John Bell was talking to a friend one day when he heard about something that perked his ear.

This friend was telling him all about a trathlon at Panther Creek State Park that happened in July. His friend had rant it last year.

“He was 71, and I was 75, so I said, ‘If he can do it, I can do it,’” Bell said.

So, Bell, who is a retired Hamblen County farmer, started training. He went two to three days a week to the Boys & Girls Club in Morristown to swim. He started bicycling at Panther Creek State Park when he could.

He was doing his best Rocky impression in his mid-70s. Bell has retired, but he still does some work. He said he has properties that he rents out. He also has been heavily involved in developing some area in the Merchants Greene area.

On July 28, he headed to Panther Creek State Park to do the XTERRA Panther Creek triathlon.

Because he has bad knees, he decided not to do the run. Instead, he enlisted the aid of longtime Morristown runner Jannette Erchinger.

The run was four miles long.

“It wasn’t an easy run from what they said,” Bell said.

The swim was a half mile and the bike portion was 13 miles, he said.

He thought he was in shape for it, but he said the course ended up testing him.

“I didn’t know what it was going to be like, but I found out I’m not in as good of a shape as I thought I was,” he said.

But, he still scored a victory. He did what he planned to do. He got the completion.

He now faces another challenge. The next couple of months, he will go through two partial knee replacements. He’s hoping that will be a good thing. He’s caught the bug now and he wants to do it again next year.

He said he’s a little worried that maybe the knee replacement will end up sidelining him.

But, he’s still going to try. He plans to start training for the triathlon as soon as he can.

He’s also hoping he can run.

“Maybe next year, I can do it all,” he said.