Call him the accidental Ironman.

Eight years ago Aaron Springhetti ’08 was in dental school when some friends— runners looking for a new challenge—suggested a triathlon. He tagged along largely unaware of the challenge he was getting into.

He finished second in his age group at that first triathlon in Lexington, KY—the sprint-variety 400-yard swim, 12.6-mile bike ride, and 3-mile run. He’s been hooked ever since.

“I really didn’t know what a triathlon was,” Aaron says. “I just kind of fell in love with it.”

Today the dentist is among the best triathletes in the world and will compete in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, HI, in October. Aaron faces a 2.4- mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run. He’d better love it.

Even as his competitiveness took him from those sprint distances to full Ironman, he was unaware of what the race in Kona was, or what it meant. Kona invites the best of the best. Competitors qualify for that event at other triathlons around the world.

In his first attempt at the Ironman distance, he finished fourth in his age group, missing a qualifying spot by two places. Five attempts later, he earned his spot.

“Kona became another challenge within the challenge of Ironman for me to pursue,” he says. “Not until I really started to pursue Kona did I begin structuring my life around my training plan.”

Aaron puts 16 hours per week into his training and ups that to 20 in the two to three months leading up to a race. Nearly every day is a two-a-day, meaning he’ll train in two of the three disciplines. Weekdays usually find him swimming around 3,500 to 4,000 yards, biking 20 to 25 miles, and running four to eight miles. On the weekends, those workouts expand to 6,000 yards in the pool, 130 miles on the bike, and 20 miles on foot.

The hard part, he says, is finding the balance in life: “I’m always on the go. I never sit down, I rarely watch TV, and when I do, it’s when I’m eating a meal.”

With more than 2,000 athletes set to start the Ironman World Championships, Aaron will be in motion for a good long while. He’s set a goal of being the top-finishing amateur, which could place him in the top-30 finishers worldwide.

Aaron has a secret to get him through the monotony of training, to push through at mile 20 on race day, to reach down deep and run a little faster in those last few miles before he breaks the tape along the legendary Ali’i Drive.

“For Kona, I have about 30 family and friends going,” he says, “so every time I’m out on a long run or ride, especially when things are getting harder, I envision them lining Ali’i Drive and see them cheering.”

Richard Paige