Triathlon runner proud to represent his country

Gerry Farris has felt better about his results at previous international meets. But none of his triathlons may have been as enjoyable as the International Triathlon Union's Long Distance World Championships on Nov. 5 in scenic Henderson, Nev.

The 50-year old Concord emergency room doctor placed 35th in his age group, but what Farris enjoyed the most was the feeling of pride he had by representing his country. He was one of 61 participants in the 50-54 age group competing for the United States.

It was the third time that Farris, a Cox Mill cross country and track assistant coach, has worn the red, white and blue in an international competition in the last 10 years.

The swimming portion of the this year's event was canceled due to chilly weather, but the 120-kilometer bicycling and 30-kilometer running portions were laid out through the hills that surround picturesque Lake Mead.

"There was nothing but hills and rocks, but it was beautiful," said Farris.

Calling it the "hardest course I've ever done," Farris said his goal was to "enjoy the day and soak up the experience."

He finished with a time of 7hours, 5 minutes and 26 seconds. Farris has already qualified for next year's world championships in Spain but he says it's too early for him to know whether he will compete or not.

Farris competed in his first triathlon on a dare in 1986, with "someone saying that you can't finish this race in this amount of time." He was 25 at the time and living in New Orleans.

Averaging about six events a year, Farris has participated in triathlons every year since. In 1999, he and his family moved to Concord where he took a job at Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast.

Starting in 2001, Farris finished his first long-distance Ironman Triathlon. He has completed three other Ironman events since, the most recent being in 2009 in British Columbia, Canada.

Farris competed in his first World Championships in the 40-44 age group in France in 2002. He placed 49th in his age group, his best finish in an international competition before last week.

Farris also participated in the World Championships the following year in Spain. In his age group, he was the second U.S. athlete to finish, marking his best-ever outcome for his country.

Farris advanced to this year's World Championships by placing well at a national qualifying half-Ironman event in Myrtle Beach last year.

He continues to compete because "I continue to find training partners that drag me into it," he said. Between 2005 and 2007 he competed for a cycling team that represented CMC-NorthEast, and last year found a newly formed triathlon club whose members are mostly from Concord and Huntersville.

Farris lives on the west side of Concord, where he does all of his training. He runs through his neighborhood, swims at NOMAD and bikes through Concord and Kannapolis.

He also participates in adventure racing, competitions in which the objective is to get between two points over rugged terrain by using maps and compasses. He is a member of a local group called the Trailblazers Club.

When Cox Mill High opened in 2009, a friend getting involved in the athletic booster club suggested that he help coach the cross country and track teams, of which Farris' daughter, Molly, is a member.

"It's been a very rewarding experience," said Farris. "I tell people even though it's an extra time commitment, I get more out of it than (the athletes) do. A lot of people have helped me get where I am, so I'm more than happy to give back."