Sunday, August 6, 2017


Sometimes, just surviving is itself a victory.
With all the training I did, I was hoping to break last years record of 15:39:10, but Ironman Lake Placid did not go as planned.

Before the Race:
I set the alarm for 5, but my body woke up at 4:45.
I popped my new contact lenses in, nibbled on some lox & grabbed my 12 year old for selfie.

I had no idea how fortunate I was that he was awake.
You'll see.
I prepped my three bottles of liquid nutrition. They still had to be placed on the bike.
I hugged the wife, prayed & slapped on my rub on tats.
(Why do you wear rub on tats?)
Finish an Ironman race, you've earned the right.
Bike Transition (t1) closed at 6 a.m. After that I would not be able to put all my nutrition on the bike.
So I timed my morning to get everything done at a "calm before the storm" pace.
5:45 I was in t1 put my three bottles into their holders on the bike. That's when I stood there in horror. I saw the 4 one was missing. This was the utility one with my spare bike tires.
(Aren't they called bike tubes?)
These are my insurance policy that no matter what happens, I will be able to finish the bike portion. With only 15 minutes left before they closed t1, I ran back to the hotel room. 
(So much for you calm before the storm)
I banged furiously the door. Time was running out & I was hoping my son was still awake.
My 12 year old opened the door & I ran's not there.
I remember at that moment, I left the black canister of spare tires in my transition bag yesterday.
"Next time bring your own key!" He called out. I ran back to transition.
It was now 6:02, but security let me back in. Then I heard the officials calling out to us,
"We need everyone out of transition. The pros can't start until we sweep the area with  bomb sniffing dogs."
The canister of spares was right there in my transition bag.
I took it & ran towards my bike while the officials are telling everyone to head in the other direction. I reached the bike & inserted the canister into the bottle holder.
First potential disaster of the day averted. I hoped that would be all...
Now it was time to get my pulse rate down. With my wetsuit sitting on my shoulder, I walked down the road to meet Ed at the swim start.

For the second year, my buddy Ed Lapa was volunteering.
Ed was trying to calm me down as I put on my wet suit.  I put both feet through the sleeves
(You're kidding)
Nope, you can't make this up. All I could hope is that things would start going right.

When I did this race in 2016 I had a great swim (1:25) A not so great bike (7:55) & an amazing run.(5:59)
That was not to be this time around.
You put your face into murky lake water.
It is violent. Arms & legs are all around you.
This is not the calm of your lap pool. This is war.
This is the beach landings in Saving Private Ryan when the soldiers go over the side of the landing craft into the water.
One minute your ears are filled with the percussive sounds of water that reverberates like a bomb blast.
Next, you turn to breathe & the air is calm. I was repeatedly switching back and forth between two worlds.
(So, this is a triathlon. What did you expect?)
Last year I had more room. It is a rolling start, so you line up behind the pace holder who is holding a sign.
(1 hr 11 mins - 1 hr  20 mins)  
I was boxed in on the swim by people who were all clawing for the front, like the Army of the Dead in Game of Thrones. 
The people in front of me were too slow & the people behind me were in such a rush that I got kicked three times. I got punched in the eye six times.
The last hit caused water to leak into the goggle. I rolled on my side, let water out & continued swimming.
It wasn't jarring or disorienting to be hit. I kept my wits about me, but I did break form to move away from the windmill swimming next to me.
I was two minutes late on the first lap (I was hoping for last year's 40 minute pace). So I picked it up on the second lap.
My shoulders were getting sore, but this was the place to go all out. As the pack thinned out, I was able to find other swimmers to draft off. 
400 meters from the beach, I could hear the crowd. I switched into overdrive & began to pass people.
I exited the water grinning.  After 1:26:54 in the water, the sand in my toes felt good. I looked immediately to get help getting out of the wetsuit.
That is what they call the volunteers that peel your suit off like a banana.
And ran down the carpet towards "transistion".
Last year I was too winded to run, so this was an improvement.
My wife was waiting at the entrance to t1, to give me a kiss. That meant a lot. I passed more cheering people to grab my blue t1 bag from the rack. Then I entered the chaos of the changing tent.
Hot, smelly & no where to sit.
Methodically I emptied the bag, got dressed standing up & shove the wetsuit back in the bag.

