April 8, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Ironman UK 2023: Part 26

You can see my Dad on the screen as
I listened to his words. (Credit: David Roher)

Mile 140.6: The Finish Line

“It’s David Roher, all the way from the USA. Looks like Tony Stark … Here he is. You are an Ironman, Daaaavid!”

I high-fived Joanne as I passed her. Beyond Joanne was a volunteer. He was waiting to place my medal around my neck, but I was looking for my wife and kids. I had been awake since 3 a.m. and I had been in motion for over 16 hours. I hadn’t seen my wife and children since the previous day and I was feeling every emotion, at once. All I wanted to do was hug my family and call my dad, but I was corralled by a metal barricade that separated us. They were standing right where they said they would be, but my mind was racing. I wanted to hug them, but I had to call my dad and I had to do other things. The race was over, I had overcome obstacles and now I should have just stood there and taken in the moment, but I didn’t. My OCD was in overdrive and I had to focus.

The finish line area was fenced off, so I waved to my family and blew them kisses.

I got my finisher’s medal and was funneled into a tent by the finish line volunteers. This is where athletes get their finisher’s T-shirt and recovery food.

(Is there kosher food?)

Nah, and I didn’t want food. I wanted my family. I found them waiting for me across the street. My wife gave me the biggest hug.

(She had been following you on the app and she knew just how much trouble you encountered biking those hills.)

I’m crying, my wife is crying, all after 16 hours of every emotion. (Credit: David Roher)

“I’m crying” I said.

“Why are you crying?” My crying wife asked me. Now think about that for a minute…

“I cry when I see you,” then I looked at Eric, “and you,” then down at 11-year-old Stevie, “and you.”

(Why?)

Because I’m running home, to my family. Now it was time to call home, to hear my dad’s voice and let him know, his “little guy” as he still calls me at the age of 55, was alive and well.

Me: “Dad, I’ll tell ya, it was tough out there and I thought it wasn’t gonna happen, but you taught me to stay in, don’t quit, wait until they pull you and I made it work. I made it.”

Dad: “Alright! Good for you. Give my love to the family and enjoy the rest of your vacation…”

Me: “Dad?”

Dad: “Yeah?”

Me: “I love you.”

(Pause)

Dad: “I love you too, buddy.”

(Now who is the 11-year-old, you or your son?)

My wife, my kids, my parents, they keep me going, even when I think that I can’t. They are with me, like when I struggled on the bike. How could I tell my kids that I quit and gave up?

It’s like my dad taught me, you hang in there until they pull you. One day that may happen … but this was not that day. This was my day to celebrate with my family.

I still had to collect my bike and my wetsuit and get back to the hotel. I wanted a sandwich, a hot shower and a bed with a fluffy mattress.

(So, what was stopping you?)

Just because the race ended, didn’t mean my night had.

Remember that one and a half mile run from the park to the town center?

Yes, I really did ingest half this vial of salt. (Credit: David Roher)

(Yeah?)

That’s where my stuff was.

(Couldn’t it wait for morning?)

An Ironman is like a rock concert. As soon as the show is over, the crew begins breaking down event so that the place looks like they were never there. At midnight unclaimed bikes are left unguarded.

Bike transition is a lonely place at the end of an Ironman. Lots of open spaces, bathed in floodlights, with only a few souls wandering about. Like a reunion of war veterans, athletes hobble in and begin telling “war stories” of their struggles.

(So, you hung around like it was kiddush at shul when your family just wanted to go home?)

I grabbed my bike, spilled out the water and Gatorade that was left in my bottles and headed for the exit.

(Why shlep extra weight?)

The security team checked my race number sticker on my bike to the one on my wrist.

Once through the gates it was into the van and back to the hotel. Ironman is a 16+ hour odyssey of miles and of calories. Post-race emptying of my pockets is a road map of what I put into my GI track. I stood there staring at the vile of basesalt. It’s hard to imagine that I ingested that much salt over the course of the bike and the run. But then again, it’s hard to imagine that…


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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