July 18, 2024
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July 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Speaking of which … there was still one thing left to do before we grabbed my bicycle and headed back to the hotel for a hot shower, warm food and a comfy bed…

I called my dad. Ever since I nearly collapsed and passed out at Ironman Louisville in 2014, he has asked me to call him after I finished the race and let him know that I was OK. I’m 54 years old and Dad is now 90 years old. I should be worried about him. The fact that he still thinks of me as his little boy is not lost on me. My son Eric is now 17 years old, but to me he is still my little guy, so I get it and I appreciate that at the age of 54, my dad still worries.

(Worries = cares.)

Yup.

In the past, Dad has said, “Call me, no matter how late you finish.”

Before we left for Europe, I told him, “We will be in Europe, so it might be very late.”

To which he replied, “So, go faster.”

The only problem was, I got the time zones backwards. It was 11 p.m. in Bolton, England, but it was dinner time in White Plains, New York.

Dad: “How was it?”

Me: “It was tough. I thought last year’s Lake Placid Ironman was tough.”

Dad: “Oh?”

Me: “I developed bilateral hamstring and quad cramps at mile 60 of the bike. I thought I was going to have to call Janet and say, “Pick me up; I’m done.” But you taught me, don’t quit until they tell you, you are done.” So, I forced my legs to bend. I got through it and made it with only minutes to spare.”

Dad: “But you made it?”

Me: “I made it … and dad, I love you.”

Dad: “I love you too buddy. You are an inspiration.”

That was when it happened…

I looked at Janet, she saw it in my face … and she held me. She didn’t have to ask, she knew.

I was experiencing every emotion, all at once.

As a son, as a husband, as a dad, there are expectations. Some of those are reasonable and some are not, but we don’t always stop to separate the wheat from the chaff of our emotional baggage.

Making it to the finish line of an Ironman is a massive emotional release of all of them.

I don’t compete in a 16+ hour race to hear my dad say “I love you,” but I am at my most emotional self when I complete an Ironman and it’s really nice to hear my wife, my sons, my parents say, “I love you,” when I’m done.

Ironman is a group activity that you have to do all by yourself. No one can help you, but they can cheer you on. Just knowing that my wife and kids were waiting at the finish line while my parents were waiting by the phone—all waiting to hear that I had made it, helped me to fight all so much harder when my legs cramped up and it looked like I would have to concede defeat.

With my parents happy it was time to collect my stuff.

(Stuff?)

My wetsuit and my bike. You didn’t think those things magically just make their way back to my hotel by themselves, did you?

(But you were paying for a service to dismantle and repack the bike.)

The reason that athletes are given a bracelet with their racing numbers is so that no one goes home with someone else’s bike. I had to walk over to the transition area and walk my bike out of the guarded area before the service could transport my bike back and pack it up for me.

Now that the sun had gone down, I had a new problem. The temperature dropped.

(And you were standing there in shorts and a bike top?)

Boy, was I really sad that someone had stolen my Iron Man costume.

I grabbed my still damp wetsuit and my bike and walked across the spotlight-lit grassy field. Once I had been checked out by the security guards, I simply handed those items over to the bike concierge who would transport them back to the hotel for me.

It had been an amazing trip filled with both family and personal firsts that I would have a flight home to reflect on. For now, all I wanted was a hot shower, clean clothes and something to eat that didn’t taste like a sports drink.


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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