Allen & Greg Lucas – Stories from the Finish Line

The dreaded DNF “Did Not Finish” is a tough, but common part of racing--especially at the long-distance level. In these DNFs, we often learn something important, something sacred, something that matters in some other nook and cranny of our lives.

Still, even on a bright side, DNF is hard to swallow. Only a few people have the guts to try in the first place, and to keep showing up is even harder after one or two DNFs.

So, how many DNFs would you tolerate before you quit? How many times would you show up, and keep trying? That is a question that one man, Allen Lucas, is seeking the answer to. Allen, now 82 years old, has been on a long streak of DNF’s.

His son, Greg (age 61) finished Kona in 1986. A few years later, in 1990, Allen followed in the footsteps of his son. He took on Kona at the age of 50 through the lottery program. However, Allen was forced to withdraw at Mile 14 when he experienced hyponatremia, ending up in the Kona hospital with brain swelling.

Still, Allen wanted to finish the distance. Two years after his Kona DNF, Allen set up his own course around his community and finished in front of his family under a floodlight in his driveway.

He felt satisfied and spent the next two-plus decades raising his family. During that span, Allen also underwent heart surgery and beat prostate cancer (twice!).

In 2014, at the age of 73, Allen returned to triathlon, with Greg as his training buddy. This race was just ten days after his final or 36 radiation treatments. Allen earned a second-place finish in Boulder 70.3. But, even after that great finish, Allen had a burning desire to get back to Kona to finish the full-distance course that haunted him from all those years ago.

In 2015, a second Kona lottery acceptance gave Allen another shot, twenty-five years later. It was thirty-five minutes after the official cutoff, and most of the race course was dark, silent, and the finish line closed down. IRONMAN CEO, Andrew Messick, and COO, Shane Facteau, spotted Allen. They saw him struggling down Ali’i Drive and immediately ordered the floodlights turned back on. In front of a few people, Allen crossed the line.

Andrew and Shane handed him a t-shirt and medal. But the finish line was quiet. He didn’t hear the words he was waiting for. A second Kona DNF.

Greg said, “It was the greatest moment I had ever witnessed in all my years of triathlon, and yet my Dad still had that burning desire to be an official IRONMAN finisher.”

In 2017, Allen and Greg next went to IRONMAN Texas. Allen pushed hard, but finished in 17:05.

He had missed the cutoff again. By a mere 5 minutes.

A year after that, his bad luck continued at IRONMAN Boulder. Allen crossed the finish line, I said “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN” and there was elation with eight minutes to spare. However, Allen shortly learned that he had been directed the wrong way on the bike course and didn’t make the required bike cutoff. Another official DNF.

At 81 years old, Allen tried yet again at IRONMAN Maryland in 2021. With Greg at his side, Allen was on track for a finish, but with only 8 miles remaining on the run, his back seized up, and he couldn’t even walk —another DNF. Then came: IRONMAN Louisville and IRONMAN Arizona. DNF, and DNF.

After waiting out the racing hiatus that was the global pandemic, Allen was ready for his finish. He showed up for IRONMAN Des Moines in June of 2022. But the high 90 degree temps plus a hilly bike course made for an impossible day. DNF. Then came IRONMAN California, DNF.

A few months later, Greg paced Allen at IRONMAN Arizona riding behind his Dad on the bike leg, keeping an eye on him. Greg stopped for a moment after the first of three bike loops, and as he continued, he discovered Allen on the ground leaning over his bike with his head bleeding. Allen had been clipped by another cyclist.

Another day over, another DNF.

While still healing from many scrapes, bruises, and fractured vertebrae, Allen did exactly what we might expect at this point. He registered for IRONMAN Maryland… for this coming September 2023.

Not many people have the guts to keep showing up after so many “failures.” Most people are not like Allen. But the reality is that Allen’s greatest failure would only be in not pursuing his dream. The beauty of life is in the fight, in the dream, in the day-to-day.

Sometimes the journey IS the finish line.

Allen, you never cease to amaze us! No matter what happens, we are cheering for this IRONMAN Maryland FINISH line for you!

And no matter what happens - ALLEN LUCAS, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!