-back guarantee in case something unexpected happens.

"Ever have anyone ask for their money back?" I asked.

"I have not. I hope I don't. But it might happen," he said.

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