GILFORD — A typical 28-year-old wouldn’t give their mother much chance at beating them in a footrace, let alone a triathlon. But Rhys Goff’s mother, Kim Goff, is one of the country’s most accomplished athletes. She has run in more than 100 marathons, and won 29 of them. She also competes in ultra-marathons and got into triathlons in 2002, and since then has completed several Ironman events.
Kim passed the bug on to her son, and last month the two of them competed in the Ironman triathlon in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec. The race challenged participants to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, then run a full marathon. Prior to the event, Rhys had no idea whether he or his mother would cross the finish line first.
In the end, it was pretty close to a tie. Rhys emerged from the lake with a lead over Kim, 57, and protected his lead during the bicycling event. Kim started to chase him down in the run but ran out of race course. He crossed the line in 12 hours and 56 minutes, she followed just 12 minutes later.
They both insisted, though, that the only competition was between each entrant and the course.
“It’s an individual journey to the finish line,” said Kim. “We don’t have a competitive thing going. I think he’s very proud of all his accomplishments, and I am tenfold proud of his Ironman… To cross the finish line and see him standing before me, it brought tears to my eyes.”
The Mont-Tremblant event is notable because it takes place in a quaint ski town that looks transplanted from the French Alps. For the Goffs, it holds a special place because it was Kim’s first full Ironman. It’s now Rhys’, too.
Rhys, who moved to Gilford when he was 10 and graduated from Gilford High School in 2007, now lives in Connecticut where he works as a mechanical engineer. Rhys is getting into the triathlon game fairly late, considering that the part of Gilford he grew up in was flooded with traithletes for one weekend each summer, when the Timberman was held at Ellacoya State Park.
The Timberman might not have pulled in Rhys, who played soccer for Gilford High School. But it succeeded in getting Kim into the sport, which she saw as a new athletic challenge.
For many years, Kim – who lives in Gilford and works as a labor and delivery nurse at Speare Memorial Hospital in Plymouth – was among the country’s best female distance runners. She was good enough that race organizers would pay for her flight, lodging and incidental expenses so she could run in marathons, then she would take home the prize money. The next year, she would get the organizers to pay for her whole family to come out, and that’s how they were able to vacation in places such as Barbados, South Africa and Austria.
There was one stretch when Kim won 10 consecutive marathons. That stretch included one of her many wins of the Barbados Marathon, when her calf muscle ruptured at mile 24. She said it felt as though she had been shot in her leg. A less competitive runner would have used that as an excuse to exit the race, or to walk the final stretch. But Kim had a lead to protect, so she lurched as fast as she could for the final two miles.
“You better believe I won,” she said.
Kim entered her first triathlon, the now-defunct half-Ironman “Timberman,” in 2002. Rhys, while still in high school, helped run the Timberman from the sideline. It wasn’t until several years afterward that he started to become interested in participating in a triathlon. He started running while in college, and he picked up cycling while spending a semester in Munich.
Rhys had finished six marathons prior to Mont-Tremblant, and he had completed training sessions that approximated the running, cycling and swimming distances in preparation for the event, “But I’ve never put them all together.” He anticipated that he would find the finish line, though. “It really gives everyone a big adrenaline rush. Training is harder than doing the actual event.”
Kim and Rhys have already decided to return to Mont-Tremblant next year. And, though they’ll be on the course together, they won’t be racing each other.
“Let’s just make this a typical mom-son weekend and throw an Ironman into it,” Kim said.
Adam Drapcho can be reached at AD@LaconiaDailySun.com