Quick, name a governor who's tougher than Jesse Ventura. Can't do it? Then you haven't seen New Mexico's Gary Johnson hauling his honorable butt through an Ironman triathlon, that test of sinew and sanity that goes like this: swim 2.4 miles, race a bike 112 miles, then run a marathon.
"Your results are measurable and your goal is clear-cut. That's what I like about Ironman," says Johnson, 46, a Republican who endured his first triathlon 19 years ago. Last Saturday he finished 582nd among 1,470 competitors in the Ironman Triathlon World Championship at Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Luc Van Lierde of Belgium won in eight hours, 17 minutes and 17 seconds, about two hours ahead of Johnson, but at 10:39:16—a personal best—the gov was more than six hours faster than the stragglers in the event, for which more than 50,000 triathletes tried to qualify.
Johnson, who rise the train at 4:30 a.m. seven days a week, has cycled across his state, climbed Mount McKinely and run 25 miles in Army boots with a 35-pound pack on his back. "I tell a people, find out what makes your life work, whether it's knitting, music are art, and get as a much of as possible," he says " In my case it is fitness."
Why tri so hard? For one thing, it's less maddening than hammering out deals with the political crowd. "All you got out here is pain," Johnson says with a grimace that doubles as a grin.