As someone who has raced on bikes and cross-country skis, run marathons and, most recently, competed in triathlons, Tom Rohman is definitely in good shape.

But that’s not why he does any of it. He does it because he likes to compete against himself, to achieve his own ambitious goals. And once the race begins, he likes winning.

“I try to tell people I’m not competitive and everybody says, ‘You’re kidding yourself. As soon as the gun goes off you’re as competitive as anybody else.’ And I realize I am,” said Haven, 67, a semiretired veterinarian who lives in South Haven, Minn.

Rohman, who will compete in the triathlon event in the National Senior Games in the Twin Cities July 3-16, likes taking up an activity and working hard to master it. When he first took up triathlon training, he not only had to work on his running and biking, he also had to teach himself to swim. “It took me a whole year to get to the point where I could even finish it,” Rohman said.

His “bad habit,” he says, is that once he has put in the hard work of training for a big competition, he loses interest; keeping it up for the sake of staying healthy just isn’t motivation enough.

In high school, Rohman ran track and cross-country. He did a couple of years of track in college, worked hard but dropped out when he decided he “wasn’t good enough.” That was the end of organized athletics for a while. He stayed active, played handball, did outdoorsy things — but didn’t run any races. Then in 1978 a friend in Foley, Minn., got him involved in long-distance bicycle racing. Next came country skis, and a couple of years at the Birkebeiner Cross-Country race in Cable, Wis. Rohman and his wife took up running and ran a marathon together in Washington, D.C., in 1989.

Then Rohman lost interest and stopped for a while, waiting another sport to motivate him. The opportunity came when his son in Colorado talked him into joining him for a bicycle race. Rohman spent a year training for the mountainous, 60-mile course — one of the hardest things he’s ever done.

He had always thought that at some point he should try a triathlon. When a friend involved in Senior Games urged him to get involved, he looked down the list of sports and didn’t think he was good enough in any of them.

“I’m not going to do a sport I’m going to totally embarrass myself in.” He decided the triathlon, with its three different activities, was perfect. One problem: he couldn’t swim. But that didn’t worry him much. “Other people can swim, so I figured I can swim, too,” he said. “You can swim if you just work at it.” He trained for about a year, then competed in a few triathlons.

So what happens after the Senior Games are over? Does he fear losing interest in triathlons? Not yet, he said.

“I’m having fun with triathlons,” Rohman said. “I’m more successful than I ever dreamed I would be, so I think I’ve got to pursue that and see how successful I can be. I’ll give it a few more years and a few triathlons and see how good I can get.” □