By Mark Wright
A 78-year-old Mormon Iron Man
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- Max Burdick is 78 years old. He stands
5-foot-7 and weighs about 135 pounds. He's also deaf and wears
hearing aids in both ears. In fact, he looks much more like the
grandfather he is than like a world-class athlete. But amazingly
enough, Burdick has proven his athletic prowess by repeatedly
participating in one of the most difficult and challenging sports in
the world, the triathlon. The triathlon is a grueling competition
that combines a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike, and a 26.2-mile run,
all completed back-to-back. The most famous triathlon competition is
the Ironman held each year in Kona, Hawaii and which attracts elite
triathletes from all over the world, including Burdick.
A long-time resident of Holladay, Utah, Burdick entered his first
Kona Ironman competition in 1982. He's returned almost every year
since, competing in 17 races and finishing the tortuous course six
times. His journey to becoming an Iron man began when he was 43 years
old and received orders from his doctor to start exercising. 35 years
and tens of thousands of miles later, Burdick is a legend in the
world of triathlons. Along with three other triathletes, Burdick is a
member of the "Methuselah Gang." The membership qualifications are
simple to understand yet difficult to attain; you must be at least 75
years old, have competed in the Kona Ironman event for at least 15
years, and have finished the competition at least five times.
Known as a "good Mormon" by his fellow competitors, Burdick is also
known for his unorthodox training regimen. "I don't train wisely,"
says Burdick, who trains alone because he says he can't hear anyone
else anyway. "I have no real training schedule," he says. "Sometimes,
I may do three or four events in a day, other days I might do none."
Regardless of his training technique, Burdick's impressive
performance over a long period of time has earned him the respect of
his fellow triathletes. "Max is a real phenomenon and a solid
triathlete," says longtime friend and competitor Norton Davey, who
competes in the age group above Burdick (80-over). "I don't think I
could even show up for a race doing as little as he does! It's
incredible what that guy can do." When asked about his future in the
sport, Burdick notes that he thinks he can continue, even though
training is not his favorite part of competing. "A lot of my buddies
have said they would train and compete until they die. Some of them
did just that," Burdick muses. "I haven't said that yet. There are
times when I get tired of training."
While he's definitely slowing down and hasn't finished the Kona
Ironman race since 1992, don't expect Burdick to quit anytime soon.
He's hoping to compete in Hawaii again this year, despite not yet
having earned a spot in the competition. However, based on his keen
competitive spirit and his unfailing determination, don't be
surprised to see Burdick cross the finish line in Hawaii once again.
Burdick and fellow 'Methuselahs' aim for Hawaiian invite
Salt Lake Tribune 8Jul01 S2
By Carrie Sheinberg: Salt Lake Tribune