I’m doing my first full Ironman race in 229 days â€“ Ironman Mont Tremblant in Canada. I was supposed to do it last year, but the race was cancelled, and we all got deferred to this year.
What is the Ironman?
The Ironman is a triathlon, composed of the following distances:
2.4-mile (open water) swim, then a
112-mile bike, followed by a
26.2 (full marathon) run,
All in under 17 hours.
The race starts at 7am, and you must finish before midnight to be an official Ironman.
Why Are You Doing This?
I learned a long time ago that if I don’t have a race or other athletic event on my calendar, I will not be motivated to work out.
I enjoy the challenge of pushing myself to do something I’ve never done before. Races like this take dedication and mental toughness to get through not just race day but also the training to prepare for the race.
In 2017, I hired David Roher to help me train to complete my first marathon. During Mile 20 of the race, even though every part of my body hurt, I knew I wanted to do more marathons. I knew David did triathlons and coached triathletes, so I expanded my training in the off season to include swimming and biking as cross-training. Within months, I was signing up for my first sprint triathlon. About 30 seconds into that race, I knew triathlons were for me. I did the Half Ironman in 2019, and after that went well, I signed up for a full Ironman.
Are You Following a Program, Have a Coach, or Creating Your Own Thing?
Coach David is overseeing my training. Every Sunday, I get a text from him with my workouts for the week. Most weeks, I have two swim workouts, two bike workouts (one on the stationary trainer, one outside), two run workouts, and a rest day. I also have strength work that I do three times a week and stretches that I do every day.
In addition to this, I also go to physical therapy once a week. I’ve been having long-term issues with my hips and back. My physical therapist is also an Ironman, which is helpful, because she has a greater understanding of my goals as well.
How Many Hours Are You Spending Training, Prepping, and Planning?
Oh geez. Right now, my shortest cardio workout is about 28 minutes (1,500-yard swim), and my longest is about 3 hours (48-mile bike ride). My strength workout is probably around an hour each time. Stretching takes around 30 minutes each day. A physical therapy session can last over 2 hours with all my exercises.
In addition to all of this, there are other activities like checking on airline ticket prices for the race, bike maintenance, and replacing gear when it wears out like running shoes, workout clothes, and swim goggles.
In terms of diet, I mostly try to eat healthy, avoid excessive sugar, salt, and white flour. I also try to make sure I have enough protein in my diet, which might require more planning since I’m vegan.
What Will be the Longest Training Workout/Brick in Your Ramp Up?
That will be up to Coach David. In passing, he’s mentioned a 50-miles bike ride/5-mile run and a 100-mile bike ride/3.1-mile run.
I’m also planning to fly back East to do a 3.1-mile open water swim with my coach and the rest of the â€œJewish Swim Clubâ€ in the Atlantic Ocean. During the race, I’ll be able to remind myself that swimming 2.4 miles is easier than swimming a 5k.
What Are You Most Looking Forward to Related to This Race?
So much. I’m excited to be an athlete who is capable of completing an Ironman race. Every time I can go faster, go farther, or see more muscle developing, it’s exciting.
What’s especially exciting about this race is the fact that I’ll be doing it with my coach and almost all of his other triathletes. There’s a strong sense of family and camaraderie in this group.
What Are You Least Looking Forward To?
My race is in August in Canada, but most of my training will be in Arizona. My longest workouts will be in June and July, when the low for the day can be in the high 80s. We’ll have to be careful to make sure I don’t overheat. On my long workout days, I may have to start at 2am or 3am to beat the heat.
Are You Practicing Peeing on the Bike or While Running?
To date, I haven’t needed to use the bathroom during a race. I’ve heard this is a thing. I even heard from another triathlete who was peed on by another racer while they were both on bikes. That must have happened while one was passing the other, because Ironman has strict rules about maintaining a minimum distance from other cyclists unless you’re passing.
Are You Going to Get the Tattoo?
