Totaling 140.6 miles, the Ironman Race is one of the biggest accomplishments an endurance athlete can complete. Split between 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, and a full marathon of running (26.2 miles), the Ironman isn’t exactly an event you can just step off the couch and expect to crush. But instead of letting those daunting numbers scare you away from the starting line, take some advice from experienced athletes that have gone the distance and use their words of inspiration to set the goals you need to accomplish this bucket list endurance event. Here are 5 different Ironmen and women sharing exactly why it takes to tackle the Ironman.
The Clymb: Can anyone run an Ironman race?
Beto Navarro: Absolutely! You will hear stories of people fighting cancer, having organs transplant, being handicapped with no leg or arms… if these people can do it, why can’t you? That was my motivation to start training for one.
Mike Tarrolly: I’ve completed Ironman Wisconsin and Louisville, both after the age of 50, and I have seen many stories of people overcoming remarkable challenges to finish Ironman, so I would say yes, anyone can do it.
The Clymb: What’s the hardest part about Ironman training?
Monique McDonough: The hardest part for us, honestly, is the long bike rides. The last sacrifice that Greg and I wanted to make was spending all day Saturday on our bikes, while missing precious time with our girls and paying for a babysitter. We both have flexible jobs,) so we were able to take a fair number of Fridays off from work so that we could get in our miles. We found a challenging biking route while preparing for IM Lake Placid last year that would enable us to drop the kids at school at 8 am, drive out to our launch point, ride 90–100 miles, and then jump back in the car and pick up the kids by 6 pm. It’s a long day, but it works for us.
The Clymb: What does your typical weekly workout regimen look like in preparing for the race?
Beto Navarro: Training for an Ironman demands a lot of discipline. You have to be aware that there are going to be days that you will be training for around 9 hours. You have to prepare not only physically but mentally… but you will learn a lot from yourself during training. The most difficult part is the training, once it is done… the only thing missing is to cross the finish line on race day.
Greg Kolodziejzyk: A typical week maxes out at about 30 hours of training. This includes one or two long rides of around 8 hours with a brick run of 1 hour, one long run for 3 hours, one long swim for 2 hours, then 3 more shorter swims during each week, one recover (easy) run day, and one mile interval speed work day. I’m on the bike almost every day with one interval session each week using a watts meter.
The Clymb: If you can put it into words, what is the driving force behind your Ironman achievements?
Greg McDonough: Truly, my Ironman achievements are about the journey and not so much about the race. Do not get me wrong, I love race day. It is a time that is unlike any other in my life. But I look at the training while balancing with work/life as the difficult part of the achievement. Both Monique and I also believe we are setting the right examples for our children (6 y/o and 2 y/o). They see us working out in the morning, see us trying to eat right and going to bed early, and experience race weekend. In fact, our oldest continues to ask when she will be able to race with us. We want them to know that anything is possible if you plan, prepare, and dedicate yourself to your goals.
Mike Tarrolly: I’ve written about 600 posts on my website and most relate to this question in some way. What drove me initially was the “I was getting fat and lazy” coupled with the “life is short” adage and I wanted to try something that seemed way out of my realm of possibility. Now what drives me is the elusive quest of finding the perfect balance of health, happiness, and accomplishment.
Monique McDonough: That’s a complicated question, and everyone that I know has a different answer. Though it’s the same race, we all get there, and continue to come back to Ironman for different reasons. For me, initially, it was about proving to myself that I could tackle anything I wanted. The consummate “over-achiever”, it was about conquering something that seemed impossible, especially since I never considered myself to be an athlete. Now, 11 years, 5 IM races and 2 kids later, it’s about proving to myself—and my children—that you can do anything you set out to achieve. And, to be perfectly honest, the feeling of crossing of that finish line after months of commitment and sacrifice. Well, there’s just nothing like it.
ABOUT THE ATHLETES:
Originally from Ecuador, Beto Navarro made the transition to Miami and in the process of working multiple jobs, attending college, and finding a meaningful job, Beto found himself losing sight of the athletic man he once was. It was in 2006, prompted by a New Year’s resolution, when Beto joined a gym to regain some of his lost fitness…and the rest is history for this now multiple-Ironman finisher. Beto has documented his journey from that first moment he struggled on a 10 minute treadmill routine to the moment he crossed the finish line at the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.
While in his 40’s, Mike Tarrolly found himself falling down a slippery slope filled with “a lot of time at the local bar and way too much pizza.” So, like a true champion, Mike decided to do something about it, and after struggling/tackling his first 5K, the road to both of his Ironman’s (Wisconsin & Louisville) was marked by hard work and determination. Mike has documented his journey, providing more than race workouts and nutrition tips, but also insights from training and advice on how to follow your dreams to the finish line.
Monique (Means) McDonough & Greg McDonough
It might be possible that Monique (Means) and Greg McDonough never sleep. That’s because atop of two full-time career jobs, and two children to spend quality time with, this dynamic duo of parents have also found the time to sneak in some Ironman training and compete in some of the biggest races. Greg has tackled the Lake Placid Ironman and Means has accomplished an impressive 5 Ironmans including Lake Placid (twice), Maryland, Brazil, and Wisconsin. Their website documents many of these outstanding events and also gives guidance and inspiration to other athletes looking to balance work, life, and family into an entirely too short 24-hour day.
Greg Kolodziejzyk is part human, part world-record setting robot, and he has the accolades to prove it. On top of completing an astonishing 12 Ironman Races (including Canada, Florida, Arizona, Utah, and the World Championships in Kona to name a few), Greg also holds the world records for longest distance traveled by human power on both water and land (he pedaled 647 miles in 24 hours!). Greg is all about inspiring people to achieve their maximum potential, and he’s not backing down anytime soon, either—his next plan is human-powered air travel!