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Father and son a triple-threat triathlon team

BY KYLE HUGHES | JUNE 17, 2011 7:20 AM

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Swimming 600 yards, biking 15 miles, and then running more than three miles isn’t what most fathers do to spend time with their sons.

But for Ray Zebrowski and son Joe Zebrowski, it has become a favorite activity.

On Saturday, the two will compete in their fourth triathlon together when they race in the 12th-annual Quad Cities Triathlon.

Ray and Joe Zebrowski, who will be a junior at Iowa this fall, have always used sports and fitness as a way to spend time together. The elder Zebrowski said that after he first competed in a triathlon four years ago, he knew it was something he wanted to get his son into.

“My brother-in-law mentioned that he had done a triathlon, and for some reason, that just stuck with me,” he said. “I did one by myself, and then I persuaded Joe to give it a try with me.”

The younger Zebrowski said he was excited about accepting the challenge and happy to have a training partner in his father.

“It makes it a lot easier when you have somebody else doing it with you,” the 20-year-old said. “Sometimes, if I don’t feel like working out, but he’s pushing me to do it, I’ll be able to get my workout done.”

Ray Zebrowski says his son’s training has paid off.

“[Joe is] way faster than me,” he said. “I think I might have been a little faster than him for the first one, but after that, no. He’s better in the swim, the run, and the bike.”

Joe Zebrowski has improved in each race, lowering his time to a personal-best of 1:35 in his last triathlon. He said he hopes the trend will continue on Saturday.

“I don’t base how I’m doing off how other people do [in the race],” he said. “I just try to push myself. It’s pretty rewarding when you get to the end and get a personal record or best time.”

Being able to complete a triathlon is no easy task. The Zebrowskis started training for Saturday’s race this winter by swimming and running indoors while they waited for the snow to melt and the temperature to rise. Around six weeks ago, they started doing what they called “bricks” — training sessions that combine either a swim and a bike session or a bike ride with a run so they are prepared for the transitions in the race.

“In the winter, we’re thinking about what’s going to happen in the summer, but once that last six weeks comes down, it’s very real,” Ray Zebrowski said. “It’s coming, and we’ve got to be ready for it — or else.”

Many people would be proud to complete a triathlon, but being able to compete in the races together has made the accomplishment even more rewarding for the Zebrowskis.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Joe’s mother, Tricia Zebrowski, a UI professor of communication sciences and disorders. “They have this great relationship and spend a lot of time together. They talk about [the triathlon], and they motivate each other.”

Competing in triathlons has been very special to the father and son, who say the part they enjoy most isn’t crossing the finish line. It’s the time they spend together during the months of vigorous training.

“The race is only like an hour and a half,” Joe Zebrowski said. “But we put in several hundred hours of training together.”


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