August 3, 2006 at 9:13 a.m.
“Last January or February, some of my patients said they were going to be in it,” the Lindstrom chiropractor recalled. “Hey, that sounds like fun!” was the 43-year old’s reply. From there, it was too late to back out.
“A couple, who are patients of mine and pretty aggressive competitors, encouraged me. Plus, it gave me a reason to shed a few pounds,” Virga commented.
Since then, Dr. Joe went on a diet. “The first 20 or 25 pounds came off in about five weeks.” He cut out refined sugar and white flour, as well as potatoes. “I get plenty to eat, but ‘no pasta’ is tough for an Italian,” explained Virga, who lost a total of 30 pounds in preparation for his first triathlon.
“The organizers provide a good program to help us train for the race. I think it was on four Mondays in March. Of course, I couldn’t attend any of them. But, I got a written copy and it provided a real good template to follow.
“I was too busy to complete it. Like most people, I had too many professional and family obligations to train as much as I should have,” Virga added. “I’m probably undertrained. I’m probably better suited for the sprint.”
He biked 30 miles in conjunction with a nine mile run to help get ready for the triathlon. That sounds like plenty to most of us, but the race includes a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile run.
The longest running event Virga had ever completed was a 10K (6.2 miles) race while he was in college. Since then, he’s competed in a few 5K runs, but never in anything as arduous as a triathlon.
He did have concerns before the race. All the racers are concerned about potential mechanical breakdowns of their bikes. Flat tires are common and other problems are very possible. Dr. Joe wasn’t as worried about the heat or the running portion of the race. “Running will be my strongest leg. I love to run in the heat. But, after two other events...who knows?”
Swimming is a different matter. “I’m pretty confident that, if I get out of the water, I’ll finish. I have a little discomfort with the water,” Virga added. Upon further discussion, he admitted that his concern with being in the water goes beyond discomfort. “Sounds like it gets pretty crowded and scary out there.”
Concerns about the water turned out to be well founded. “I bet I swam two miles. I could have cut a lot of time if I could swim straight,” Virga said the morning after the race. “The only time I felt like baling out was when I took a big mouthful of water early in the swim. I had to go over to one of the buoys and rest for a while.”
He used the buoys for support several other times, but finished the last third of the triangular swimming course without a break. Despite struggling a bit in the water, Virga finished the aquatic leg within a minute of his one hour goal.
“Once I got out of the water, I was SO pumped. I was happy. Biking went really well. I passed more than 35 people. It turned out better than I thought it would. I felt very comfortable on the bike. I was kind of in a zone. It seemed that the wind was in our face the whole first half. But, once we got to Taylors Falls, it was at our backs all the way back to Center City...and further,” Virga recalled. Again, Dr. Joe finished very close to his three hour goal to bike the 50+ miles.
He was surprised at how difficult the run was. “I had to stop more frequently than I thought I’d have to. I would run a couple of miles and then walk one.” Virga had hoped to finish the 13 mile run in two hours. Despite taking almost three hours to complete the run, Virga was happy with his performance.
“I felt kind of nauseous while I was on the bike...Probably a combination of the heat and the gel they gave us (to eat). We had some people out to the house after the race and then we went to eat. At about 6:30, we went to The Cornerstone and I ordered the king-cut of prime rib. I ate everything. I felt good,” said Virga who also shared that he had no trouble sleeping Sunday night.
“I feel a lot better this morning than I thought I would,” Dr. Joe said Monday morning.
He was full of praise for everyone connected with the event. “They did a great job running it....The volunteers, the water stations were just great.” He also commented on the support shown by the spectators along the race route. “It gave us a boost, mentally. I even saw some people along the way that I knew. It meant a lot to see them out there, cheering us on. It was inspiring.
“I was really proud of the number of area people who finished and did well.
Virga also said that he was overcome with the reaction of people to his completion of the triathlon. “I wasn’t expecting this! I’ve had a flood of support since the race. I’ve had a lot of calls this morning. It’s been astonishing, very moving.”
He may have had some concerns about commiting to the triathlon. However, he certainly has no regrets now that it’s over. I’m not sure that I accomplished as much in seven hours, 18 minutes, 17.4 seconds. Congratulations to Dr. Joe and the other competitors.