Oh yes! I’m looking forward to getting the classic â€œM-Dotâ€ tattoo.
first Half Ironman triathlon is in the books: 70.3 miles in 7 hours, 18
minutes, 25 seconds. I’ll take that.
race was about a year in the making, ever since I did my first sprint triathlon
last September. Less than 30 seconds into that race, I knew the Half Ironman
up to Maine 70.3 was training â€“ lots of
sweaty training â€“ in the Phoenix heat. I was usually slimy with sweat by Mile 3
of a run, no matter how early I left the house. Coach David and I had to be
careful about not having me outside too long on the 110+ degree days.
also spent the last year dealing with a hip injury. I had to defer both my half
marathon and full marathon over the winter because my hip wouldn’t let me train
the way I needed to. Thankfully, my physical therapist is also a triathlete, so she was the perfect person to help David
and me build up my mileage and adjust my strategy to manage the pain.
had many calls and texts with David leading up to race day. We talked about how
I was going to fuel during the race with protein powder, gels, and salt. He reviewed my
packing list to make sure I brought everything I was going to need. I even made
little lists to remind myself of what I needed to do during each transition
(swim-to-bike and bike-to-run).
arrived in Old Orchard Beach,
two days before the race. Our hotel was minutes away from the race expo and the
starting line. We hit the race expo first to get our race packets (timing chip,
race number, bike stickers, swim cap, etc.). I was so jittery-excited I could
barely take it all in.
afternoon, David took me swimming in the ocean. It had been over a year since
I’d last swam in an ocean, and it was my first time swimming in my wetsuit. We
worked on my form and cadence (which is hard to maintain in choppy water), and
he lovingly reminded me of what it’s like to swim in a race by purposely
running into me. He calls it Direct Recovery (of) Open Water Navigation (&)
Guidance (D.R.O.W.N.G). It sounds cruel, but during a triathlon, people hit and
kick you all the time during the swim. It’s better to be ready for it â€“ because
it will happen â€“ so it won’t freak you out during the race.
was all about resting. I think I was the only non-Orthodox Jew in our group. It
was fun participating in my first Shabbas lunch and learning all the rules.
Since I was the â€œShabbas goyâ€ who could do â€œwork,â€ I walked both David’s and my
bikes to the race transition area. He came with me and we timed how long it
took to walk from the transition area to the swim start and back to our hotel.
was windy on Saturday, and David and I talked about what that would mean for my
race. I shrugged and said, â€œI’ll still PR.â€
day morning was nerve-wracking. I was so nervous/excited as a powered down my
oatmeal, pulled my wetsuit halfway up my body, and packed my gear bag for the
race. David was cool as a cucumber as I was powerwalking to bike transition
area, afraid I wouldn’t have enough time to lay out my gear before we had to
report to the beach for the swim. (We had plenty of time.)
Swim in the Atlantic Ocean
the start of the race, we lined up based on when we expected to finish the swim.
Instead of going in all at once, the organizers had us going in four swimmers
at a time, each group five seconds apart.
though David is a faster swimmer than me, he lined up with me so he could be
there to give me a last hug and be the proud coach to who told the announcer
that it was my first Half Ironman. We walked into the ocean together, and
within minutes we were apart, swimming our own races as we expected.
swim was brutal. The water was cold and choppy. I had so much adrenaline
coursing through my veins that I didn’t feel cold, but it was cold enough that
the race was â€œbooties legalâ€ (below 65 degrees). Even though I was wearing
goggles, I could barely see anything underwater, except the air bubbles coming
out of my mouth. I couldn’t even see the hands and feet that were coming
towards me until right before they hit me in the face. With 2,400+ racers, I got hit a lot.
race route was a rectangle â€“ out, over, and back again. Throughout the route,
there were volunteers on paddle boards and kayaks where you could grab on if
you needed a minute to rest and breathe. I checked my watch when I grabbed onto
the first kayak â€“ 4:45 into the race. I was panicking. I couldn’t find my
cadence and I it seemed like I was getting hit by the other racers every few
were three other racers holding onto the kayak. We gave each other a few
encouraging words before letting go to swim on.
the buoy signaling the last turn for shore, I began to get pulled off course.
In my wetsuit, I was essentially a floaty on top of the water, being pulled by
the sideways current. A paddle boarding volunteer caught up with me and told me
to aim back towards to race route. I tried, but it didn’t work. I was too tired
and too light to get back to the group. Instead, I aimed for shore and walked
back when my feet hit the sand.
of the challenges of Ironman is you’re stuck listening to your own thoughts for
the entire race. (No earbuds or cell phones allowed.) I kept myself going with
words of encouragement using â€œBaby Duck,â€ my gymnastics
coach’s pet name for his gymnasts.
was so tired after the swim. I finished it in 1 hour, 2 minutes â€“ 12 minutes
longer than I wanted â€“ and because I got pulled so far off course, I ended up
doing 2,800 yards (including my walk back) instead of 2,100.
