As with most nights during the past year and a half since her son, Kael, was born, Rashay Kurucz was awake at 3 a.m. last Nov. 1. The timing was perfect.

As with most nights during the past year and a half since her son, Kael, was born, Rashay Kurucz was awake at 3 a.m. last Nov. 1. The timing was perfect.

Later that month her husband, Steve, was having his 38th birthday and she knew just what to get him.

Rashay was multitasking that morning in the Kuruczs' Powell residence. While attending to her son's needs, she also was online registering her husband for the Nautica New York City Triathlon.

"We have a little one that doesn't sleep much," she said. "I was able to be awake at that time. One of the perks you have with a little one is that you're up."

It was good timing when Kael awoke. Online registration for the triathlon began at 2 a.m. and was closed in less than nine hours. Under the cover of the early morning, Rashay was able to register Steve in plenty of time and surprise him a few weeks later on his birthday.

"She presented me with a certificate and training shirt," said Steve, who will compete in New York City on July 20. "She said that this is for me to stay focused. When I don't exercise I'm in a bad mood. She didn't specifically say you're being grouchy, but is was a good idea to avoid potential problems."

Steve can laugh now, but two months before he was presented with his birthday present, he underwent knee surgery. When he awoke, his doctor gave him the good news-bad news scenario.

"I had a cyst in my knee they were going to remove," he said. "At first it was a couple of weeks then I'd be back at it. When I got out of surgery, my doctor tells me while he was in there he noticed there was another issue and he took care of it.

"However, he told me I was going to have to walk with a straight leg for eight weeks."

In addition to the cyst removal, Kurucz needed microfracture surgery. In other words, his knee had damaged cartilage. Undetected by X-ray or MRI, the problem was discovered during the operation.

Developed in the 1980s, microfracture surgery helps promote new cartilage growth in the knee joint by drilling holes in nearby bones. Those bones have a blood supply that helps cells reach the surface layer and grow cartilage.

Rashay Kurucz's goal that early November morning was to provide not only a birthday present to her husband but motivation. This will be Steve Kurucz's ninth triathlon in four years.

Steve and Rashay Kurucz moved to Columbus area in 2002 as newlyweds. She got a job as a teacher in the Olentangy school system and he went into software development. Neither was from Columbus, so making friends took time.

Steve always played team sports growing up in Cleveland, but with no friends in their new hometown, he started running.

"I never ran distance in my life," he said. "But I started running after work as a stress reliever."

Soon he was up to 15 miles a day and decided to try a half marathon. It came and went and Kurucz felt a void.

"I'd done all this training leading up to the race and then I found myself sitting on the couch asking myself, 'What am I going to do now?'"

Rashay's co-worker, Heather Schwamberger, then called Steve and invited him to attend a Team in Training meeting at the Dublin Library. Recently, Steve's cousin was diagnosed with leukemia and he decided that was a good way to show support and raise money for the leukemia and lymphoma society.

"You can do either a 100-mile bike race, a marathon or triathlon," he said. "I was interested in the triathlon, signed up and had a great time doing it."

Soon, Steve Kurucz was competing throughout the country in triathlons including "Escape from Alcatraz" in San Francisco. He was hooked.

"I found competition against myself much tougher than in team versus team," he said. "You don't have anybody to answer except the guy in the mirror."

At least right now, Steve does not have any aspirations on becoming a world-class triathlete. He does it to stay healthy and it gives him the freedom to eat what he wants.

"If I stay with the sport long enough, maybe I'll win my age group -- since I'll be the only one in that age group," he said. "But right now I'm built incorrectly. Most triathletes are tall and skinny like 6-feet plus and real lean. I don't have the right build to compete with the elite. I'll blame it on genetics."

For now, he's focused on next month's performance in New York City. The Kuruczs plan to wrap a mini-vacation around the race as Steve plans to reward his wife "for being such a good coach."

Steve Kurucz's training began last December with running, swimming and biking two to three days a week. At first, the distances were manageable. He swam 500 to 700 meters, ran three to four miles and biked 15 to 20 miles.

"You build off of that," he said. "Lately, I've been running three times a week eight-plus miles, I'm able to ride my bike two to two-and-a-half hours, and on weekends I do what's called a brick workout. You do everything back-to-back to get your legs used to what's going to happen."

What is going to happen in New York City is a 1,500-meter swim down the Hudson River beginning on Manhattan's west side at 98th street followed by a 40-kilometer bike race and finishing with a 10-kilometer run ending in Central Park.

Once the Kurucz family returns from New York, Steve may prepare for another triathlon, but the training won't be as rigorous as years past. His priorities changed a year and a half ago.

"Over the next couple of years there is going to be a lull in my training," he said. "The common thing in triathletes is they are type-A personalities. When I was younger I was like that. Truthfully, now I'd rather play with my son than train. I'm lucky though, because I know I'm still in good shape when I can keep up with (Kael). He's quick."