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Posted: Wednesday, September 5, 2001 10:00 pm

Lodian proving to be a regular Ironman

By Corey S. Koshman/News-Sentinel staff writer

Lodi's Cliff Barnes recently completed a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run in the 17th Annual Ironman Canada.

The 47-year-old father of three took 43rd in his age division out of 194 men.

The Ironman started at 6:50 a.m. on the shore of Okanagan Lake in Penticton, British Columbia. At 7 a.m., more than 1,900 participants set out on the 2.4-mile swim.

Once the swim was complete, the competitors headed for a tent where they stripped out of their wet suits and got on their bikes for the uphill journey of the 112-mile bike ride.

Finally, at the bike-to-run transition area, they put on their running shoes for a 26.2-mile marathon course. The course officially closes at midnight.

For this particular Ironman, Barnes started his training more than a year ago. Barnes worked his way up from 20-mile runs to 30 and 35 miles. He also increased his bike ride up to 100 and 120 miles from 85. Included in his weekly regimen was a six-mile swim once a week.

Barnes' hundred-mile bike rides often take him up to the hill country.

He starts early in the morning in Lodi and winds his way up to the home of the 49er miners: Jackson, Sutter Creek, Pioneer and Volcano.

Barnes was motivated to compete in triathlons more than 13 years ago as a way to shed unwanted weight.

"I've pretty much been overweight most of my life," Barnes said. "It was a kind of a drastic change of philosophy."

In Canada, Barnes said that the entire town shut down on race day.

"What really amazed me was the participation of the entire city," Barnes said. "It consumed the entire town. Everywhere you looked businesses had their windows painted welcoming the participants. It was like Christmas."

The Ironman Canada began 17 years ago with only 13 people. This year the starting group was one of the largest group of athletes at any triathlon, according to Barnes.

Barnes met people from Alaska, China and Japan while in Canada.

When Barnes isn't riding his bike in the foothills, running or swimming laps, he's driving a big-rig truck for Costco out of Tracy.

Barnes' wife, Cathy, and his three daughters, Harmony, 22, Breann, 19, and Chelsey, 12, are his biggest fans.

"I call them my water mules," he said. "They follow me with my water."

Chelsey Barnes accompanied her parents to Canada. She says that the highlight of her trip was accompanying her father across the finish line.

She hopes to follow in his footsteps and be the youngest female to compete in an Ironman competition. Recently, she took first in her age division at a Rainbow Kids Ironman.

Cliff Barnes has competed in six half-Ironman competitions, the Florida Ironman and the Wildflower Triathlon at Lake San Antonio, which he plans to do again this year.

He is currently looking to compete in the first half-Ironman at Rancho Seco in October.

The ultimate thrill for Barnes is the challenge of finishing.

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