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December 1, 2002

Nuts On The Run: One man's endurance for punishment is pushed to the limits.

By Gregory Bresiger

Jim Lenz, an institutional equity and options trader with Bridge Trading Systems in St. Louis, is nuts.

At least that's what his wife of 18 years, Kim, says from time to time. "She thinks I'm crazy to do this, but she still supports," Lenz said. "My kids think it's great."

So what is the source of the potential madness in the Lenz household?

Lenz, 42, a part-time girls softball team coach, decided he wanted to do more than just watch the action as his daughters, Kelsey and Caitlin, competed. After a suggestion from a co-worker, he decided, some three years ago, that it was time to try triathlons, which are not for couch potatoes.

Lenz, a veteran securities industry pro who has also had stints with Cantor Fitzgerald in Los Angeles and Interstate Group in Charlotte, North Carolina, trains 11 months a year to prepare for these races.

Triathlons are trios of endurance races, which are staged as both Olympic and non-Olympic events. They can require one to swim over a mile, bike 25 miles or so and then run about six miles. Some may think that these races are no big deal. That doing those three things may be tough, but not impossible. But here's the catch: These three contests are run one after another and will likely exhaust even a well-conditioned man or a woman half of Lenz's age.

In his last triathlon, Lenz, who lives in the St. Louis suburb of Ladue, Missouri, traveled to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He participated in the appropriately named Pigman triathlon. This brutal test was comprised of a 1.2-mile swim, followed by a 56-mile bike ride and then topped off with a 13-mile run. Sometimes Lenz must look out of place.

"Many of the people in these races are twenty years or more younger than me," according to the slender Lenz, who is 5'9, 150lbs. He tends to work on increasing his weight before the event because the races will take pounds off. "I eat a lot of peanut butter sandwiches," he said.

Nevertheless, as with the frequent warnings on the tube, one should issue this warning about triathlons: Please don't try this stuff at home, not unless one is willing to consistently train over a period of months and maybe years to achieve triathlon standards. For example, during Lenz's peak training periods, he bikes 125 miles a week, runs 35 miles a week and swims 75 miles a week.

Intense Competition

Lenz loves the intense competition. "Competing in triathlons teaches you at least two important things. You must learn to pace yourself. And you learn that, no matter how tired you are and how much you think you want to quit, there's always more that you can do, that you think you can do," Lenz added.

"The running is my favorite. It is a time when you are by yourself and once you get out there after a few miles, you really start to feel good," Lenz said. "These triathlons also help me to relax. I return to work after them with less stress in my life," according to Lenz. He adds that, in triathlons, as in business, he is competing against himself.

"I am always trying to do better; to bring out the best in myself," he said. And that means a lifetime of competition in triathlons as well as trading. "There are people who are doing triathlons into their seventies and eighties," he said. Left unsaid: There are people who continue to trade late into their lives, who endure and refuse to recognize limitations, just as Lenz constantly pushes his lean body for an extra mile or two.

Maybe Lenz isn't bonkers after all.