By Kim Welk
Jeff and Johnny Agar of Rockford, Michigan will be among the faces in the Ironman Boulder 70.3 event on Saturday. Jeff and Johnny are a father-son team. Johnny is 23 and was born with cerebral palsy. Johnny is an athlete. On his website, Johnny defines athlete as – “a person who is proficient in sports and other physical exercise.” He goes on to state that “Now that I have crossed the finish line, I feel like I am officially an athlete.” Jeff and Johnny have completed 5Ks to Marathons and sprint to 70.3 triathlons.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Jeff and Johnny as well as his Mom Becki, Sisters Annie and Grace and Coaches Thad Beaty and Nicole Serraiocco to talk about the race.
This is the family’s first visit to Colorado. After driving 17 hours from Michigan they were happy to settle into their home away from home for the week. Johnny enjoyed the opportunity to visit a park with his Aunt and Uncle and fish in the stream where he caught several brown trout. He also hopes to get to the Olympic Training Center while he is here. The family also plans to go to a Colorado Rockies baseball game. They all expressed how much they like Colorado and how excited they are to be here.
Jeff and Johnny have been getting their training in since arriving. Yesterday was a preview of the swim at the reservoir and a brief look at the bike course. They have also driven the bike course and looked at targets using Best Bike Split software to determine their strategy for race day. The goal for both Jeff and Johnny is to manage the matches that they will use on the course and ensure that there are enough matches left for Johnny to walk the last ½ mile of the run course and cross the finish under his own power. For Jeff – this means controlling power output on the bike, hydrating properly to limit the impacts of the altitude and applying his training with confidence. For Johnny – he too needs to ensure that he is properly hydrated, he has to shift around in the chariot to keep his feet awake so they are ready to walk and he says his most important job is to remind his Dad about his cadence! He looks forward to the ice cream post race!
As most triathletes know, mindset is equally as important as the skills needed to swim, bike and run. Johnny’s mindset is an inspiration. He believes that failure is part of the process. He has received encouragement from his family, his coaches and his friends every step of the way. His sister Annie said “if he failed it was not because of the fact that he had cerebral palsy it was because he did not try hard enough.” And Johnny agrees – he takes ownership and does not make excuses. Johnny is not worried about not doing it, he is worried about “not trying.”
Race morning will involve many checklists. Johnny said that he doesn’t sleep because he is so excited for the event so when it is time to get rolling he is waking the family up. His Sisters commented that their job is to get themselves to the car so that he stops herding them to go! Jeff said the set-up takes much longer for them with all of the equipment and referring to the checklists often is a must. He said there is only one time that you show up at a race without a life jacket!
Jeff and Johnny will have their coaches on sight to support them throughout the day. They embrace the opportunity to learn and grow from observing this team at work and to gather information to carry forward to the next goal. The Agars are hoping for an invitation to return to Kona and Johnny will continue to train towards his ultimate goal of completing a 5K on his own and “give his Dad a break!”
Here is a great video taken Wednesday by coach Nicole Serraiocco:
To learn more about Team Agar, visit their webpage – www.TeamAgar.com.
As the writer of this article, receiving the opportunity to cover Team Agar at this race is a gift that is amazing. There were so many valuable life lessons learned in our brief conversation. I look forward to a continued friendship with the family and following Johnny and Jeff’s journey and celebrating each milestone along the way.
Look for additional information throughout the weekend on Team Agar’s journey as well as their race recap. Until then as Johnny says – “one step at a time!