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Trying a new approach | Community recreation feature

Flahiff said wearing the red, white and blue was,
Flahiff said wearing the red, white and blue was, 'A dream come true.'
— image credit: Courtesy photo, Daniel Flahiff

Two years ago Daniel Flahiff was overweight, depressed and uncertain of how to break a cycle of poor health habits.

He could manage to run for only around 30 seconds, had trouble keeping up with his two young sons and was unable to swim even a single lap in the pool. But luckily for Flahiff, one seemingly inconsequential post on Facebook changed all of that.

An acquaintance was training for the Seattle-to-Portland bike ride and despite the wintry conditions, remained dedicated to the process of working his body and mind into proper condition for the 200-mile challenge. Something about the notion of the bike ride and the work that went into it captured Flahiff's imagination and sent him on a course that would take him halfway around the world and transform his life in the process.

"I went to the Cascade Bicycle Club exchange and totally got inspired," he said. "I took that goal as my mission to get back into shape."

Flahiff completed the Seattle to Portland that year and was immediately bitten by the fitness bug, which led him to find new ways to train between races. That process opened an entirely new realm of possibilities and as he began swimming and running, triathlons became a natural fit.

His first few multi-sport competitions were a learning experience, as he dealt with the challenges of transitioning between stages and taking on longer swims. But after meeting with a local triathlon coach through his graphic design company, Flahiff earned the opportunity of a lifetime.

"He became my coach and as a result of that, I was able to sneak on the podium," he said. "I'm always up for something new."

While he was always excited at the prospect of bettering his physical condition and competing again, Flahiff never imagined his foray into triathlons would take him much further than a couple hundred miles down Interstate 5. But when he finished in the top-10 at a qualifying event on Mercer Island, all of that changed.

"The top 10 in the age group qualified for the U.S. team," he said. "I finished ninth."

His finish in the local competition earned Flahiff a unique opportunity to represent the United States in his age group at the Aquathlon World Championships, a competition that eliminates the bike ride of a triathlon and brought Flahiff to New Zealand to face off against the best in the world.

His finish at the event was indicative of the intense level of competition, which included some professional multi-sport athletes from the United States and elsewhere. But the benefits of competing went far beyond his posted time.

Friends and acquaintances came out of the woodwork to help Flahiff raise more than $2,000 for his trip through the online fundraising platform "GoFundMe". Some even said his trip was an inspiration for them to take back their own physical condition.

"If it does inspire people, at the end of the day that would be just as exciting as going," Flahiff said. "I just really feel so blessed."

Now in the best shape of his life and again searching for the next challenge, Flahiff said competing at the World Championships gave him a new perspective not only on his own ability, but what it can look like in the future.

He said he often feels like "the old guy," at many of the competitions he does locally, but watching as competitors in their 70s took on a full length event gave a glance into the years to come. It also gave him a greater appreciation for his ability to spend quality time with his family, including his two sons.

"I have tons more energy now to deal with them," he said. "I feel good about setting a good example not only about being fit and making healthy choices, but working hard day after day."

Flahiff and a fellow competitor from the U.S. after the competition. COURTESY PHOTO, DANIEL FLAHIFF

Daniel Flahiff poses near the swimming course at the Aquathlon World Championships in Aukland, New Zealand. COURTESY PHOTO, DANIEL FLAHIFF

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