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Kahne, Johnson enjoy triathlon experience

July 18, 2012, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com

Lack of sleep may have been an issue, but the Hendrick Motorsports team overcame and were impressive in the triathlon. (Lowe's Racing)

Remember the tired old argument about whether or not race-car drivers are athletes?

Johnson (Scott Garrand/WCIV)

"But it was such an awesome experience. The training for the event itself, I had butterflies like I was getting ready to start a Cup race or something."

--JIMMIE JOHNSON

Well, Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne recently put that to rest more than ever -- competing in and completing a triathlon in Charleston, S.C., the morning after running a 400-mile Saturday night race at Daytona International Speedway. Brad Sweet, who is splitting a Nationwide Series ride with Kahne for Turner Motorsports this season, also competed in the event along with several other crew members and various other HMS racing personnel talked into it by Johnson.

But Johnson vs. Kahne was the main event within the event.

The final result? Kahne posted a time of 1:11:30, beating Johnson's time of 1:11:47 by 17 seconds and finishing fourth in their age group. This wasn't a full triathlon but rather a shorter version put on by the Charleston Sprint Triathlon Series, where competitors complete a 600-yard swim, 12-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile run as quickly as possible.

But it was enough, especially for a couple of guys who ran a restrictor-plate race at Daytona the previous night. Kahne completed all 400 miles of that race, while Johnson wrecked out after 300.

"It felt really good. I liked it a lot," Kahne said. "I would have liked to have gotten a little more sleep and not been as dehydrated when it started. I started cramping up on the bike and then had to do the run after that. But still, when I finished it felt really good and I was happy I did it."

Cramping and dehydration was an even bigger problem for Johnson. Kahne said he saw Johnson have to stop and walk during some of the 3.1-mile run portion, and that motivated Kahne to avoid that humiliation.

"I finished well. I finished 46th overall [out of 300 participants]; seventh in my age group. I missed my goal by a couple of minutes," Johnson said. "I struggled on the run, which is usually one of my strongest suits. But the elevated heart rate through the swim and the biking and then once I got in the run, I started to cramp and unfortunately stopped a couple of times and had a pretty poor run-time, which affected my overall [time].

"But it was such an awesome experience. The training for the event itself, I had butterflies like I was getting ready to start a Cup race or something. That cut into my sleep, the little bit of sleep that we had, following the Daytona race. So all in all, it was an amazing experience."

Johnson said despite losing to Kahne, he was excited about beating everyone else he talked into coming from the Hendrick Motorsports family.

"I'm very proud of everybody that jumped on board," Johnson said. "I think we had a group of about 20 guys that attended, including a lot of my over-the-wall guys. And they literally pulled up in the parking lot 30 minutes prior to the start. They flew home and jumped in a motorhome and tried to sleep in the back on the way down to Charleston. It was a really cool thing all around and I look forward to doing more in the future."

Kahne (Scott Garrand/WCIV)

"I started cramping up on the bike and then had to do the run after that. But still, when I finished it felt really good and I was happy I did it."

--KASEY KAHNE

Johnson also experienced a couple details he hadn't expected to encounter. It definitely was different than racing.

"There was no drafting. You couldn't draft on the bike," said Johnson, grinning. "And then in the swim, it's amazing how people will try to find a way by you. I had a guy grabbing my leg and pulling me back during my swim and I'm like, 'Dude, what's going on?' There are no marshals or anything to see you. You do accelerate and get by that guy pretty quick. So I didn't pull on anyone's leg myself, but it caught me off guard. I wasn't ready for that one."

He also chuckled at some of the choices of bikes chosen by other competitors.

"I was on my bike portion and I saw a lady coming out of the transition station on a beach cruiser. And I thought, 'Man, she's going to ride 12 miles on a beach cruiser?' It was a powder-blue beach cruiser. The only thing she was missing was a basket on the front," Johnson said.

Finally, Johnson was in full agreement with Kahne on making sure he was hydrated -- even after the event was over.

"When I put my shoes on and left the transition station to begin my run, I went a couple hundred yards and my calves started to cramp up. I noticed a curb and I went to the curb and was stretching my calves real quick, and a guy in a No. 24 hat came running up with a Bud Light, and said, 'Hey, this will help, this will help,' " Johnson said.

As tempted as he might have been, Johnson fended the well-intentioned fan off -- for the time being.

"I told him, 'Not yet, man, I've got three miles and I'll be back and then I'll take you up on that.' And that got me laughing pretty good," Johnson said. "And then he did find me after the event. I was thankful to see him then."

Post-race hydration bonus or not, other drivers admitted they wanted no part of such an event, especially after competing in a race the previous night.

"The only thing I would have been invited to do is stand on the side of the road and hand them water as they went by," Tony Stewart said. "Those guys are pretty tough. It's pretty cool to see those guys do that."