Weatherford News

Weatherford man competes in triathlons with family to stay young

Bob Kilinski, left, has competed in two Ironman competitions in Florida with his family.
Bob Kilinski, left, has competed in two Ironman competitions in Florida with his family. Courtesy photo

For years, Bob Kilinski couldn't find time to run, he was so busy earning a living for his family.

Now, he can't find time to stop. Nor does he want to - and neither does his family, who runs right alongside him, along with swimming and biking.

"I was a Radio Shack executive for a long time, until 2008, and in retail you just work a ton of hours and Saturdays," said Kilinski. "I am now employed by a smaller company based in Dallas. I am the Chief Marketing Officer."

The change in work venues allowed him to get re-introduced to running, and also opened up a whole new opportunity to get closer with his family.

"Two of my daughters [Jennifer, 37, and Kelsey, 29] convinced me to run an Ironman in Florida in 2011, and we all did it," the Weatherford resident said. "It's an amazing experience to do that with your children. As good as the day they were born. Really overwhelming."

Kelsey, in fact, has participated in the Florida Ironman twice with her dad (again in 2013). She said the event in Florida was also a perfect time for a family reunion.

"We decided to talk our dad into his first Ironman because I had wanted to do one for years, and my sister was ready to try a second one. He was already a marathon runner and he had just gotten his first bike and loved to ride it," she said.

"We thought it would be fun to all get together in Panama City Beach and do a little workout for a day and then spend the rest of the week hanging out on the beach with the rest of the family. Plus it gave us a year of bonding by training together."

Like her sister, Jennifer agreed the Florida event was much more memorable than the race itself, and that was quite unforgettable. The preparation was just as special, and the aftermath is a lifetime of memories.

"It is hard to describe the journey of training for that kind of race - getting up to get on your bike at 4 a.m. so you can be done by 9 a.m. and still engage with family and friends; it is a bonding experience like none other," Jennifer said.

Kilinski, a multi-sport athlete at his high school in upstate New York, ran his first marathon in 1982. It was 2009 before he ran his second, but once he returned, he kept on running. And now he's got a whole slew of support and would-be partners to choose from, including his six children.

"Our Brady Bunch," he laughs. "I have two children that my wife brought me, Jaclyn and Colin. I had two girls and a son from my previous marriage, and my wife and I have one daughter, Krysta."

There are also six grandchildren.

"Two who are already competing in triathlons, Jennifer's children (Wyatt and Eleanor), two who already have running shoes at 3.5 years, and yes we are encouraging them," he said. "I used to run with Jennifer in a jogging stroller when she was young and cherish those memories."

Before taking a quarter of a century off, Kilinski raced 5K, 10K and 15K races in his early 20s. He also ran on a military team in Germany. He returned to running in 2007 before deciding to tackle another marathon in 2009.

Since then, he has run 15 marathons, six Ironmans and many half-marathons.

"I started getting healthy after a long corporate career with no time," Kilinski said. "I started running again after I turned 50 and haven't slowed down."

Kilinski qualified for the elite of all distance events, the Boston Marathon, in 2009. He ran in Boston in 2010 and 2011, but opted out in 2012 in favor of running other events with family.

Jennifer has also run twice in Boston, in 2005 and 2006. In fact, she inspires her father, he said.

"Jennifer was a very accomplished swimmer, starting from the age of 6. She was born with a severe club foot and had multiple surgeries, wore a brace, and had a ton of energy," Kilinski said. "We started her swimming because it was something she could do without the foot, and she became an all-star, top 16 nationally by age 12.

"She started running against doctors orders in college, ran a marathon in tears, then continued to run."

Jennifer, however, said it was her dad who inspired her.

"I was a very competitive age group swimmer and he would always sing me Rocky songs before I went and swam and drive me to and from zero dark 30 swim practice and long weekend meets," she said.

"I started in triathlons more than 15 years ago. I can remember calling my dad after my first triathlon - a small Dallas sprint tri - and he told me how proud he was but also how crazy, 'Who does those things!'

"In 2006 I did my first Ironman at Ironman Florida, and I remember how moved he was, how far I had come with my club foot. I remember telling him that it was he in large part that had motivated me to do it."

Kelsey joined the track team as senior in high school. She advanced her running in college and has now run multiple marathons, trail races, a 50-mile beach race, completed two Ironmans and several other triathlons.

Not only had Kilinski taken a long time off from running, he was also a smoker for a long time. Of course, when he began distance competition, that stopped.

"When he started doing triathlons, I was overjoyed," said Jennifer. "He was focused on getting healthy, for himself, yes, but also for his family. While he had been a smoker for some years, he went cold turkey, started running, eating right, and before you know it, he was kicking tail.

"My dad didn't start with a sprint, though - and this is so indicative of his mind set - instead he started with one of the toughest half-Ironman events in the country. He was looking for a physical and mental challenge and from there, has continued to do the same, push himself but in the process motivate and push those around him."

Kilinski said healthy eating and exercise are now his passion, and sharing that passion with his family makes his life easier.

"My youngest daughter, Krysta, who is 17 and a ballerina, eats extremely healthy and wants to be a dietician. It definitely rubs off," he said.

His return to distance competition has also allowed him to share his passion with more than his family. He and several friends started FWTri Club (Friends Who Tri), a triathlon club dedicated to promoting a healthy lifestyle through the events, and a social club where triathletes can meet. The Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/FwTriClub , and the website is www.fwtriclub.com.

Kilinski, the president of FWTri Club, and his friends started supporting the Daggett Middle School Tri Club in 2013. Daggett is an inner-city school in Fort Worth.

"It takes a village to do what we do, and we have so many club and community members who pitch in to help these kids," he said. "These kids have done amazing things. They have come a long way and are so inspiring."

To the average person, it may not seem easy being Bob Kilinski. He runs four days a week, cycles three or four days a week, and swims two or three times each week during the season. In winter months, he'll run 40-50 miles each week, and during peak training he'll train about 20 miles each week across all three sports. There's also 100-mile rides on some weekends, 20-mile runs on others, and a couple miles open-water swim.

Whew!

Oh, and he awakens around 4 every morning during peak training.

But to Kilinski, there is no better life, especially since he can share it with his family. So how long does he plan to continue?

"Honestly, until I can't run any longer," he said. "When I started this journey, my resting heart rate was over 60, I was on cholesterol medicine, and I weighed 30 pounds more than today. Now I have resting heart rate of 37, no medicines, and went from a 36 pant waist to a loose 32.

"There are mornings when things may be sore, or even hurt, but those are pains that I created to get stronger. Many people say ‘You are going to hurt yourself, ruin your knees,' or any number of other barbs about what I do. I say I am living life to the fullest, keeping my body and mind younger, and having a freaking awesome time."

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