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Published March 12, 2012, 09:38 AM

The will to endure

TOWNER, N.D. — I’ve done a few things in life that might seem a little out of the ordinary for a cowboy and a rancher. I ran a marathon in Chicago, I went to a Black Eyed Peas concert, I heard a symphony perform in Carnegie Hall in New York and I once ordered a fish sandwich at McDonalds. Not typical cowboy stuff.

By: Ryan Taylor, Agweek

TOWNER, N.D. — I’ve done a few things in life that might seem a little out of the ordinary for a cowboy and a rancher. I ran a marathon in Chicago, I went to a Black Eyed Peas concert, I heard a symphony perform in Carnegie Hall in New York and I once ordered a fish sandwich at McDonalds. Not typical cowboy stuff.

But when I entered the Iceman Triathlon in Grand Forks, N.D., for a frigid three event competition in the height of winter, it seemed to fit right in with my ranching lifestyle. Physical activity, endurance and exhaustion outside in the winter? Perfect.

It’s done all the time on the ranch. I roped a cow the other day to try and convince her to come into a corral and when I decided my horse wasn’t up to the task, I had to get the rope that had tightened up around her neck off of her. The skills required for that task with a little ice and snow was more of a winter decathlon, so I figured the Iceman Triathlon would be a piece of cake.

Now saying something like “the height of winter” this year isn’t much to brag about. We’ve been mostly mild and snow-free this year, but, fortunately, Grand Forks got a nice dump of snow just in time for their triathlon. The temperature on race day was a balmy 20 degrees Fahrenheit, winds were calm and the sun was shining.

Ironman or Iceman

I’ve watched bits of the “Ironman” triathlon in Hawaii when it’s been on television. I could envision myself doing the running leg of the triathlon, but bicycling would be a bit of a stretch for my skill set, and swimming next to a bunch of other people in the ocean with flailing arms and legs seemed downright terrifying.

The distances for an Ironman were pretty intimidating too. Swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, then run 26.2 miles. All in a row, no rest or recuperation. That’s why they call it Ironman. If it was easy, I suppose they’d call it a tinman or an aluminuman triathlon.

The selling point for the Iceman triathlon in Grand Forks was that they swapped out the swimming and replaced it with cross country skiing. Now they were talking something this Norwegian cowboy could understand. Aside from my English Taylor heritage, I’m mostly descended from Dokkens, Oiums and Larsons, from places in Norway such as Hallingdal and Gudbrandsdal.

They say Norwegians are born with skis on their feet. My mother wouldn’t have put up with that, but she did put me on cross country skis at a pretty young age. So I entered the Iceman race and figured my skiing prowess would make me a contender.

The distances in the Iceman were manageable. Ski for three and a half miles, bike for seven miles, run for three miles and wrap it up by running up a hill three times carrying a sandbag and riding a sled down with your cap pulled over your eyes. Creative competition.

Ski strong, finish strong

The skiing was my best leg, as I did my best Norsk kick, stride and glide. It almost made up for the ground I lost in the snow biking. Race day was my first day on skis this season because of our lack of snow on the ranch, but, just like riding a bike, you never forget. Hmmm, that saying makes me think my biking should have gone better.

I finished the race pretty strong, made the top half, and I think most of the guys ahead of me in the solo men’s division were 10 years younger than me. Makes no difference, though. We’re all Icemen now. Some of us have just been melting a little longer.

Editor’s Note: Ryan Taylor welcomes comments about his column. He can be reached at 1363 54th St. N.E., Towner, N.D. 58788; email: cowlogic@ndak.net. Taylor, who ranches near Towner, is a columnist for Agweek.

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