Whether he's pounding the pavement, has his feet on the pedals or is knifing through the water, Lane Hollis has a reputation for going the distance.
The 8-year-old Dalton, Ga., boy began competing in triathlon events through the national IronKids Triathlon Series in 2009.
At his first event in Alpharetta, Ga., two years ago, Lane's father, Mitchell Hollis, said he would have been satisfied just seeing Lane cross the finish line.
Instead, he led the pack.
CLAIM TO FAME
Lane Hollis has participated in IronKids Triathlon Series for three years. Every year, he has qualified for the Hy-Vee IronKids National Championship, where he finished 7th, 12th and 9th in his age group, respectively.
Name: Lane Hollis.
School: Third-grader at Beaverdale Elementary in Varnell, Ga.
Favorite subject: Math.
Favorite book: The Geronimo Stilton series by Edizioni Piemme.
Favorite TV show: "Phineas & Ferb."
Favorite movie: "Cars 2."
Athletic hero: Triathlete Hunter Kemper.
Lane Hollis is currently in his off season, but he said he and his father will resume his training in February for the first events of the 2012 season, which resumes in spring.
"We trained as best we could, but he was only 6 years old, so I wasn't going to push him too hard," Hollis said. "There were 1,300 or 1,400 kids there, and I thought, 'If he just finishes this, I'll be happy,' but lo and behold, he got second that year. He just blew me away."
Because of his podium finish, Lane qualified that year for the Hy-Vee IronKids National Championship triathlon, which was held in Tucson, Ariz., where he finished seventh.
He has returned to the championship every year since, most recently at the 2011 event, which was held in Des Moines, Iowa, on Sept. 17. He finished ninth among 9-year-olds.
Although he enjoys competing in regular IronKids events, Lane said the qualifiers for nationals and the championships themselves are more nerve-wracking affairs.
"It's a long way there, and there are lots more people and a lot faster kids than I usually compete against," he said. "I like the challenge, though, because it helps me get faster."
Unlike the IronMan triathlons, during which contestants swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and then run a marathon (26.2 miles), IronKids events trim the distance of each race leg to accommodate the younger participants.
For his first event, Lane swam 50 yards, biked two miles and ran 500 yards.
Despite his strong finish at that initial triathlon, the prospect of adding more distance as he grew older was daunting, Lane said.
"I was like, 'If it's this hard for someone at 6, when I turn 10, it's going to be super-duper hard,' " he said.
Now that he has progressed to the age group for 9- to 11-year-olds, Lane must swim 150 yards, bike four miles and run a mile.
Lane said his father's coaching has taught him that making it through a triathlon is equal parts mental and physical.
"My dad says for me not to worry about passing everybody, just the guy in front of you," he said. "It's hard, fun and, in another way, kind of easy. It's not crying hard, just breathing-your-guts-out hard."
Lane and his father spend four or five days a week training together during the triathlon season, which runs spring to late summer. Each session includes a 11/2 to 3-mile run, 1/4- to 1/2-mile swim and 3- to 5-mile bike ride.
The key with effectively training younger triathletes is making the training seem like anything but exercise, Hollis said.
"That's why we're pushing this youth triathlon, to get them out and away from the video games and outside," he said. "We'll do things ... that get their heart rate up and improve their cardiovascular health, but they don't even realize it."
That training is paying off. Lane generally finishes among the Top 5 in each of the seven events he competes at annually with his team -- Swim, Bike, Run for God. At Lane's most recent event, an IronKids triathlon in Alpharetta, he took first place for the first time.
Hollis and Lane's mother, Holly Hollis, founded the Swim, Bike, Run for God team last year as an offshoot of Run for God, a 5K training program Lane's father founded that combines religious study and athletic training.
Lane's mother said taking part in IronKids events has bolstered Lane's faith in himself and in God.
"We tell them to talk to God and that they can do it through God's strength," she said. "I hope that it knocks down some walls ... when they accomplish this thing they thought they can't do it.
"I hope that, through that, whenever they see an obstacle in life, they realize they can do it through God's strength."
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, young adults, technology and people of interest. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German. He previously worked as the features editor for Sidelines at Middle Tennessee State University. Casey received the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists Award of Excellence for Reviewing/Criticism in ...