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Christian Strickland earned the name Ironman after completing the Lake Placid Ironman Triathlon in upstate New York with a time of 13 hours and 37 minutes on July 28. Christian is also the principal at Deep River Elementary School. (Photo courtesy of Christian Strickland )
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Christian Strickland completed a feat that very few people can accomplish when he finished the Lake Placid Ironman Triathlon in upstate New York on July 28. An Ironman consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride, and 26.2-mile marathon. Christian finished that grueling gamut with a time of 13 hours and 37 minutes in the 40-44 age group.
Christian’s path to Lake Placid evolved from the competitive swimming of his youth to marathon running to Spartan obstacle races and, eventually, culminating with Ironman triathlons. Christian is also the principal at Deep River Elementary School, entering his sixth year in that position.
“I was a competitive swimmer throughout high school and college. Physical and mental wellness is something I’m into, and my wife Amy and I are both active individuals,” says Christian. “The Spartan racing started after I ran my first marathon. That seemed an exciting and fun way to stay in shape and also meet people. The obstacle racing has a great community, and that’s also the case with triathlon racing.”
With a long history in the water, Christian’s best leg of the triathlon is typically the swimming portion. The biking and running portions are where Christian can shave off the most time in any future Ironmans.
“Definitely, the swimming was my strongest part. In terms of the swim split, I was fourth in my age group,” says Christian, a Middletown resident who attended Fitch High School in Groton. “As for the bike and the run, over the last year I focused more of my training there, and that’s where I think I can make some improvement.”
One important aspect of competing in an Ironman is eating and drinking properly. Christian knows that it’s paramount to supply the body with the fuel it needs in order to make it through the race.
“During the event itself, you have to focus on hydration and transition bags between the events. There are great aid stations that have things like water, Gatorade, and bananas,” Christian says. “The interesting thing is trying to get calories in you when you’re burning them away. Nutrition is really the fourth leg of the triathlon. While it’s challenging, it’s necessary, or you just won’t finish the event.”
A key component to Christian’s training didn’t pertain to the actual everyday exertion, but rather, the support of the people around him. Christian and his family knew that this endeavor would require a significant commitment of time, meaning that everyone had to be more conscious of the limited time they had. Of course, being the principal of an elementary school is no small task, either.
“You go through training blocks to build your endurance and your technique in the three disciplines. That word is key because it makes you mindful of what you’re trying to accomplish,” says Christian. “Being disciplined with my time is incredibly important in my profession, and being with my family is important to me, as well. Mapping out my training allowed me to be more mindful in those areas.”
The amount of time spent preparing for such a rigorous event can be stressful for anyone, but balancing work and family with the training really ramps up the pressure. This is why Christian feels so grateful to his family, as well as the people in the community who have encouraged him along the way.
“This is not an accomplishment that you can do alone. That’s what made it very special, having my wife and my boys, Drew and Cole, there. A huge component of this accomplishment came from my family. They had to understand that I was going to get up at 4:30 in the morning and train on the bike or go swim,” Christian says. “I have to be incredibly focused, too, as principal, being up and physically active before I get to the school, and sometimes I would even have a second training session after I’m done at work. We have a great community in Deep River. I tried to keep this goal to myself, but my colleagues, teachers, and students all would ask me about it and wish me luck.”
While earning the title of Ironman is a satisfying feeling for Christian, he believes that enduring the process of even getting to the race is rewarding, as well. It was also an honor for Christian to line up against so many people who rose to the same challenge, but under different circumstances.
“Just getting yourself to the starting line is a huge accomplishment,” says Christian. “There are athletes that are dealing with obstacles that you can’t even see. To be on the course with those individuals is incredibly motivating.”
In the end, Christian feels that his journey to get to Lake Placid serves as a lesson from which anyone can learn: Put yourself in a position to overcome adversity.
“That’s really important message for anything in life. Challenge yourself and look for things that will push you beyond your current place and boundaries,” Christian says. “Anybody has that opportunity to take a new challenge and grow. Through that growth, that’s how you learn to enjoy life and become the best version of yourself.”
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