The bike ride was fraught with problems...
At mile 10, there is a steep decent into Keene, I shifted my gears to get the maximum power from my pedaling.
I was hoping to surpass last years 47 mph decent.
Suddenly, all resistance was gone.
My first thought was, "Oh shit, my chain broke".
Thankfully, it had only popped off. I can fit a chain back onto a bike cassette. I can't fix a broken chain.
I stopped the bike, slide the chain back on, wiped the grease on my shorts & continue pedaling.
It happened again.
That is when I shifted in my "Apollo 13" head space.
At a critical moment in the book, "Failure Is Not an Option", Gene Kranz, the man in charge, issued a directive,
"Let's work the problem people. Let's not make things worse by guessing."
Something was wrong with my bike. There were mechanics on the course, but I chose not to ask for help. I didn't to take the change that they might make things worse. 
Half way though the first loop of rolling hills, I was climbing, so I shift to a smaller ring for ease.
Nothing happened. My derailleur /gear shifter was stuck.
Now I was climbing Hills in the wrong gears and I was expending energy that I couldn't afford.
Post race diagnostics would show that the derailleur had too much range because it was missing a lateral plate & a wavy washer.
Apollo 13 mindset, "Work the problem." So when I could, I would pedal backwards a little to knock the gearing into the smaller ring. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.
As the miles ticked away, I kept waiting for those terrible hills from last year, but they never came.

With the first loop done, I was feeling optimistic. All the early morning hours on the bike trainer were paying off.
On the second loop I kept the chain on during the 1.5 mile decent into Keene, but the gearing stuck again when I tried to shift between the big & small rings.
With an overcast sky it wasn't that hot out, so I drank more water, less electrolytes. For a change, I found myself hungry. Thankfully the volunteers standing at the side of the road were handing out bananas.
Sip water. Sip Gatorade. Eat a banana from mile 56 through mile 112.
As I rolled back into town, I slipped feet out of shoes like practiced. This has become part of the bike hand off ritual for me.
Ed was there to document the moment. Note the black utility bottle (with spare bike tires) on the back of my bike.
As someone who always worried that he was too slow a cyclist to become an Ironman, handing my bike off to the volunteer is an emotional moment for me. It means that I have made the 5:30 pm time cut off that disqualifies slower riders.
It was time to get dressed to run a marathon.

My bike ride had only put me 5 minutes behind last year's pace.
I was down a total of 6 minutes.
Happy because I knew that I could make that up on the run.
If I run a 5:45 marathon, I would have a new record.
(Last year I ran 5:59)

Mile 1-7
I emerged from the changing tent into the bright afternoon sun.

It was like staring into the eye a nuclear explosion
(It kinda is)
You're not helping.
I stopped for the volunteer to apply suntan lotion to my limbs & I ran out onto main street.
The crowds were cheering the athletes like it was a parade.
I smiled & tried to focus on my pacing. 
As nice as it is to have people ringing cowbells & blasting music from their cars, I find the crowds a distractions.
I'm trying to settle into my marathon pace & do a diagnostic check out of systems
(More Apollo 13 talk?)
The only was to know how my run is going to go is getting a sense of how my legs feel after 112 miles
(and your GPS watch)
and my GPS watch...which was not finding a signal.
(What was it doing?)
It was acting as a stop watch.
No matter. The course has mile markers, so all I had to do was the time & distance calculations to figure out how hard to push my run. I was averaging 10:45 minutes miles, which put me ahead of schedule & then I started to feel back pain.

A low throbbing pain like a kidney punch. Lower back muscle fatigue. Breathing became labored. All the time spent trying to free the locked bike gears stressed my lumbar. I told myself, self:
Don't think about records, just keep moving at your fastest walking pace.
At mile 3, I reached Shlomo who was walking. We walked.
We hit the turn around at mile 6.
At mile 7, I started running again.
I got a half mile & had to walk...again.
So it was going to be a walk/run type of afternoon.

