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How to Save a Life

University of Florida Coach Chris Tippin

Striding into the sundrenched morning, Chris Tippin brimmed with confidence. He lived for race days, and this – on April 13, 2008, in Tempe, Arizona – was the biggest of his life.

Walking from his hotel, he joined the droves of endurance athletes descending upon the desert city for its annual Ironman triathlon. If all went as planned, Tippin, then 33, would be packing his bags for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

Excitement and adrenaline flooded his veins. In mere minutes, 10 months of dedicated training would condense into 10-plus hours of blissful competition. He kissed his wife, Lin, goodbye. She wished him good luck. He knew he didn’t need it.

All he had to do was stick to a timeline.

As he and 2,413 others rumbled towards the shores of Tempe Town Lake, 140.6 miles of water and asphalt lay ahead, ready to dissolve the mettle of even the most seasoned athletes. An hour and 59 seconds in, bib number 517 emerged from the water, having breezed through the 2.4-mile swim. Feeling fresh, he bounded toward the staging area and clipped himself into the pedals of his bicycle. Then the wind started whipping.

The 30 mile-an-hour gales harried him for over 112 miles. His pace dipped to a sluggish 12 miles per hour; he had planned, at a minimum, to average 25. On the sidelines, Lin worried. Traditionally, the bike was her husband’s strongest event.

“He’s having a tough time,” she told her best friend, Mike. “It’s gonna be a rough one.”

Six hours passed before Tippin dismounted his bicycle and readied himself for the marathon. The desert heat had already exacted its toll on dozens of competitors; but as he set off on the Ironman’s final challenge, temperatures had soared to 112 degrees.

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About Row360

Welcome to Row360, the world’s only global, independent rowing magazine. Row360 brings you features from around the world, profiling the best athletes, coaches, and others from the whole rowing community – Olympic, adaptive, college, club, ocean, and more.