I walked back to the official swim exit, I saw two lifeguards carrying a
swimmer out of the water because they were too tired to walk. After the race, I
heard a rumor that 70 people didn’t finish either because they were too tired
or got seasick.
I walked over the sensor that indicated that I finished the swim, I said, â€œFuck
Ironmanâ€ and flipped off the photographer getting shot of all of us coming out
of the swim. I was so tired and angry. That’s also when I finally felt how cold
the end of the swim, there were volunteers called â€œstrippersâ€ who peeled off
our wetsuits. As I walked up to them, I said, â€œWho wants to touch me?â€ Two
women held up their hands to help me. They pulled off my wetsuit and handed it
to me to carry back to the bike transition.
I got to my bike, I pulled off my swim
cap and googles, sprayed down with sunblock, put on my socks, bike shoes,
bandana, helmet, and sunglasses, and I was off again.
56-Mile Bike Ride
bike ride took us through the back roads of many towns in the area. I loved
that this bike route was a single loop rather than several laps on a smaller
the beginning of the ride, I saw a street called Ruth Way. I smiled and
thought, â€œMy race. My way.â€
area of Maine is gorgeous â€“ lots of houses with barn stars (for good luck), cows, big trees, and open
pastures. The route had rolling hills, and only a few were brutal. It was much
nicer than city riding.
the ride, I found people to pace with â€“ we learned each other’s names and said
hello as we passed each other. I was pleased to see that I frequently passed
people, especially on the hills. As I climbed each hill, I muttered, â€œWe train
on hills because we race on hills.â€ It felt gratifying to pass other people in
my division. (The organizers write your age on the back of your left calf in
black marker before the beginning of the race.)
were three aid stations along the ride that had bananas, water, and Gatorade. I
came to a full stop at each one to have a banana and switch out my Gatorade
bottle. I was like a Minion, smiling, and saying, â€œMmm, bananaâ€ each time. Most
of the other racers near me could grab and consume these without falling. I
wasn’t that skilled yet.
on our training rides, I knew there was a chance I’d catch up to David during
the bike. I passed him at Mile 36. He was unmistakable with his tzitzit and his neon yellow â€œDo Epic Shitâ€ socks. I was impressed when
he passed me just before the end of the ride. We finished with only two riders
made sure I did three things before I headed out for the run:
My shoes were tied the way I like them.
I sprayed my skin with sunblock again.
I put on my hat.
though we were in Maine, I didn’t want to finish the race looking like a
is much faster in the transitions than I am. (He’s done 6 Ironman and more than
20 Half Ironman races.) By the time I got out on the run, he was already about
three minutes ahead of me.
felt better than I expected during the run. I’ve heard that some racers have to
walk the first part of the run until they get their â€œlegs back.â€ I could run
from my first step. I wasn’t fast, but I was running. Actually, I was surprised
by how many people I passed during the run portion.
race organizers had aid stations every 1 to 1.5 miles along the route with
Gatorade, water, Coke, bananas, oranges, and pretzels. I stayed hydrated with
Gatorade, treated myself to Coke twice, and gave myself hits of salt from a race
vial that I was carrying with me.
a third of the run was on a nature trail. Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t like trail
I’m clumsy enough without outside help. I caught up with David around Mile 4,
while we were on the trail. As I approached him, I said, â€œFuck you, David,â€ and
he responded, â€œThat’s my athlete.â€ He â€œforgotâ€ to tell me that part of the race
was on dirt. I passed him and kept going. (He and I have a running joke about
cursing his name.)
strategy for the run was to alternate between running and walking. I started
with run 9 minutes/walk 1 minute. At minute 58 of my run, my hip started to
hurt, so I shifted to run 6/walk 1.
hung out in the finish line area, knowing David wasn’t far behind me. He
crossed the finish line five minutes after me and gave me a big hug. He was
beaming with coach pride.
felt so good to step into a hot shower after the race. I was covered in salt,
sweat, and sunblock.
next morning, I flew home to Phoenix. I was tired and sore, but thankfully, the
pain was nothing like I feared.
many thanks to Ironman, the volunteers, everyone who cheered along the race
route, all my loved ones who supported me in this journey, and especially Coach
David and his family. I couldn’t have done this without you.