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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Ironman Lake Placid 2022: Part 7

Friday, 10:00 a.m. (45 hours to race start.)

Then it was time to visit the Ironman Village.

(There’s a village full of Ironman triathletes?)

The Ironman village is where you can buy anything and everything you would need to complete an Ironman triathlon.

(Swim goggles?)

Yup.

(A wetsuit?)

Yup.

(How about a triathlon racing bike?)

That too.

(Why?)

Why, what?

(Why would you need to buy a racing bike the day before your race?)

It is really a chance for bike merchants to entice you to upgrade after the race.

All of this is eye candy for me. It’s window shopping, like when there’s a Patek Philippe watch ad in the paper or a sports car commercial on TV and you check it out on their website. I once witnessed a friend tell his wife that he needed a more expensive bike than the one he owned.

“Why do you need a more expensive bike when you have a perfectly good one you race on?”

“This one is many ounces lighter, so I will save time.”

“Go on a diet and lose weight” was her answer. Everyone at that Shabbos table laughed. The truth is, a bike is the most expensive way to get somewhere for free.

The Ironman Village also served for me as a reminder that there are families where the dad becomes so focused on the race that the kids come to hate their father and his hobby. Ironman weekend isn’t “Race Weekend” in our family, it’s “Roher Family Vacation.” We will book a hotel with a pool or hot tub for the kids. We relax as a family on Shabbos. On Sunday the wife and kids go shopping while I try to kill myself on a 140.6 mile racecourse.

(They buy a racing bike?)

They buy whatever they want. I come home with a medal and they come home with souvenirs. Everyone is happy. On the Friday before the race, we go shopping at the Ironman Village. Janet and the kids buy T-shirts, mugs or…

(Whatever they want.)

But first, I had to go see Mike.

Mike Reilly is the “voice of Ironman.” He is the finish-line announcer. One of the things that makes a triathlon special is they call out your name when you cross the finish line, no matter what place you finish. Mike started the practice of using the phrase “You are an Ironman!” and now all announcers use the line. There are over 40 Ironman triathlons across the globe, but Mike only works 12 of them and this weekend is on his list.

Everyone who signs up for this insanity is racing to reach that place where they hear the announcer call their name and proclaim that “You are an Ironman!” I have raced in Mexico and England. It was great to hear my name called out, but it wasn’t the same as when Mike said it.

For years I had been bringing Mike the picture of us, so we could be photographed holding the picture.

Going to see Mike meant bringing Mike what my friend Michael Wilhelm refers to as “the picture inside the picture. “

When I finished Ironman Arizona in 2012, the photographer took a picture of Mike giving me a finish line hi-five and that doesn’t automatically happen when runners pass Mike before they cross the finish line.

Someone said, “Bring the picture to Lake Placid, Mike will sign it. So, I did in 2016 and Mike said, “Let’s get a picture of the picture.” So, we did. Then we developed it and bought that picture to Mike in 2017 and 2019 and 2021. So here we were in 2022, with a new twist.

My 10-year-old son Stevie wanted to meet Mike. Mike was sitting at a table singing books and he saw me, “It’s my friend Tony. How are you?”

(Tony?)

Tony Stark, Iron Man. We have been doing this picture for so long that he has a copy of it hanging in his office. He told me last year that his grandson had said to him,

“Grandpa, you know Tony Stark!”

(Does that ever get old?)

Never. Dressing up like Tony Stark means that I get to make people smile. Now it was my son’s turn. My son Stevie had been watching YouTube videos of triathlon finish lines and Stevie knew exactly who Mike was. So, I brought Stevie with me.

“Hi Mike, I’d like you to meet my 10-year-old son Stevie.”

“Hi, Stevie. Are you going to be an Ironman like your dad?”

“Yes…when I get older.”

Mike signed a copy of his book for Stevie and shook my son’s hand.

Stevie was so excited that Mike had personally signed his book that my kid could have floated back to the hotel.

Then Mike and I took our annual picture … for the last time.

Months later, after Ironman Lake Placid 2022, Mike Reily announced his retirement from announcing. That last picture with Mike hangs on the wall in my bike room.

I look at that last picture with Mike every time I ride and I still smile.

I could be sad that there will never be another iteration of the picture, but I keep going back to something Etan G sent me when the band Rush retired in 2015, “Don’t cry because it is over; Smile because it happened.” It was wonderful that this man who called out the names of over 50,000 athletes every year knew who I was when I walked up to him each year at the Ironman Village.


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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