Father-son duo competes on national triathlon stage
Over 925 miles separates Tim and Ken Hola, but the competition always finds a way to bring them together.
Tim — a 1993 Fort Dodge Senior High graduate — and Ken, who was a plant manager at Friskies for more than 30 years, currently live in different time zones. Tim is in Denver, with Ken in Shoreview, Minn.
Though they don’t see each other often, they’ll jump at the chance to meet up at a triathlon.
“It’s pretty special,” Tim said. “It’s rare for any father and son or daughter to do something like this, especially with the age (difference).
“Our days don’t last forever, so you have to cherish each race and value the time you have. It’s special for me. There are no promises.”
The father-son duo has competed in triathlons numerous times, and recently, completed a 1-2 performance in the USA Triathlon national championship.
Tim, who is 43 years old, brought home the title in the 40-44 age group. Ken, 74, finished as runner up in the 75-79 division in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.
“This race (in Cleveland) was very special to me in my hometown,” Ken said. “It worked out well for us, placing (first and second). The award ceremony was in the Cleveland Public Hall.
“The last time I was in the Hall was on the same stage in 1962 when I graduated from high school. Now, in 2018, I was able to share that stage with my son.”
The tandem has entered one or two triathlons a year together for the last 10 years. It all started when Tim was in college in 1995.
“I swam all through high school, and my later years (as a junior and senior), my dad was competing in triathlons,” Tim said. “He asked me to do one when in I was in college in 1995, and I’ve been doing them ever since.”
Tim is an accomplished triathlon athlete, competing in 214 in his career. He has also participated in the Hawaii Iron Man 16 times. The former Dodger has won two world age group championships and three national titles.
To finish out the year, Tim has some smaller races planned in Colorado. Ken will be competing in an Iron Man competition in October in Kona, Hawaii.
“Since we live in different places, we don’t train together,” Tim said. “We talk a lot about how our bodies are feeling and compare our training.
“I will be helping him with his race in October.”
Ken enjoys the time he is able to spend with his son, doing something they both love.
“We have a good time. There are a lot of traditions that go with it,” Ken said. “We go to Lubock to compete in the Buffalo Springs race (half Iron Man), and every year, we go to the gravesite of Buddy Holly in his hometown. It gives us good luck before the race.
“It’s great (to run with Tim), being able to realize at my age that this would actually happen. It has far exceeded my expectations.”
Ken competes in about four or five events per year, even at his age.
“The first one I did was when we were in Fort Dodge,” Ken said. “My wife (Fran) and I did one in 1984 in Okoboji. My daughter Christine is also into fitness. She is a personal trainer in Naperville, Ill.”
As a father, Ken has a lot of special memories from competitions with his son. His favorite event may be the trip to Panama City, Fla.
“We were competing together in Panama City,” Ken said. “When the race started, he had left before me and I was biking out. The leader has a motorcyle escort.
“When I hopped on the bike, I saw the motorcyle and I saw Tim right behind it. I yelled out to him and proudly thought, ‘that’s my son.'”