Augusta mayor ready to compete in Ironman event

When Mayor Deke Copenhaver congratulated the athletes in last year's ESi Ironman 70.3 Augusta, his competitive side came out.

On that fall afternoon, Copenhaver told everyone in attendance he would participate in the 2010 event. After five months of training, the 42-year-old Copenhaver is ready.

"I had to back up my word," he said. "At the end of the day, I wanted to see if I can do it."

Copenhaver is one of about 140 Augusta-area competitors in the field for Sunday's second annual ESi Ironman 70.3 Augusta. The event, which features more than 3,100 athletes, is the largest 70.3 triathlon in the world, according to organizer Bill Burke.

Copenhaver and his assistant, Karyn Nixon, are competing for the first time. Since May, Copenhaver has been waking up early for two-hour morning workouts, six days a week. When he hasn't been able to work out in the morning, he's trained after work.

Copenhaver said the hard work has been worth it.

With his entry, Copenhaver is raising funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in support of Brennan Simkins and William Chandler, two local youngsters fighting cancer. Copenhaver, who starts at 8:54 a.m., has a goal of finishing in the six-hour range.

Jeff Snover, chairman and executive director of Champions Made From Adversity, is participating in the event for the second time. He will pair up with Sarah Ethridge (swim) and Naval Chief Petty Officer Joe Oglethorpe (run). They are one of three Para-Triathlon teams in the field.

Snover is a handcyclist with a goal of finishing the 56-mile bike portion in 31/2 hours. Last year, he finished in 4:15.

Snover said the 2009 event motivated him to compete again, and it inspired many people in the area to come out this year.

"It's bringing awareness to folks that you don't have to be a stellar athlete to participate," Snover said. "It's a reason to get fit."

Brittany Banker used last year's event as an idea to keep area athletes fit year-round. Two months after the 2009 ESi Ironman 70.3 Augusta, Banker and a friend formed TriAugusta, a group focused on training for triathlons.

TriAugusta became an officially-sanctioned organization in March by USA Triathlon.

The Augusta-based group has more than 100 members, and about half are planning to compete in Sunday's 70.3 event.

"I like that this year there's more people in the community involved," Banker said.

More