Committed to the triathlon challenge

  • By Mike Cane / Herald writer
  • Friday, July 21, 2006 9:00pm
  • Sports

LAKE STEVENS – Peer pressure makes people do crazy things.

Take Bailey Granstrom.

The Lake Stevens High School senior is a fine athlete, having qualified for the Class 4A state cross country championships during each of her first three prep seasons. But when it comes to competitive biking and swimming, Granstrom, 17, is essentially a novice.

So how the heck did she end up competing in triathlons, which fuse the three activities (swimming, biking and running, in that order) in an uncommonly punishing test of endurance and will?

It started with a suggestion – more of an order, really – from Josh Fountain, a recent Lake Stevens High graduate (and Granstrom’s boyfriend of eight months). Fountain, 18, has completed nearly 20 triathlons over the last four-plus years. Not long after he and Granstrom paired up, he convinced her to join the “fun.”

“He was like, ‘Come on! Do it! Come on!’ the blonde, bubbly Granstrom said before laughing.

“Yeah,” Josh conceded, unveiling a sly grin. “I pretty much peer-pressured her into doing it.”

Luckily for Fountain, Granstrom’s debut went very well. She competed in the recreational portion of the Padden Triathlon June 24 in Bellingham, placing 12th overall and first in her age group on a course that featured a quarter-mile swim, a 10-mile bike ride and a 2.6-mile run. Sure, there were hiccups – she struggled a bit in the water and her bike chain popped off about 1 mile in – but Granstrom pushed on. In fact, she may have found a new passion (“I liked it. I think I’ll do more.”).

Granstrom has a way to go to match the enthusiasm of Fountain, who does several triathlons every summer – he’s scheduled to do seven this summer alone – and hopes to join a triathlon club at the University of Washington after he starts classes this fall. For Fountain, a triathlon isn’t merely a way to push his physical limits. It’s flat-out fun.

“I never really stop training at all, so really they’re not that hard for me,” said Fountain, who competed in cross country, swimming and track for four years at Lake Stevens. “I have a lot of fun training (see graphic) and doing these kinds of things. That’s just my idea of fun, I guess.”

One chiseled young man’s entertainment is an average Joe’s nightmare. But Fountain, who did the competitive Padden course in Bellingham (half-mile swim, 21-mile bike ride, 5.2-mile run), believes triathlons will enrich his life for decades.

“I want to do triathlons the rest of my life,” he said. “You meet people that are like 70 and they’re still competing in triathlons. It’s a good goal for myself, I think – a good way to stay in shape the rest of your life.”

Fountain is especially excited to have a new training partner: “I’m totally pumped Bailey likes to do these triathlons. It’s kind of something I can share with her.”

The remarkably-fit couple trained together all summer, and last weekend they did the Benaroya Research Institute Triathlon in Seattle (half-mile swim, 12-mile bike ride, 3.1-mile run). Fountain finished in 1 hour, 9 minutes and 5 seconds, good for second place in his age group and 60th overall; Granstrom’s time was 1:24:49, No. 2 in her division, 415th overall.

But on Sunday Granstrom will take a break while Fountain significantly ups his workload in the Lake Stevens 70.3 Triathlon World Qualifier, part of the town’s annual Aquafest activities. More than 1,000 athletes are expected to tackle the demanding event (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride, 13.1-mile run), which is the Pacific Northwest qualifying race for the 2006 Ford Ironman 70.3 World Championship.

It’s Fountain’s third straight summer competing in the Aquafest triathlon. Last year he took first in his age group, finishing in 5:45.16. Yep, that’s nearly six straight hours of intense exertion. This year he hopes to cover the course in less than five hours.

At age 14 Fountain, who started swimming as a child and began running competitively in middle school, became the first member of his family to do a triathlon. Miles and miles of swimming, biking and running later, keeps plugging away. The extremely driven young man craves a degree of glory, but mainly he’s just having a blast.

“Eventually I want to end up trying to win these things,” Fountain said, “but as long as I still keep on having fun, that’s all that matters to me right now.”

Said Granstrom, Fountain’s girlfriend-turned-training partner: “I think he’s crazy. I think he works too hard.”

Wait a second: Fountain convinced Granstrom to try his grueling hobby, right?

So who’s the truly crazy one?

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