Former Colts tight end Dallas Clark was looking for a new challenge last summer. It's been about seven years since No. 44 retired after a 12-year career in which he caught 505 passes for 5,665 yards with 53 touchdowns.
And one day last August, it kind of hit him – how about competing in an Ironman race?
"I can do this, so I should do this before I can't do it anymore, I should do this," Clark said. "It's one of those things like, yeah, why not? Come on, let's go."
Clark will compete in the 2022 Ironman World Championship October 6 and 8 in Kailua-Kona, Hawai'i to raise money for Peyton Manning Children's Hospital in Indianapolis and the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital. He hopes to raise $2 million to go toward those institutions – an admittedly "lofty" goal, he said.
But like Clark told Peyton Manning when the two discussed it: "I don't know if I don't try right now, so let's do it. I mean, this race is insane. Why not? Why not? Let's see what we can do."
An Ironman race is no joke. Competitors must swim 2.4 miles, then bike 112 miles, then run 26.2 miles all in a single day. Clark, who completed a half-Ironman in five hours and 40 minutes in Oceanside, Calif. in April, said his goal is to complete the Ironman in October in under 12 hours.
Thanks to a connection made through his friend and IndyCar driver Tony Kanaan, Clark has been training with six-time Ironman champion Mark Allen in preparation for October. It's a completely different kind of training than he's used to as a former football player: For one, part of training is to run for 30 minutes with no distance or speed factored in (unlike the 40-yard dash at the Combine, for example), but to continuously keep his heart rate in a range that will build up his endurance.
The training is regimented and focused – it's not like Clark just goes into a gym and bounces from machine to machine or dumbbell to dumbbell, like he would in his post-playing days. And training for an Ironman requires a significant time commitment, too.
But Clark is relishing the process, and competing in the grind of an Ironman requires him to tap into the same mental and physical toughness he had to possess to become one of the best do-it-all tight ends in the NFL for over a decade.
"The mental state still is there," Clark said. "It's that two-minute drill, a minute 13 on the clock, down by four, need a touchdown. … You still have that opportunity to find that dig, find that gut check and have that mind, that chance to talk yourself out of it or talk yourself into it."
In addition to raising money for children's hospitals at his alma mater and adopted hometown, Clark hopes completing the Ironman in October will be an inspiration to anyone who has a lofty goal they keep delaying.
"Now is the time," Clark said of his mindset. "You're not getting any younger. Come on, let's go."