BOISE — Mohamed Lahna's grin encompassed his entire face as he embarked on the final stage of the Ironman 70.3 Boise on Saturday. Spectators soon began to clap in admiration. They, too, smiled from ear to ear as the Morocco native streaked past in his homemade prosthetic leg.
"I'm not an amputee. I was born with a birth defect. I'm missing the femur and part of the hip," Lahna said before explaining how he built his leg with his friend back home. "Just a lot of research. It's not 100 percent, but we're close. It is a little bit challenging to make a prosthetic for running and biking. It's not as good (as professionally made prosthetics), but it's working."
Lahna finished No. 538 with a time of 6 hours and 1 second. He averaged 1:46 per 100 meters in the 1.2-mile swim, exiting the water at 34:16 before finishing the 56-mile bike ride in 3:01:53 and the 13.1-mile run in 2:17:10.
"I had a very good swim; that I really enjoyed. The bike was a little bit hard with the wind. It slowed me down, and the bike is my weakness," Lahna said. "I tried to stay positive and keep a good pace. The run was just awesome. The course is really, really nice."
Lahna, who relocated to San Mateo, Calif., two years ago, was introduced to triathlons from the Internet. An active, competitive swimmer, he began actively researching details about Ironman events from Morocco, which doesn't have an event.
"When I was little, I couldn't do stuff like biking. I couldn't keep up with the other kids, so I was on the side," Lahna said. "But with time, my dad and my family pushed me to do more stuff. I started to discover myself. The more I do it, the more I feel confident and I get stronger."
Lahna stood with an ice-soaked towel wrapped around his neck, quickly chugging his water bottle to replenish his exhausted frame. He had done what many would have never believed was possible.
"It's in your mind. It doesn't matter if you have a disability or not," he said. "It only matters what is in your mind, if you want to overcome or not. Sometimes people, when they have a disability, they try and do something to prove themselves. Sports (are) one of the ways to help us stay healthy and make us go forward."
Apolo Anton Ohno recognized the difficulty Ironman presented once his body touched the water in Lucky Peak Reservoir.
"This was my first triathlon," the former Olympic speedskater and Dancing With The Stars champion said. "So it was painful 10 seconds in, and it's still painful."
Ohno was an accomplished swimmer until age 12, but in an interview with Idaho Statesman reporter Dave Southorn, he said he "never touched water again unless it was frozen."
Ohno finished with an official time of 4:59:27 for the 112th-best time. Despite the early troubles in the water, he completed the first leg in 32:05.
"You have no choice, man," Ohno said when asked how he continued to find strength once he felt the early onset of pain. "You've got to keep going."
OUTLIVING THE MILES
Very few contestants are able to claim their age eclipses the amount of miles trekked in an Ironman event. At age 73, Canadian Milos Kostic has that honor.
"I've done three half-Irons in the last three weeks," Kostic said after finishing at 5:53:57. "It's fun. It keeps me active and the company of active people, usually younger than I. It's a great lifestyle."
He battles arthritis in his big toe, but other than he has felt the benefit of his healthy life.
"I feel really good," Kostic said.
BOISE VOLUNTEERS MAKE THE DIFFERENCE
Thousands of locals volunteered their time in an effort to help all the Ironman athletes receive proper nutrients, support and balance. Throughout the course and at the finish line, they provided critical liquids, helped locate medical personal and stabilize athletes after completion and offered encouragement.
"It's unbelievable. There's so many volunteers, you miss one cup of water and there's like nine more," men's overall champion Brent McMahon said. "Everybody is right there, and it's awesome to see the city out. The whole town is just towing down on the patios and cheering - it's just such a great vibe here."
Added women's champion Melanie McQuaid: "The aide stations were incredible today."
Trevor Phibbs: 377-6424, Twitter: @IDS_Phibbs