When he was 20 years old, Tim Hola ran his first triathlon — an endurance race of back-to-back swimming, cycling and running — with his father.
More than 20 years later, Hola has competed in about 200 races across the U.S., Japan and Canada. And in 2016 — based on race times and projected best times for his age group — USA Triathlon ranked the Highlands Ranch resident first nationally among 3,450 triathletes ages 40 to 44.
“My secret is getting up early and getting it done,” Hola, 42, said. “It's important to me to be a better person, athlete, husband, father.”
A medical sales manager, Hola spends 15 to 20 hours a week exercising. He usually wakes up at 4:30 a.m. and heads to Westridge Recreation Center to swim and lift weights. He then sees his trainer. Sometimes he runs or bikes outdoors.
Hola describes his workouts as therapeutic. Training helps him think clearly and reflect on his decisions.
“I have a healthy body,” said Hola, “which leads to a healthy mind.”
Born and raised in Iowa, Hola and his wife, Nicole, moved to Highlands Ranch in 2003. They picked the community because of the location. Close by is the 19.5-mile East-West Regional Trail and Chatfield State Park. Just south is the Backcountry Wilderness Area with 20 miles of natural surface trails for hiking and biking.
“That has fostered not only the training but it gives our kids and our family a nice outlet,” said Hola, who has 10-year-old twin boys.
Juggling family, work and triathlon training can be challenging. Competing in races requires time off work, travel and expenses. When he flies, he constantly worries if his bike is safe.
But being a triathlete is Hola's dream, said Nicole Hola.
“When I watch Tim race it is very inspiring,” she said over an email correspondence. “I know day in and day out how hard Tim works to be at the level he is at with his racing. And to see him out there reaching for his goals at such a high level is really incredible to watch.”
To be nationally ranked, Hola had to be a registered member of USA Triathlon and participate in at least three triathlons, three duathlons — a bike and foot race — or two races in any other multisport discipline, according to usatriathlon.org.
Among Hola's recent races are a half-Ironman — a 70.3-mile triathlon — in southern California, which he completed in 4 hours and 26 minutes. In April, he finished the Boston Marathon — 26 miles on foot — in 2 hours and 50 minutes, his best time ever. He will be doing another half-Ironman in Texas this June and plans to compete in local races throughout the summer.
Hola was hooked on triathlons after that first race with his dad, who is still racing at 73 years old. To this day, the father and son compete together, talk strategy, cheer each other on.
They have race rituals — like visiting rock and roll legend Buddy Holly's grave when they compete in Texas — and like to discuss the meaning of life when traveling to a race destination.
“Doing triathlons together," Hola's father, Ken Hola, said in an email, "has done a great job of strengthening the bond between my son and I."