Mile 8-13
A young man was standing in the road holding a large Hershey chocolate Bar.
"You know you want it."
"Yes I do." 
"What do you have?"
"Evan Williams Bourbon"
So after a piece of chocolate & shot of Bourbon, I was happy & running again.
Soon I was back into town, past the Olympic Oval to the 13 mile turn around.
I was only 5 minutes behind last year's marathon.
When I added the swim & bike times I was just 11 minutes behind last year's finish.
I was optimistic that my run would return, it had in other races.

Mile 13-26
Now the sun was going down & so was my pace. 
All the stress of the bike was taking it's toll, but hey, I'M DOING AN IRONMAN!
As fatigued as my back was, the rest of me felt strong. 
(So all that training was a waste of your time, since you couldn't run.)
The fact that I was cramping & yet I was still walk/running is a testament to all the training I did. To all the early morning runs.
And lets not forget I'M DOING AN IRONMAN!
At mile 25, I told my wife that I was near,
"Just hurry up & finish, we miss you".
That was all I needed to hear.
I pulled my costumed out of the backpack I had been carrying for 26.2 miles.
(Why did you bring you Ironman costume?)
I wanted to give my 5 year old something he would never forget.
I wound up giving myself an experience I will never forget.
I suited up & ran into the the Olympic Oval. I have done this 4 times before, but this was different.
As I jogged passed the crowd I kept hearing two things:
"He really does look like Ironman!"
The cheering as I approach the finish line became near
deafening. You are literally running towards the light.
I took a minute to drink it in. The moment you step onto the red & black carpet you are home.
Then I jogged past announcer Mike Reilly & heard my name...
"David Roher, Teaneck NJ, IRONMAN!...Yeah, he does look like him."
In the end, I didn't break my record...I did something much more rewarding.
When things did not go as planned, I kept my head & persevered. Something I learned from Mom & Dad.
Something I hope I am passing along to my boys.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

What Do Triathletes Eat? The Week Before the Ironman

What do triathletes eat?
Anything and everything. We are notorious for putting all-you-can-eat places out of business.
The Ironman is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, followed by a full 26.2 mile marathon.
All in under 17 hours.

The training are longer than the race.
My longest swim was 6,000 meters.
My longest bike ride was 117 miles.
My longest run was 27 miles.
I burned over 41,000 calories along in training that month.
We are always hungry.

5 Days before an Ironman
Drink a lot of water. I was told to make sure to get a little extra protein in my meals. I start to triple everything.

3 Days before the Ironman
This is where I start having fun. Midnight snacks become another meal. Meals become events.
I eating anything and everything I want. A box of cookies, a pint of ice cream, whole pizzas, even a sushi boat.

The Day before the Ironman
8 a.m. Nibble through half a package of lox for breakfast.
Sip cold brew coffee.
10 a.m. snack on cookies. 
Sip Gatorade
12 noon, waiting on lunch guest, I devour a bag of chips.
Drink a 16 ounce water.
1 p.m. Lamb Cholent & London broil & kugels.
More water
3-5:30 p.m. nap
p.m. pint of ice cream.
Sip Gatorade
p.m. Tub of hummus and crackers. 
Sip Gatorade
p.m. Snickers Ice Cream Bar. 
Sip water
p.m. Canister of Jalapeno Pringles.
Gatorade empty, sip more water.
Some how I was a half pound lighter than my normal weight on race day...

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Dress Rehearsal - 7 Days to GO!

Seven days before the Ironman Triathlon, I thought it would be a good idea to do a race.
(How is that a good idea?)
I wanted to road test my plans & see if there were any kinks to be worked out.
The plan was to keep it in zone three.
There are five zones of exertion. My plan for the Ironman is to race in zone three, so it made sense to race a smaller race like the NYC Tri in that fashion.
(What is "zone three"?)
Simply put, if zone one is walking & zone five is running as hard as you can for 30 seconds, zone three is in the middle.
You are racing at marathon pace.
(Or say Ironman pace?)
Now you've got it.

