On Sunday, Hines Ward, Super Bowl MVP and former wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, competed in his first triathlon, the SEAL Sprint III on Coronado Island.
The race consisted of a 500-meter swim, a 20K bike and a 6K run. He finished in a time of 1:27:47, under his goal time of 1:30. “It’s a long way from the football field, I’ll tell you that,” he said after stepping across the finish line. “[I have] a newfound respect for the triathletes out there.”
The sprint triathlon was his first step in his journey as part of the Become One program, presented by Refuel | Got chocolate milk?, in which Ward and three age-group triathletes will race at the Ironman World Championship this October. He and the three other athletes (Eric McElvenny, who also raced the SEAL Sprint; Chrisann Dalton and Josh Kalb) are being coached by eight-time Ironman world champion Paula Newby-Fraser.
Ward felt very welcomed by the triathlon community in San Diego, Calif. “Running today, we were passing like two trains in the night—everybody was high-fiving me and were encouraging,” he said after the race. “I found that there were a lot of people who were first-timers themselves, so it was kind of cool. And I saw the nervousness that they had, and then they see me, and I’m like, ‘Oh gees, don’t look at me. You gonna probably beat me.’ But it was good. It was a good family-oriented event. Everybody was encouraging, everybody wanted everybody to do their best. And that’s what happened today.”
As far as his first impressions of racing a triathlon, he knows he’ll have to work on his swim—and his sighting. “It was 500 meters, but I probably swam 600—I was all over the place,” he said. “I saw a yellow buoy, I put my head down, and I looked back up, and I couldn’t see a yellow buoy. I was just following the crowd. Unfortunately, I was following the wrong guy,” he said, laughing.
Ward will compete in an Olympic-distance triathlon in April, followed by a half-marathon and then a half-Ironman this summer in his journey to Ironman. So far he’s encouraged by his own progress.
“I love challenges, and this is by far the hardest challenge for me that I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. Before the race, he asked coach Newby-Fraser if he could walk part of the 3.8-mile run (before his triathlon training, Ward had never run more than a mile). But Ward didn’t walk, an accomplishment he was very proud of. “Today was a great day.”