May 29, 2024
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May 29, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

After 12 months of planning and training, it was finally racing day!

3:30 a.m. Wake up, lenses in, swim shorts and T-shirt on and start davening.

3:50 a.m. Breakfast of oatmeal and another café mocha (maybe two).

4:05 a.m. I’m on the tour bus, trying to sleep as we travel to the start of the race.

5:00 a.m. The sun was hidden behind cloud cover so thick it looked like it could rain any second.

(This is a sport that starts with a swim, so who cares if it rains?)

I was in front of my bike, pumping my tires and water bottles snug in their spot behind my seat when I got to catch my breath.

I looked around. Everything around me was wet. My tires, my bike seat, the ground.

Racing in England is very different from racing in the United States. I started competing in triathlons in 2007 and the only times I had raced “overseas” was in Bermuda and Cozumel Mexico which were similar to racing in the New York/New Jersey area. The weather is different in England in July. The air temp at 5 a.m. was 58° with a predicted high of 62°. Three days before, the forecast had been for non-stop rain. As Scottish Steve put it, “Welcome to Ironman Seattle!”

I was used to sunny and 72° at race start. “We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto.”

I had a rain “parker” tucked into my bike jersey for the colder temperatures on the ride. I knew from past experience that I needed to keep my torso and arms both warm and dry. Previously, I had ridden through a torrential downpour in 65° weather and got the shakes so violent that I almost had to quit the race.

(What about your legs?)

I wear shorts in snowstorms.

(Good point.)

5:45 a.m. We lined up like lemming preparing to go off a cliff. Suddenly, the sky opened up and it was raining on us, but not a drizzle. It was like someone turned on a shower. The sky was filled with big droplets that make noises when they hit the trees like a thousand tiny bombs falling all around us … and on us. Everyone around me let out a collective groan, but I was thinking,

“We’re all standing around in wetsuits, why is anyone complaining about being wet???”

As quickly as the rain started, it stopped.

(Ironman Seattle indeed.)

“Please stand for the national anthem.”

Right, the national anthem. Oh, wait, I’m in England. They played “God Save the Queen.” which I recognized from listening to the band, Queen.

6:00 a.m. Race began with a horn blast followed by the AC/DC song, “Thunderstruck.”

I like this song; it gets me all pumped up … except this morning stood there with nowhere to go.

(Lovely, standing around in neoprene waiting to explode.)

Your proximity to the water at a swim start is determined by what you think your swim pace is.

If you think you will finish the 2.4 miles swim in under one hour, you stand in the front. The rest of us stand near the sign of your pacing.

(What is your pacing?)

1 hour, 20 minutes.

(So, you stood under…)

The 1 hour 10 minutes sign.

(Because you just grew gills?)

Because as the 1:10 crowd pulled away from me I would be in between them and the 1:20 crowd and let me tell you, an Ironman swim is a full contact sport. One thousand four hundred ninety nine of your newest friends all trying to get ahead of you in a sport where flaying your arms wildly moves you faster.

(Isn’t triathlon swimming a series of precisely choreographed movements?)

For those of us who have practiced for years, yes. Remember, people come to this sport from different backgrounds. Some swimmers, like me, some cycling, some running. Sometimes, you get triathletes who are not as dedicated as others to perfecting their swim stroke.

(Hence the “full contact sport” comment?)

6:04 a.m. I walked across the timing mat and slid in the water.

The 2.4 mile Ironman swim was in a lake. Lake swims are weird for me. I regularly swim in a pool and occasionally in the ocean. Lake water is sweet compared to chlorine or salt.

(Don’t drink the lake water!)

I have completed four Ironman triathlons over the last six years, all in Lake Placid.


I’m looking for a guide cable.

(A what?)

Ironman Lake Placid has a yellow guide cable four feet under the water. You never have to look up to see where you are going. I forgot this and I drifted off course. There are giant inflatable buoys floating on the water’s surface that give swimmers a visual to guide them along the course. I follow the buoys, I even swim under one of them. Every 500 yards my watch buzzed. By the time I completed the first loop…

(There are two loops?)

Oh yes, and you exit the water to start the second loop. So, by the time I completed the first loop, my pacing was very good, but the ancient Chinese have a saying. “When things are at the top, they start to decline.”

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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