- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Apolo Ohno is used to riding a bike in training.

Back in his speedskating days, he might pedal all-out for 30 seconds then let his legs recover for a bit before repeating the interval. That’s not exactly great preparation for cycling for 5½ hours.

The most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian in history is taking on a new athletic challenge: an Ironman triathlon. Ohno plans to compete at the world championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, in October - swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, then run a marathon.

“I’m still not entirely sure I can grasp the difficulty of this,” Ohno said in a recent phone interview with The Associated Press about six weeks into his training.

A winner of eight medals in three Olympics, he certainly knows how to push himself in workouts. But he’s not accustomed to the sort of pain that comes with endurance sports.

When Ohno goes for a run with one of his coaches, eight-time Ironman world champion Paula Newby-Fraser, his body is ready to stop after about an hour.

Paula’s just getting warmed up,” he said.

She’ll be getting more and more chatty. He’s fantasizing about calling a car service.

Ohno’s speedskating training was all about performing at his peak for 80 seconds. The Ironman requires preparing his body to hold up over the steady grind of more than 11 hours.

Newby-Fraser keeps needing to remind him to slow down in training.

“It sounds easy, but it goes against the instinct and nature of an athlete that’s used to emptying the tank every day,” she said.

Hines Ward knows how Ohno feels. The former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver trained with Newby-Fraser for last October’s Ironman as part of the same promotional campaign for chocolate milk.

Like Ohno, Ward’s sport was much more about fast-twitch muscles than stamina. Those long strides that helped Ward sprint a fast 40-yard dash aren’t effective over 26.2 miles.

“I had to learn how to run,” said Ward, who completed the Ironman in just over 13 hours.

Unlike Ward, the 31-year-old Ohno comes in with experience in each of the three disciplines. Along with biking as part of his speedskating training, Ohno swam competitively until he was 12. Even better, he ran the 2011 New York City Marathon, finishing in a very respectable 3 hours, 25 minutes.

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