Last year at Ironman Lake Placid (IMLP) I swam the first lap in 40 minutes & the second in 45 minutes. That means...
(You are getting old?)
That I lost momentum in the second loop
(You are old, so you got tired)
This year, I did swim workouts that were much longer than
the race swim to work on my endurance & build up my speed. The only way to know if this worked was to swim in a race.
(So how did you modify a 3,860 meter swim to a race of 1,500 meters?)
I resisted the urge to sprint. Instead I focused on swimming at my practice pace.
I wasn't going to wear my wet suit, but since this was a full dress rehearsal, I had to. Somehow, when I scooted my butt off the pier & into the water, an air pocket got trapped in my wet suit & gave me extra buoyancy. 
(Is that you in the picture reaching behind to open your wet suit?)
Leave it to the NYC tri to find this one picture of me from the swim.

Last year at IMLP, I raced through the first 56 mile loop & was feeling dead on the second loop. This year I used a power meter in training. So during the NYC Tri I glanced at the meter to make sure I was in zone 3 as much as I could. It kept me from sprinting forward
(Which would have been bad since you need your legs to be rested for next week).
I wanted to break my course record of 1:21:23 (18 mph), but in zone three I finished the 25 miles at 1:31:39 (16.2 mph).
(That sucks)
No it doesn't. If I can hold that 16.2 mph, for 112 miles, my finish time will be an hour faster than last year.
(Huh? Did you say something?)
The ADD part of me needs to focus here.

At IMLP last year, & at the NYC Marathon last year my run pacing was off. At both events, I had to walk part of the way.
(Now the NYC Tri is not a marathon...)
But it is held on a very hot day, after biking & swimming.
Instead of sprinting, I ran at an 11 minute pace.
(That sucks)

Yeah, it's slow even for me, for a 10k (6.2 miles),
but for a marathon, that's much faster than I have ever held.
(I still don't understand)
I had to hold that pace running up hills from Riverside Park to 72nd St. & across 72 when I knew I could sprint. I continued to stay in zone 3 through Central Park as others passed me. 
I was even able to run up the "Harlem Hill" section of the course in Central Park.
(I guess all that running in the middle of the night paid off) 
I got stronger & I was home when the kids were home.
(Which might be the reason you cry every time you see them waiting for you at a race).
Like I'm doing in this picture.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Immensity of It All- 13 days to GO

An Ironman Triathlon is:

2.4 mile swim. 
112 mile bike ride.
26.2 mile run. 
140.6 miles in under 17 hours.
(What happens if it takes you more than 17 hours?)
You get disqualified :(

It's a staggering amount of mileage in a short amount of time, but this number alone doesn't tell the whole story. Starting in May, when the last 8 weeks of training commences, the volume of miles looks like this:

Since I run before work, the longer the run, the earlier the wake up.
By the point I was doing 18 & 20 mile runs, I was going to bed at 11 & waking up at 2 to run.
I love running in NYC. The streets are always lit. Since it is a grid, there is no chance of getting lost. There are plenty of NYC landmarks to run past & there's no danger of wild animals.
I knew that ultra runners compete in events where they run for 24 straight hours, so I wasn't worried about training on minimal amounts of sleep.  
My body is ok with sleeping for 2-3 hours a night, running for 4 hours & then teaching a full day of classes.

Once again, do not try this at home.

In the last 8 weeks of training, there were long swims that lasted for almost 2 hours.
(With breaks?)
No breaks. Flip turn at the wall & keep on swimming. I kept repeated my mantra: Nose facing the bottom of the pool, arms outstretched. I wasn't bored, but when the swim was done my arms were sore & I was starving.
And...there were 100 + mile bike rides.
(With breaks?)
Only time I stopped was for red lights, stop signs or to buy more water. Spending the day, riding my bike, with the sun in my face is one of my happy places. I would pedal north, rolling through town after town. Teaneck, Leonia, Fort Lee, Englewood Cliffs, Alpine, Sparkill, Piermont, Nyack, Congers, Havestraw, Stony Point, Bear Mountain, West Point, Storm King Mountain...
(How long did those rides last?)
Over 8 hours.
(At that pace, won't you be disqualified at the Ironman for being too slow?)
I trained on 9W, a stretch of road with many more hills than the actual race.

The end result was that in 8 weeks I
Swam 47,000  meters
Biked  800 miles
Ran    155 miles 
These numbers are incomprehensible to me.
The swim is double of what I had expected.
The bike averaged out that I was doing 100 miles a week, every week.
The someone who once struggled to run more than 3 miles at a time, I am just speechless.
I had a total caloric burn of:
And those were just workout burning calories.
I burn an average of 1,500 calories a day without training. 
So in 8 weeks, my total burn was about 165,000.
To avoid losing too much weight, I increased my caloric intake.
To find out what I ate, you will have to wait another week...

