Odds are, if Bennett Isabella isn’t tending to a patient’s teeth, he’s either biking, running or swimming in preparation for his next race.
Isabella, a dentist at Dakota Dental in Apple Valley, is a longtime triathlon competitor who last October raced for the first time in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.
The grueling three-part course – a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and then a full 26.2-mile marathon run – was the capstone to a year in which Isabella said he decided to “get serious” about his training regimen.
“Last summer, it was 15 to 19 hours of training a week,” said the Burnsville resident and 2001 graduate of Apple Valley High School. “I’d wake up at 4:30, do an hour-and-a-half workout before work, and then after work train for an hour or two. On the weekends I do my longer workouts.”
His athletic bent was cultivated in high school, where he ran cross country and was on the wrestling team. It was also at Apple Valley High School that he kindled an interest in dentistry, participating in a mentorship program at Dakota Dental three days a week.
“That’s kind of how I decided I wanted to be a dentist,” he said.
He began competing in triathlons in 2006 while in dental school at Wisconsin’s Marquette University.
Isabella was one of 1,900 athletes to qualify for the 2012 Ironman World Championship out of an estimated 60,000 vying for a spot. His strong finish at an Ironman event in Florida in November 2011, in which he placed among the top three in his age bracket, earned him the berth.
All his hard work leading up to Hawaii paid off. Joined in Kona by his “cheering section” – wife Jessica, brother Nick, and parents Mike and Val – Isabella completed the Kona course in 9 hours, 56 minutes, meeting his goal of finishing in under 10 hours.
As was to be expected, the race wasn’t without its trouble spots.
“It was just so hot, and I had a side cramp for about the first six miles (of the running event) that was hurting every step of the way,” he recounted.
After crossing the finish line, exhaustion set in within about five minutes.
“I found I had to kind of lean on my wife and mother, and they sort of dragged me back to the hotel,” he said.
While his dinner the night before the race was strictly business – a carb-heavy meal consisting of quinoa, brown rice and fish – Isabella let loose, so to speak, the night after the race, indulging in chocolate-covered macadamia nuts and other goodies.
A self-described “workout junkie,” Isabella is now looking ahead to more races this year.
He plans to compete in the Boston Marathon for the first time this April, and also has his sights set on the Superior Sawtooth 100, a 100-mile race that starts in Gooseberry Falls State Park.
In future races, he’ll have the edge of having an Ironman World Championship bid under his belt.
“This was the hardest race I have ever done,” he said of the Hawaii event. “But (it was) also one of the most fun. It was not my best marathon by far but one of my personal best races by pushing through when I really wanted to stop.”