Great Buckeye Challenge triathlon returns to Buck Creek

Doug Gladman used to play golf four times a week. He was a regular at the Springfield City Amateur.

Then four years ago, a friend dared him to run a 10K. The rest is history. Any day now, Gladman plans to sign up for a full Ironman-distance triathlon — that’s 140.6 miles of swimming, biking and running — and today, he will be one of more than 600 competitors at HFP Racing’s Great Buckeye Challenge triathlon at Buck Creek State Park.

“I miss the golfing family,” said Gladman, 41, a 1989 Kenton Ridge graduate. “It’s weird I don’t miss playing. I feel I get more out of triathlons, and I can see the results.”

Gladman has lost 56 pounds since he started running and training for triathlons. He first did the Great Buckeye Challenge three years ago.

“Just being obsessive, which I find a lot of triathletes and runners are, it kind of took over,” Gladman said. “I think I’ve played golf one time each year since. When I first started out, it was all running. I was running too much. I fractured my tibia. That got me into the biking and swimming. I didn’t want to stop exercising.”

Many triathletes share the same story.

Shawn Koivisto, 38, of Enon, completed his first triathlon in June at an HFP race at Deer Creek State Park in Mount Sterling. He did a sprint race, which included a 750-meter swim, a 20-kilometer bike course and a 5K run.

“I ran for three years, did marathons, half marathons and got injured,” Koivisto said. “Once I got injured, I was looking for other things to do to still stay active. I started to swim, bike ride, cross training stuff. When you have plantar fascitis, it doesn’t lend itself to running, but you can still swim. You can still do that stuff and feel OK. That kind of led me into multi-sport (racing).”

Koivisto often trains with his friend, Sean McAffee, a 1993 Shawnee High School graduate who has a leg up on many triathletes in that his strongest event is the swim. Most racers fear the swim more than any other event.

It’s the only part of the race where you’re likely to get kicked in the head or kick someone else in the head. Early this morning, swimmers will dash from the beach into the water at the C.J. Brown Reservoir. It’s hard to avoid contact in the traffic around the buoys.

McAfee, 39, swam at the Springfield YMCA for a year when he was 9 and then swam four years with the Dayton Raiders. That background helped when he completed his first triathlon at the Great Buckeye Challenge two years ago. He and Koivisto will be racing again on Sunday.

“I remember watching the Ironmans on TV,” McAfee said. “I said, ‘I want to do that someday.’ Then I forgot about it for 30 years.”

This is the sixth straight year HFP has run the Great Buckeye Challenge at Buck Creek.

This is the first year the race will have one loop on the bike course for racers doing the half triathlon and duathlon. They will ride one 56-mile loop instead of doing a 28-mile loop twice. The course heads east on Old Columbus Road and eventually crosses into Madison and Champaign counties.

HFP founder Shannon Kurek credited the local sheriff’s departments for making his job easier. The late deputy Suzanne Hopper was a big supporter of the race, and her work has inspired to continue supporting the event. For example, someone from the Clark County Sherrif’s Department alerted Kurek that a bridge was out on Columbus Road and offered him an alternative route for the bike course.

“It’s a great annual event for us,” Kurek said. “We’re going to have from 600 to 700. That’s really good for this event, what we consider maximum capacity.”

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