Monday, July 3, 2017

Carrying that Weight - 21 Days to GO!

"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.” Ana├»s Nin
It started with a photograph. My friend Peter shot a picture of me leaving the water at the Half Ironman in September of 2013.
There I was running for the transition area where my bike was waiting for me.

It was there, clear for everyone to see. I had a tummy.
"Psst, hey, this is our little secret. No one needs to know, right?" 
That was the what the voice in my head said.
I'm 5' 7, so I should weigh between 154-159. So what if I was 165? What's 6 lbs between friends?
I was 45 years old at the time. Being 6 lbs over was pretty good.
BUT...I hate dishonesty. Especially when it is coming from my own head.
I had been lying to myself. 

"You're a triathlete, you can eat anything you want."
NO, I could not. I was 45 & it was time to be honest about what I was doing.
I was eating with my eyes & not using my head.
On Saturdays, I would consume 750-1,000 calories for breakfast at Synagogue.
Then I would go home and repeat the same eating...grazing at lunch.
Peter's photo inspired me to make a change.
I was going to make smarter choices.
When given a choice, I would choose lean proteins vegis over processed carbs.
When I had to snack, I would eat a ClifBar instead of a whole box of cookies.
I would limit my meals to one serving...not three.

Result? I dropped 10 lbs in 3 months. 
              I went from this:                   To this: 


The problem became, trying to keep the weight off. I started weighing my self every day. I started substituting coffee for food. 

When my weight hit 149, my wife started to worry.
I decided to gave up the scale.
The question then became, "What do I eat?"
I went back to my training as a coach. What had I been instructing my athletes to do when they were training?
A yogurt for breakfast.
A banana for snack.
A sandwich for lunch.
A plate of proteins & veggies for dinner.
Some hummus & chips for late night snack.
(So how has your weight been for the last 18 months?)
Between 160-163. In the last 8 weeks of training, my weight dropped to 158 & that is ok. That's what the post workout pizza is for.
As long as my pants fit, I'm good with what ever the scale says I weigh.

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Hills Are Calling 27 Days to GO!

Ironman Triathlons are notorious for having one of two conditions on the bike course.  

Wind or hills.  
(& you hate hills)
Since I hate hills, I naturally I picked a bike course with really bad hills.
(Naturally, because everything about this makes logical sense)
The Lake Placid bike course is notorious for its 20 mile incline. 
Image result for ironman lake placid bike elevation gain
There are spots where the course flattens out, but in three locations you have to get over "the hump"...actually, three humps. They are notorious on the course as "The Three Bears - Baby, Mama & Papa." I have been so intimidated by this course that I've actually I avoided it for five years. So the question you're asking me is how does one train for such an endeavor?
(No, the question is: have you lost your freakin mind???)
You practice riding hills.
(Yup, you have. You've nuttier than a psycho ward. You just told us, you hate hills)
Luckily the state of New Jersey has no shortage of hills to climb.

If I lived in Brooklyn it would be a completely different story, but its not Brooklyn it's Joisey.
1 mile from my house is DeGraw.
1200 feet (3/4 of a mile) at 9 degree incline.
Athletes who want to train with me have to be able to get the hill without stopping. 
I will never forget the newbie who had to dismount half way up the hill so they could throw up their breakfast.
(So you hate hills & your athletes)

Getting up the hill never gets easier, you just get faster at ascending to the top. Like the time I road to the top of Bear Mountain.

Once you reach the top, there's a new hill to ride down. At the same time, if you ride down a hill, you have ride back up it if you want to get back home.
(Wouldn't it just be easier to stay home in the first place? Wait a minute, why am I even asking you? It's clear you're a few fries short of a Happy Meal)
These hills are much harder then the ones I will encounter in Lake Placid that's the point.
After 112 miles of hills, I will still have a full 26 mile marathon to run so I need to teach my body hold back and leave a little gas in the tank. This is the mistake I made at Ironman Lake Placid.

(Definitely a few fries short of a happy meal)