Ironman quest


POSTED: Saturday, October 04, 2008

”;Know Regrets”; by Tim Durant
(Lulu, $19.95)

Just in time for the 30th anniversary of the Ironman Triathlon World Championship next week, former Hawaii resident Tim Durant has published a novel about the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile marathon run through the Big Island's lava fields.


The Ironman is widely considered the most grueling single-day race in the world, and it's been the center of 40-year-old protagonist Trip Johnson's dormant aspirations for a long time. “;The Ironman is it - the most fit athletes in the world, competing on the toughest course in the world, in one race, on one day, with everything they've got,”; Trip tells one of his friends. “;... The Ironman Championship in Hawaii is my Mount Everest.”;

Durant's story begins in the suburbs of Boston, Mass., where Trip is a single father of two children. The landscape architect moves back in with his parents after his divorce, and goes about his life and business with little passion.

Slowly, circumstances reignite his long-suppressed Ironman goal, but it's not a matter of simply entering. “;You don't know anything about the Ironman,”; he snaps at one of his children in an authentic moment of less-than-perfect parenting. “;You can't just do the Ironman!”;

Nearly everyone must qualify, and Trip knows it won't be easy. He earned a coveted slot long ago in his prime, but did not compete. He never explains why; his only answer to the children's inquiries on the matter is, “;It's complicated.”;

Trip fails when he tries to qualify by placing at the top of his age group in a sanctioned half-ironman race, but with help from his children manages to enter through a lottery. When he makes the decision to accept the slot, he learns more about his parents' muffled ambitions, and clarifies his own.

The title comes from a quote by the main character's grandfather: “;Know regrets for no regrets. ... Regret can be an overwhelming burden. The longer you wait on a dream, the harder it is to fulfill. Sometimes it's impossible. The sooner you know what your regrets will be, the sooner you can act on them. The happiest men die with no regrets.”;

Trip takes a couple of months to train for the big day on Oahu, a location Durant explores in some detail. But it's there that the emotionally needy Trip's training is derailed soon after he meets an attractive waitress. Too much alcohol, too many illicit nights, and everything starts to fall apart. But thanks to help from his hosts on Oahu, Trip is rescued (from the obligatory North Shore surf scene and his errant ways), and pulls himself together.

Though the book has its rough spots, including a few misspellings and over-the-top scenes, Durant has produced a readable, entertaining novel around a topic more suitable for a “;how-to”; magazine article. Durant has not competed in the Ironman, but he writes with an intimate familiarity, probably from his many years as an endurance athlete and competitive triathlete, especially while stationed in Hawaii with the Navy.

“;I had been thinking about some of the scenes in the book for over 20 years ... mainly when I was out on long rides or runs,”; he wrote in an e-mail message. “;One day I was telling my kids about a funny scene and they said I should write it down. Well, three years later I had written a book.”;

But the real dream for the husband and father of three who now resides in Massachusetts has little to do with the famous triathlon. Instead, it's “;to have (the book) made into a movie.”;

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