Senior philosophy, politics and law major Daniel Simonds walked back to his apartment after finishing an astounding 80 miles on the stationary bike at the Lyon Center. When he got back to his place, instead of getting in the shower or taking a nap, he simply changed his clothes, got a quick bite to eat and began the second part of his workout: an 18 mile run to Manhattan Beach. This rigorous day of training took a huge toll on Simonds’ body, but by no means was it his crowning achievement. That is set to come on Sunday, when he will run in his very first Iron Man Triathlon, a competition characterized by some impressive figures: a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, 26.2 mile run and $3,500 to charity.
Simonds will start his race in the cold waters of Lake Tahoe at 6 a.m., embarking on a full day of brutal exercise which can take contestants up to 17 hours to complete. The 140.6 mile race will be the culmination of months of intense, focused training. But Sunday will be about more than just Simonds’ personal accomplishments. It will mark a victory for a handful of cancer patients in Manhattan Beach, hundreds of miles away from the race.
The John Wayne Cancer Foundation is a small non-profit health organization that provides support to cancer patients through active programs such as sports and summer camps, while also devoting resources for research.
“It’s small and personal,” Simonds said, who noted the relationships formed as one of the key components for why he became attached to the organization. “Being active has done so much for me, and that’s what I want to give to these people who haven’t been as lucky as I have.”
After visiting and getting to know more about the foundation, Simonds knew that he had found a worthwhile cause. Fundraising became a part of the daily regiment, just as much as the physical training. He first approached Chris McCall, a fellow Kappa Sigma brother and the fraternity’s president at USC about his triathlon plans.
“He was so supportive of me,” Simonds said.
According to Simonds, Kappa Sigma’s $300 donation kick-started his fundraising drive. From there, Simonds used a variety of tactics, including handwritten letters, emails and personal conversations to raise money. Going into the race on Sunday, Simonds has $3,500 pledged in his name to the John Wayne Cancer Foundation.
Simonds hails from Santa Rosa, Calif. where he was involved in sports in middle and high school. Throughout his childhood, he had taken a liking to baseball and soccer. It was at the beginning of high school, however, that he fully dedicated himself to tennis.
“I was playing about seven times a week,” Simonds said.
Before his senior year he was even debating taking his passion for tennis to the collegiate level, and he had been in contact with the tennis coach at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo before a shoulder injury prior to his senior season left him unable to compete.
During his sophomore year at USC, however, Simonds wanted to try something new.
“I decided on a whim to run a marathon,” Simonds said.
After signing up for the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, Simonds began a training program that he admits was less than adequate.
“I felt terrible during the race,” Simonds said. “It was clear I didn’t prepare the way I should have.”
Despite the state of his body during the race, there was something Simonds found appealing about the marathon.
“It’s that hard work and the fact that you pushed yourself that I like,” Simonds said. “I like to see how far I can push myself.”
When Simonds committed to participate in this year’s Iron Man, it was clear that he had a lot to do before the start of the race. From then on, he trained 12 times a week in a manner that he describes as “periodized.” Simonds would usually complete two workouts a day, practicing two of the three disciplines, then alternating throughout the week. The weekends were usually reserved for the longer, more strenuous runs and bike rides where he really pushed his endurance.
The training process tested his body, but also his discipline.
“Training at school meant that I had to say ‘no’ a lot,” Simonds said. “You have to believe that each one of these times you sacrifice hanging out with someone or going to the 9-0 is worth it. You have to believe that.”
In the final days before the starting gun sounds, Simonds is giving 100 percent of his attention to the coming race. He will spend his time sleeping, stretching, walking through key parts of the course and eating.
“It’s nothing too fancy, just stay safe, stretch. It’s not the time to try Indian food for the first time,” Simonds said.
Mentally and physically, Simonds admits that he is only ready to an extent. In the lead up to the race, he read the book Going Long, which is essentially a how-to for the Iron Man competition. The book explains that no training can replicate the feeling of an Iron Man. There is no point, Simonds explains, in planning his time or setting goals for his first race. He just wants to finish.
“It’s an ominous feeling when you don’t know how it’s going to take a toll on your body,” Simonds said.
Sunday may be Simonds’ last opportunity to do an Iron Man. Next year he plans to graduate, attend law school and follow in the footsteps of his mother, Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Dana B. Simonds.
For the time being, however, Simonds is not thinking about anything past 6 a.m. Sunday morning. Though the outcome of the race is not certain, one thing is: the $3,500 going to the John Wayne Cancer Foundation.
“I’m just happy I could do something positive,” Simonds said. “I’m happy I can give back.”