Blake Mitchell didn’t buy his own bicycle until September. He couldn’t swim more than 50 yards without a break when 2018 began. On Sunday, he completed the IRONMAN 70.3 in Raleigh, N.C.
“I mean I can swim, but as far as swimming any length at all …,” the 33-year-old former South Carolina quarterback said.
In fact, when Mitchell was peer-pressured by neighbors into signing up for the race, the first thing he did was go and take a swimming lesson to make sure he knew what he was doing.
“When I first started swimming, I’d swim 500-600 yards, not constantly but taking breaks, and I would come home in the morning and say, ‘There’s no way I’m going not be able to do it,’ ” he said. “But I just kept going.”
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The same was true during the race, which he finished in seven hours and 15 minutes. Mitchell and the rest of the finishers swam 1.2 miles, biked 56 miles and then completed a 13.1-mile half-marathon.
“I knew if I got out of the water, I could finish the rest,” he said.
Mitchell completed 482 passes for 5,992 yards, 38 touchdowns and 30 interceptions for the Gamecocks from 2004-2007. He’s not sure if he’s in better shape now than he was as a college athlete, but it’s a different type of conditioning. He said his former head coach Steve Spurrier, a fitness addict himself, would “probably” be surprised to learn he just completed the race.
“I crossed the finish line. That was my goal, get out and do it and finish it and see how I stood and benchmark to improve,” said Mitchell, adding he might try to tackle a full IROMAN (which doubles the distance of each event) in the future. “I’ll probably do another one. The whole training process, you’re working out almost every day. It makes you feel good.”
He first started his training with neighbors who had an extra bike and were triathlon veterans.
“We are all sitting around one night, and he signs up for the race in Raleigh so I signed up for it,” he said. “At that point, I’d already paid the money, so I figured I better start training and be prepared.”
Mitchell, a native of LaGrange, Ga., is now a sales manager for Superior Windows & Roofing in Charleston. He’s yet to meet new Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp but has been impressed with Muschamp’s progress with the program, he said.
“We were flying high at one point in time and kind of let things get away from us, but I’m excited about where it’s headed,” Mitchell said. ”For coach Muschamp to do the things he has done, it’s been awesome as a fan and a former player. We’re not where you want to be but a lot better than where we were a few years ago.”