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Bill Bowden’s first bike ride, in March of 2020, was also the first time he clipped in to his pedals, and the first time he fell over. To then follow up that fall with a nine-mile ride along the Griffith Park River Trail bike path in Los Angeles was daunting, to say the least.
“I remember saying to myself, and I might have even said it to the person that taught me how to ride: This was nine miles. How the hell are you guys riding 50?”
Only eight months later, Bowden was riding twice that in his first century ride with the San Fernando Valley Bicycle Club.
“That was an amazing day,” recalls Bowden.
The 52 year-old Burbank resident didn’t set out to be a cyclist. He certainly never thought he’d be a triathlete. But after his wife of 29 years passed away, he was searching for a sense of belonging. He found it in his local cycling group, where he was welcomed with open arms. The weekly group rides pushed him to step out of his comfort zone, and he soon found his rides getting longer and longer. He also found himself dropping weight quickly—more than 100 pounds over the span of a year-and-a-half.
“I was happy to lose weight and ride the bike,” Bowden said. “I didn’t have much of a thought of doing anything else at first.”
That changed in June of 2021, when friends in the bike club began talking about their training for an upcoming Ironman 70.3 race in Hawaii. The idea intrigued Bowden, but could he actually do it?
“I had a partially torn meniscus, so running wasn’t really a thought, and although I could swim, I had never learned to swim with my head in the water,” he said.
Still, he decided to give it a try. He signed up for his first race, began working with a triathlon coach, and set an ambitious goal to race three triathlon events by the end of 2021. His first race will take place this weekend at the Malibu Triathlon. Though he has time goals in mind for the sprint distance, he says simply being on the course is a win in and of itself. Out of heartbreak and tragedy, Bowden has found healing, community, and a new life.
“I’ve worked really hard to get here, and I’m extremely proud of the work I’ve done,” Bowden said. “One of the reasons it’s been so easy to dedicate myself to all of this is the amazing community that I’m surrounded by and the people I’ve met along the way. Mentally and emotionally, triathlon has really saved my life.”