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2020 was the year RTA coached athlete, Ryan Astrup, planned to become an “IRONMAN.” He had planned to race the iconic IRONMAN Lake Placid triathlon in July. This race consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run. In one day. With no breaks. For those counting, that’s 140.6 miles in total. Due to the global pandemic, this triathlon was eventually postponed and finally canceled.
However, that would NOT prevent Ryan from achieving his goal.
Like life, part of triathlon training and racing is learning to deal with the unexpected. Needless to say, the year 2020 definitely required flexibility and perseverance. In times of uncertainty, it’s best to ‘let go’ of the things out of your control and focus on the things you can control. And this is exactly what Ryan did.
Ryan decided to stage his own iron-distance race in Lake Placid. He set the date for his race and had his coach adjust his training program accordingly.
The morning of August 30th – race day – was cool and the day was perfect for a triathlon. It was a long day, but with the help of his friends and family (no crowd support, obviously), he CRUSHED the 140.6 mile triathlon for the first time ever.
It may not have been the race day experience he originally expected at the beginning of the year, but Ryan wouldn’t trade it for anything. “What an experience this was! I am soooooooo happy it’s now done,” said Ryan.
Below is a Q & A with Ryan on his solo mission and staging his own Iron-distance race.
I have always been quite active: as one of 5 kids, I grew up in South Africa on the outskirts of a mining town south of Johannesburg where we had access to water sports and dirt bikes to keep us out of Mother’s hair. My older brother and I competed nationally in barefoot waterskiing until my early teens. He went on to compete internationally both in barefoot waterskiing and wakeboarding.
After college I moved to New Jersey and was introduced to a group of South African guys living in NYC, who quickly became my closest friends in the USA. It was through these guys that my love of triathlon began, and we still motivate and compete against each other today!
Initially I was training for the smaller triathlons without coaching; one of my mates who is a member of RTA introduced me to the group. I immediately loved the social aspect, and the benefits of learning from other team members. It was not a difficult decision to join.
I knew that I needed some level of guidance if I wanted to be successful. I had to learn the proper way to train and the importance of setting fitness goals if I were to try one of the bigger races.
At the time I wanted to finish a 70.3 and did not want to risk under-training or over-training. I managed to get a plan setup specifically for balancing my other responsibilities (figuring family time with my wife and 3 girls, and of course the other big responsibility: WORK)!
This solo mission of IRONMAN Lake Placid has been one of the most EPIC experiences of my adult life.
I was far along in my training program for the official 2020 race when COVID caused postponements/cancellations. Unsure of what might happen, I thought it best to continue training regardless. As time went on, I realized that my goals were bigger than the pandemic and I wanted to reach them no matter what.
I did not need the race, I needed to finish the distance: that was my goal. But I also knew that it would not be possible without the help of my family, friends and coaches to ultimately pull it off.
There were some challenges/negatives as well as cool bonus aspects about attempting the solo race: first was ensuring race safety and aid, but great friends stepped right up to help. They were also the best motivators since there was no spectators/crowd. But I had the whole course basically to myself, so there was no getting kicked or shoved out the way – I didn’t need to compete with others for space or time.
During the swim I had personal marshals in canoes, and at every breath I could see one of my friends keeping their eyes on me and making sure I stayed the course. Out on the bike I had 1 friend join for loop 1, and a second for loop 2, so I was never alone out there… the run was different. I knew I’d need to dig deep, so for the first loop I relied on my music to distract/keep my mind active, but by loop 2 I needed the support of my friends. they all took turns to run the course with me, all the way back to town!
The best part of the day was seeing the cheering, smiling faces of my family, my friends and their families all screaming for me! It was also incredible to have my best buddies alongside me every stroke, every kick, every step of the way!
The hardest part of the day was definitely the last 8 miles of the run. I was tired, and sore, and desperately wanted to walk. My buddies knew that I would be feeling this way and kept me motivated to keep on it and not give up. Ultimately, I did NOT walk one step.
Next time I hope to actually race and beat myself.
When I ran across the finish line, I was emotional – it was over and I was done. It was a scene that I had pictured so often during my training and was simply so relieved to have actually made it. The last mile seemed to be easy though, knowing that the end was so close! Running into the famed oval for the finish was spectacular: completely empty except for my entire support crew waiting at my personal finish line with the flags flying, the big Legends of the Oval billboard, and a glorious sunset in full glory. it was magical! Everyone was so happy for me; and they all covered me in huge hugs~ the kids faces were the best!
Next for me is marathon training for the season. I hope to complete a marathon (solo style) by Thanksgiving; and then I plan to eat and drink whatever i please until after Christmas! I’m also going to spend every spare second with my wife and kids, who were so patient and understanding when I was not home when training for all these months!
Join a Club to meet some motivated people and stick to their program! The friends are a big part of the experience, without whom I would never have thought that my athletic goals were ever possible.
CONGRATS, Ryan!!! You are not only an IRONMAN, but a TOTAL BAD ASS! Talk about finding out what you’re made of… this is what it’s all about. Way to represent Team RTA in this incredible feat.
Are you interested in doing something EPIC? We work with a variety people with all kinds of goals. Whether you want to prepare for your FIRST triathlon (or run race), looking to go FURTHER and/or go FASTER. OR simply get in the BEST SHAPE OF YOUR LIFE… we want to help YOU!