Thick of competition

Oswego native Michael Purtell competes in the biking event of the annual Kona Ironman World Championships in Hawaii last month.

For the past couple of years, Oswego native Michael Purtell has set a list of goals to accomplish for his health and well-being.

So far, Purtell’s biggest achievement has been competing in the annual Kona Ironman World Championships, which took place in Kona, Hawaii last month.

Purtell, 56, took 16th overall (total time of 10:34.37) in the 55-59 age group as he competed in biking (5:32.46), swimming (1:01.38) and running (3:49.07) against some of the best athletes the world has to offer.

“I think I did really well,” he said. “I was extremely pleased with everything I was able to accomplish over a relatively short period of time.”

The journey to stay in shape for Purtell is drawn back to his current career. Purtell travels a lot for work, consisting of getting on a plane Monday and being on the road until Friday.

What this meant for Purtell is most of his daily meals didn’t occur back at his home in The Woodlands — a suburb just outside of Houston, Texas — and led to not watching what he ate as much.

“I take people out to lunch and dinner for my job,” he said. “Over the years as you age, those lunches and dinners can creep up on you. I did the best I could to stay in shape, but over time I didn’t take it seriously.”

Taking a reality check for his health, Purtell prepared himself for the Houston Marathon that took place in January 2018.

Purtell said he “felt good” following the race, but knew more exercise was needed to get where he wanted to be.

“I felt like I was in much better shape, but I was hurting like crazy,” he said regarding how he felt after that event.

It led to his decision to train and exercise for an Ironman event.

Before Purtell got into the thick of training for an Ironman event, he took a leadership class to help better manage his daily routine. The class was something Purtell “recommended for everyone” to try out.

“All of that scheduling helped me be more productive,” he said. “The little chunk I worked out every day was my time. Work time kept me busy, but I’ve managed to put time aside for myself every week.”

Purtell is a 1981 graduate of Oswego High School. He competed on the cross country, swimming, and track teams for the Buccaneers.

Figuring out how to manage his daily schedule ended up being a “blessing in disguise” for Purtell, due in part to the extensive amount of time it takes to train for all three events that made up Ironman competitions.

Biking entails a 112-mile course during competition, which takes up 60 percent of the training process. Running took a decent chunk of Purtell’s time, and swimming was less with being it a shorter distance at Ironman competitions.

“You really have to spend a bulk of your time biking,” he said. “Running is another thing, but I’m a decent swimmer. I grew up swimming.”

Purtell put in 20-plus hours of training every week.

“It’s pretty time-consuming,” he said.

All of the training and preparation went into Purtell’s first Ironman competition in Maryland. He thought he “fared well,” but knew he needed a little help since he wanted to continue competing in Ironman events, especially since he qualified for Kona through the Maryland event.

“I wanted to take this seriously so I knew that I had to work with a coach,” he said.

Purtell began training with his coach in preparation for the Kona Ironman.

When it came time to compete in Hawaii, Purtell said he felt confident he could do well. He got off to a good start following the swimming event, as he found himself ninth overall early on. Biking set him back to 26th, but a strong finish in running got him to 16th.

“My strongest event was definitely between the swim and the run,” Purtell said. “Biking is a work in progress.”

Purtell’s coach praised his ability to swim well, saying, “My coach couldn’t believe that a non-collegiate athlete had the time (in swim) that I did.”

With the Kona Ironman in his rear-view mirror, Purtell will now prepare for his Ironman on April 25. The third Ironman he will compete in happens to be right in his backyard in The Woodlands.

Purtell began his training on Monday in the hopes of improving over his performance at Kona.

“I still want to improve on the bike. I’ve only done biking for a year and a half. I really enjoy it so I want work on that more,” he said.

“I’m looking to run at a much faster pace as well. I’ve got a lot of room for improvement to gain some strength.”

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