THE BLOG
06/27/2007 04:28 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

140 Miles for 10 Million Iraqi Kids

This is by my cousin, John Baldwin, who's competing in the Ironman triathlon to raise money for War Kids Relief.

When I heard my cousin Jon's stories about Iraq's war kids, I wanted to do something to help give the kids an opportunity to escape the cycle of violence. Like a lot of people, I didn't know at first what I could do. So when Jon told me that War Kids Relief is raising money to build Iraqi Youth Centers to give Iraq's war kids educational and employment opportunities, I offered to help them raise money by competing in the Janus Charity Challenge at the Ford Ironman USA triathlon in Lake Placid, NY. For me, it's not just a triathlon, it's the Race for War Kids.

Known as one of the most grueling endurance tests in sports, the Ironman triathlon consists of a 2.4 mile open water swim, followed by a 112 mile bike through the High Peaks region of the Adirondack Mountains and finishes with a gut punishing 26.2 mile run, finishing in the Olympic Oval in Lake Placid. It's incredibly tough on the mind and the body, but when I think of Iraq's war kids, I'm driven to succeed.

I've established a pretty strong aerobic base over the past few years, so my heavy training didn't start until November. I work with a great coach by the name of Doug Bush with Endurance Factor Training. His approach is broken up into pods or phases lasting approx. 3 months. The first was three months of running, biking (mostly indoors on a fly wheel trainer), swimming, stretching and lifting. Most of the concentration is on strength building, good technique and improving my aerobic base. These three things are crucial not only to improving overall fitness, but significantly decreasing the chance of injury during the next phase of training.

In January (after the holidays are put to rest), it's time to kick things up a notch. Weekly training increases from approx. 8-9 hrs. Per week to 11-12 hrs. At this point we start to increase the mileage of each work out, still staying conservative as far as intensity goes -- that will come in the next phase.

Once April hits, its time to get serious. As the weather in Buffalo shows signs of breaking, and the days get a bit longer, so again do the workouts. Two and sometimes three-a-day workouts are now more the norm. This is when things start to get a bit hectic around the Baldwin house. I have two young boys (Jack 7, Matthew 6) that are both involved soccer and baseball. I like to be involved as possible, so I with a good friend, coach both of their baseball teams. Between the two sports, every night is booked until 8:00 pm and Saturdays until 12:00. You may ask, "How can you juggle all of that as well as work and training?" The answer is quite simple; I had the good fortune of marrying Wonder Woman, and my 2 year old daughter (Caroline) is cut from the same cloth.

My family takes kind of a "team" approach to this whole Ironman thing. Sure, I'm the driver, but without the worlds best pit crew, where are you going? That all starts with my wife Amy. She is unbelievable! Sometimes I think my whole neighborhood must hate me because on any given Wednesday you will see me pull into the driveway at 5:30, while Amy is on the lawn tractor with Caroline on her lap, only to see me fly out of the driveway on my bike, 5 minutes later. I return some two hours later to find a large ice water and a hot dinner waiting for me.

Lately with all of the kids' sports in full gear, time management gets kind of tricky. I am now scheduled for approximately 16-19 hrs of training per week. That doesn't count all the time getting to and from the gym/pool, stretching, etc. So, training takes up about 25 or so hours during any given week . I typically get up at 4:30 or 5:00 AM to get a 1 ½ hr run or bike in, and try to swim at the local University on my lunch hour. Weekend workouts start at about 6:00 AM. I run on Saturday for about three hours, and go on six to seven hour bike rides on Sunday.

Matt Pearl from our local WGRZ news team talked to me and Jon about the Race for War Kids and how we're working to give Iraq's war kids a better future. You can watch the video on the War Kids Relief web site. I'll check in weekly with training updates from now until race day, so, stay tuned for more. In the meantime, you can join War Kids Relief and help us win the Janus charity challenge with your generous contribution to War Kids Relief.