If there is one thing Hines Ward has never been afraid of, it's a challenge. That is why it should come as no surprise that the former Steelers' wide receiver has taken on the biggest athletic challenge of his life – participating in the 2013 Ironman World Championship Triathlon.
Ward will participate in the 140.6 mile swim, bike and run triathlon in Kona, Hawaii on Oct. 12. He has been training for the past five months, taking part in half marathons and smaller triathlons along the way, with completing the Ironman the ultimate goal.
"I love challenges," said Ward. "I have always thought outside the box and tried to be more than just a football player. This is the toughest challenge I have done. It's me vs. myself, mind over matter. You have to have the never quit attitude. I am excited about the opportunity to compete at the Super Bowl of the triathlon world and I want to make the most of it."
Ward is competing as a part of BECOME ONE, sponsored by Got Chocolate Milk, the nourishment he relies on to refuel after competitions. While the training has been intense so far, Ward is definitely pleased with his progress.
"It's going well. It's a lot better than I thought it would be," said Ward. "It's grueling. It's something if you have never been a part of the ironman world, it's tough. I am like a rookie all over again trying to figure this thing out and try to cross the finish line every time I go out.
"It's going to change my life forever. I have trained for football my whole life and now I am on the next chapter of my life, how do I stay in shape. I am excited about the opportunity and trying to make the most of it."
Ward weighed in at 228 pounds before he began his training, and has already dropped to 200 pounds, with training in the summer heat in Atlanta still ahead of him.
"I just have to stay on the grind every day," said Ward. "It's all about the commitment. I am encouraged about the progress I have made.
"It's a mental grind. When you get fatigued you feel like you don't want to do it anymore. But when you pass the finish line you are happy you didn't quit. It takes a toll on you. To push through all of the doubts makes you feel great. You know what it takes."
The toughest part of the competition has been swimming, as Ward said he has anxiety swimming in the open water, as well as dealing with the going against the swells and waves in the ocean. It's nothing he can't handle, though, and admits that going through training camp at St. Vincent College on hot August days definitely prepared him somewhat.
"I don't think it can get any hotter than at St. Vincent in those pads and all," said Ward. "Having gone through those dog days in August during training camp helped me mentally, pushing through it and trying to accomplish a goal and get better."
Winning has always been Ward's number one goal when playing football, but for the triathlon it's not about coming in first place, it's just about finishing.
"People ask why I want to put my body through the pain," said Ward. "But it's a sense of satisfaction if I can cross that finish line. What a great accomplishment that would be.
"When I get at the starting line I know I am not going to win the race, but it's all about finishing. That is something I am fighting and struggling with. When someone passes me I am like no, but I have to stay within my own self and the framework. I can't be someone else. I just have to stay within myself."