As a right-handed pitcher at Gov. Thomas Johnson High and Jacksonville State
University, a Division I program in Alabama, Lucas McCollum had a good fastball
and knew how to change speeds.
After graduating, he pursued his dream of becoming a professional ballplayer
for two years in the Independent League.
But following a couple of years of minor league ball with the Selma
Cloverleafs, he said he realized it "was time to get a real career." At that
point, he mostly lifted weights to stay in shape.
McCollum earned a degree in exercise physiology and a minor in nutrition and
enrolled in the University of Maryland Baltimore school of physical therapy.
That's where he met Alan Kinster, an older age-group triathlete studying in the
McCollum's athletic career was about to blossom as he changed gears.
Kinster's advice would affect McCollum's athletic career and life as much as
any baseball coach's ever had. Two-and-a-half years after entering his first
triathlon, McCollum qualified for the Nov. 10 Half-Ironman World Championships
in Clearwater, Fla.
McCollum finished 270th out of nearly 1,600 competitors from around the
world. The 27-year-old took 55th in his age group and posted the 12th best in
his group for an American over the 1/2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, and 13-mile run.
Thing is, all those years as a baseball pitcher, McCollum didn't care for the
most basic conditioning traditionally required of hurlers.
"I hated running," he said. "And as pitcher, all we did was run. The position
players were always getting new gloves and bats and all we got was running
He finished second in his age group at the USA Triathlon Halfmax National
Championships on Sept. 15, and 16th place overall. That means he will travel to
The Netherlands next August and compete for Team USA at the World Long Course
When McCollum started working out with Kinster, he had no plan in mind.
Kinster recognized that McCollum, at about half his age, wasn't destined to
become another ex-jock struggling to keep the pounds off.
McCollum's first triathlon was the Florida Half-Ironman in May 2006. He took
30th in his group.
"I got through the swim and then passed everybody on the bike," McCollum
said. "I was talking to people the whole way, having fun."
Ever since, he's been finishing in the top three in his age group.
"And I got addicted to the sport," he said.
After the first triathlon in the Spring of 2006, he did the Half-Ironman
Med-Ex Mountaineer Triathlon in West Virginia and took sixth in his age group.
That qualified him for the Halfmax National Championships that year in his
second triathlon. Later that season, he did two smaller races: the Lancaster
YMCA Triathlon and the General Smallwood Olympic-distance triathlon. He took
second in his age group at both events.
This past season, he raced at Ironman 70.3 California in San Diego, Tri 101
in Bradenton, Fla., the Med-Ex Half-Ironman again, the Cougar Biathlon in
Frederick and Timberman 70.3 in Gilford, N.H., where he qualified for the World
Championships this month in Clearwater. That's the extent of his experience.
A 6-foot 1, 190-pound pitcher, McCollum slimmed down 25 pounds over the past
two years. During a typical week, he spends four days swimming, three days on
his bike, logging about 300 miles total and four days running an average of
eight to 18 miles at a pop.
His strength as a triathlete is his cycling, he said.
"I never rode a lot, can't really explain it," he said. "Just came natural, I
guess. I've been out on long training rides, climbing hills with professional
cyclists and there have been times when they're struggling to keep up."
McCollum works at the Spring Ridge Physical Therapy Center in Frederick. He
swims at both Hood College and Lake Linganore and rides and runs "all over
Frederick County." He's a member of the budding Frederick Triathlon Club.
"Swimming is coming along," McCollum said. "My run splits are the main thing
I'm focused on improving at the moment."
His goal was running sub 7:05-minute miles for the Half-Ironman World
Championships in Clearwater, which he beat, averaging 6:53 a mile.
"I've got some work to do," McCollum said. "I think getting down to 6:40,
6:45-minute miles is very doable next season."
Other goals for next year include qualifying for the Half-Ironman World
Championships again, qualifying for the Hawaii IronWorld Championships, and
finishing the season ranked as one of the top U.S. 100 triathletes.
Maybe those baseball coaches knew something: He should've been running more
See story at the Frederick News-Post's website: www.fredericknewspost.com.