May 23, 2024
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May 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Ironman Lake Placid 2022: Part 25

10:10 p.m. (15.25 hours since race start)

Mile 25.75

I stopped and grabbed a barricade as I took off the backpack. It was time to put on the suit.

(Power up the arch reactor?)

I have raced 140.6 miles in under 17 hours for the ninth time in 11 years.

It’s more like slipping into an adult onesie, but yeah, I do imagine JARVIS powering me up. I do feel a wave of strength come over me as I run in the suit with the Iron Man mask in my hand.

(Is that feeling of strength all in your head?)

I’m sure it is, but the fatigue vanished and I straightened my back. I ran down the road to the Olympic Oval. Everywhere I looked were crowds, cheering, calling out “It’s Ironman,” “It’s Tony Stark.”

When I see my family waiting for me after hours of my personal struggle,
I cry. (Credit: David Roher)

I entered the Olympic oval, but I still had 200 meters to go. I heard Mirel call out my name from the crowd as I rounded the final turn, but I wasn’t stopping. My heart was racing, I knew what lay ahead. I had been in motion for 15+ hours and the record was mine. It was time to claim my prize.

I stepped onto the red and black finishing carpet. The spotlights were in my eyes, the music mixed with the crowd cheers like a symphonic orchestra filling my ears. As I stepped across the finish, pyrotechnics went off (not everyone gets those) and I heard Mike Reilly above the screaming and the music.

Mike coined the phrase, “You are an Ironman” for those who make it through the 140.6 miles before midnight. That’s what Mike does from the winner to the last finisher, he says their name and “you are an Ironman.” That’s the line, no more, no less.

Last year Mike saw me in the costume at the finish and said,

Friends watching at home saw Mike Reilly’s words on their screens. (Credit: David Roher)

“David Roher, you are the Ironman.” Everyone laughed and I figured, OK, that’s about as far as he is going to take the joke we share. The joke that even his little grandson remarked, “Grandpa, you know Tony Stark.” This year, he raised the bar again. Maybe it was because he had already decided to retire from announcing or he wanted to be in on the joke or just maybe, the mood of the night inspired him to be a little silly.

“David Roher … he looks just like him. Look at him, David Roher … you … are … an … IRONMAN!”

But then, he did something he has never done before or since…

“Tony Stark … right there!”

Man, I loved that. I stepped across the finish line and stopped my watch. 15:24:53!

An hour faster than last year, 15 minutes faster than my record. I was beaming from what I had done; what I had accomplished.

I saw my wife and kids standing in front of me. Instantly, I broke down crying.

I cry every time I see my family at the finish line because it’s not about me, it’s about us. Because I could never have gotten through this training without them; without their support.

Ruth was there waiting for me too. Ruth had collapsed crying in my wife’s arms three minutes ahead of me. It’s such an emotional thing to push through a physically challenging event like this one. Now, three things left to do:

First, I wanted to hug my kids and tell them I loved them.

This is how Janet was able to meet me where only athletes are permitted to stand. (Credit: David Roher)

Second, when I got back to the hotel I was going to step on the scale and see just how much weight I had lost (7.8 pounds), but now there was a phone call to make.

We walked away from the Olympic Oval and I started dialing.

“Hello … Dad?

“Yeah? Did you make it?”

“I made it and I broke my record.”

“That’s my boy.”

And I started to cry again. Neither my dad nor I were into sports when I was a kid. He taught me how to shoot a basketball and he showed me how to properly throw a baseball, but I was interested in books, so taught me about economics and politics and Yiddishkeit. So those were the things we spoke about for years. Over the last 13 years of Ironman racing, triathlon has given me a focus and it has given us another thing to talk about.

I am painfully aware that time is relative. It is short and running out on me like “the sands in the hourglass.” One day I will no longer be able to cross that finish line before midnight, but today was not that day. So, I’m going to keep doing these Ironman triathlons. I’m going to keep calling my Dad after I cross that finish line, no matter how late I finish.

David Roher is a USAT certified triathlon and marathon coach. He is a multi-Ironman finisher and veteran special education teacher. He is on Instagram @David Roher140.6. He can be reached at [email protected].

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