July 15, 2024
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July 15, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

I rolled across the line that ends the bike course at 4:26 p.m.

I had made it with less than four minutes to spare.

I started to cry as I walked my bike across the grass.

I was looking for my numbered bike spot.

I was overcome with emotion and instead of thinking about what awaited me when I racked my bike, I reflected on the moment.

I had faced a challenge that nearly ended my race and I persevered through sheer will.

I had never, in 12 years of competing in Ironman triathlons, been so close to the bike cut off that I was in danger of failing. Yeah, I had been close to not making the midnight cut off at Ironman Arizona in 2012, and I almost passed out from the heat and humidity at Ironman Louisville in 2014.

But I was so relieved that I had not quit, that I had stuck it out, when it looked like I did not have the strength left to pedal fast enough to finish in time. I smiled though my tears and I was empowered by them.

(You still had a marathon to run … and your legs were still on the verge of cramping up on you…)

Yeah, there was that, but I now had six and a half hours to run that marathon.

(What is your Ironman marathon average run pace?)

My best finish is a six hour marathon.

(That’s not what I asked you…)

Around six and a half hours.

(This should be fun…)

I racked my bike, slipped on my running sneakers and started my marathon.

I’ve run the NYC Marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon in DC and the Boston Marathon.

(In Boston?)

No, in Zimbabwe … Yes, in Boston. These races start in one spot and run to another spot. In the case of the NYC Marathon you run from Staten Island to Brooklyn to Queens to the Bronx and finally Manhattan.

(I’m tired just hearing about it.)

An Ironman marathon is just a loop. The finish line is right next to where you rack your bike so you are running a series of “out and backs.”

(That doesn’t sound so bad.)

You feel like you never get anywhere. It’s like a giant circle.

(Dante’s inferno.)

Hey, we all have our own version of hell.

(But you are Jewish … You don’t believe in hell.)

True, but on this course, you run past the finish line three times before you finally cross it. You get to see and hear others finishing the race.

(That does kinda sound brutal.)

I exited the bike transition area and followed the other runners onto the course.

(So, you ran out of the park and onto the street?)

Correct … and down the road to the finish line. I started to feel my hamstring tighten, so I ingested the last of my salt. I was hoping that it would be enough until I got to the aid station tables with … more salt. In the center of town, on cobblestone streets, in front of cheering crowds, I could see the promised land, but I could not turn left into the finisher chute.

(Just keep bearing right?)

Yup and in front of those crowds, on those cobblestones, my quad seized again and I started doing the “St. Vitus Dance.”

(Did you fall over?)

I almost did. It was heartwarming to hear total strangers on the other side of the metal barricade asking, “Are you ol’ right?”

(Were you?)

I knew I would be as soon as the remainder of salt kicked in. Until then, I hobbled along, on the cobblestones, like I had one leg longer than the other.

(You didn’t walk?)

I was doing my best to “keep a stiff upper lip.”

The entire marathon course stretched from the finish line in the town square through the park where the bikes were racked, down a two way street, past a bar to a turnaround in the middle of the road with orange cones.

(How many times?)

Four.

(That doesn’t sound so bad.)

It wasn’t … at first.


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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