A solo ironman during COVID-19

Have you ever thought of doing an ironman solo? Meaning, no race just you and you for 140.6 miles? Well, let me introduce you:

Name: Ari Varon

Age: 43

Profession: Run my own business, sell products into the market in China, sell Israeli technology into China.

1-On June 21st you decided to do a solo ironman since most races was cancelled due to covid-19, can you tell us why? (please tell distances)

Corona Stops Competitions, Not an Ironman.

I finished a solo IronMan Distance triathlon (3.8km swim, 180km bike, 42.2km run) on June 21st. It took me a moment to decide to do it, 3.5 months to train for it and just over 13 hours to finish it.

When Corona started shutdowns and restrictions I had just signed up for an official Ironman competition in Austria July 5th, 2020. I was therefore faced with a simple choice, let Corona dictate my life, or take control of my actions despite Corona. I started losing my desire and motivation for training at all, and I didn’t like that. So it was either find a plan B or basically realized I was on the path to stop training.

Truthfully, it was not such a daring or glorious decision. For me, it was part of listening to my inner self, not letting the fear of goal setting set me back and believing that anything and potentially everything is possible if we stop telling ourselves no.

I won’t say I wasn’t afraid to set the goal of a solo Ironman. But with the onset of lockdowns and travel restrictions, I preferred to do something rather than just complain that Corona canceled my competition.

 So why… I train alone anyway so a solo Ironman seemed better than none at all.

2- was that your first ironman?

My first Ironman distance triathlon was the Israman on January 31st, 2020. Taking place in Eilat Israel, it is considered one of the toughest Ironman distance competitions because of the intense uphills on the bike (2900m elevation gain) and the intense downhill on the run (10km with over 700m downhill).

After completing the Israman, I wanted to have the experience of an Ironman Branded competition. I have heard much that the group experiences is exceptional. So I set my goals on a European competition, not far from my home in Tel Aviv Israel.

3- how did you get into the sport? And why ironman?

I slid into triathlons accidently and naturally; Ironman distance by just not stopping.

January 2019 I made a resolution to get off the couch and run 5km in under 30 minutes by my birthday March 30th. Although a true goal, seemed to achievable to be a good new years resolution so I upgraded to a Sprint Triathlon. A friend of mine who had done a few 70.3s told me – anyone can do a sprint, set your goal for an Olympic length and I literally told her, no way that’s way too much.

Early march I did the sprint triathlon, March 26th I upgraded to the Olympic length. I then set my goals for a 70.3 which I did June 20th. It was in the last 10km of that 70.3 that I decided to go for the what I had previously thought was impossible, the full Ironman. I realized, not only was it no longer impossible, it was totally achievable.

I then followed the dear advice of the one friend I knew who had done an Ironman (3X IM finisher). Understand that a 70.3 is different beast than a full Ironman and get a coach. I then searched coaches with IM experience for people on low carb diet and the first person I contacted turned out to be the perfect fit – IM specialist with an emphasis on family first.

A bit of background on why a 5km seemed a decent goal. I was born with a club foot, short Achilles tendon. I had surgery at 6 months with the doctor telling my parents, without the surgery he would never walk, with the surgery he would never run. But my parents never told me that. I started running when I was 10, was on the athletics team in high school, special forces in the Israeli Army. All with constant issues with my ankles and recurring problems with injuries.

December 2003, when training for what I hoped would be my first Marathon I hurt myself so badly I couldn’t walk for 3 months and never could run again without injuring myself.

I gained weight, up to 102kg (230lbs). It was only after a conversation with a friend, a runner who was telling me about a 21km run he had, did I realize I wanted to run again. I decided to lose weight so I could run, I figured I needed to get to 85kg or less. I stopped eating grains and sugars, gradually lost weight and at 85kg, decided to run the 5km.

4-You also end up organizing a kids run, how did that happen? And why?

The kids run was definitely one of the highlights of the entire day, that alongside with actually finishing the Solo Ironman.

The Kids run was initiated and implemented by my son’s school, though I made the medals, shirts and kids run logo. Eventually, kids from beyond just my son’s school joined, and we had almost 100 kids joining me in several starts during the run.

I truly intended for the day to be a solo event. All logistics and everything. I realized I did need the help of one friend at the aide station during the second half of the run. For the second half of the run I planned to put an aide station in a single location, one person there, and have myself do 2 km loops (1km in each direction) to simulate an actual race with an aide station every 1 mile or so.

That friend happens to be the most talented guy I know in almost everything. During my training I came up with a logo including the slogan Corona stops competitions, not an Ironman. He turned it into a very professional logo.

When I finally had the guts to tell my wife my plan I showed her the logo and the slogan. She was really touched by the Corona aspect, not letting Corona stop us. This was in the heart of the lockdowns for us.

She secretly showed the logo to PR person. The local news decided to do a mini-documentary on the day of the race, a positive story of news to share during the Corona lockdowns. Then the school heard about it and started the race. Then the Israeli sports organization who runs the Israman heard about the event and put an article out before the race and covered the race during the day.

I will never forget the evening when she told me about the news deciding to cover the race. She said: please don’t kill me, I know you want this to be just us, but the news wants to cover the race. My first thought was: that is exactly what I don’t want, but since it shows that my wife is truly supporting me in her way, it is the best gesture ever. Honestly, my second thought was, why would the news want to cover it.

But the kids run provided almost a 100 kids with a true taste of using sports as a means of excellence in the midst of the Corona pandemic. For me, running with the kids during my race provided a new level of meaning to any event that I could ever participate in.

5-How was your preparation during the pandemic? And how you manage kids, work and training?

KIDS FIRST! I believe that kids and family come first. For me, everything I do revolves around my kids and my family, including how I build my professional life and time with the kids. My wife is an OBGYN resident at the leading hospital in Tel Aviv. She is an AMAZING mother but works a lot. I fill in at home.

During the lockdown I would use trainer in our backyard and we were allowed to run around the block so I did a bunch of loops and internals and elastic strength training to simulate swimming since no pool or beach was allowed so I just hoped that things would calm down enough before June 21st to allow swimming.

The process was amazing! My three boys are young (8, 5, 3.5) The kids were with me while I was on the personal trainer, they ran loops with me and they did the core strength exercises with me. Truthfully, seeing how I could get them truly excited about sports and training was an initial goal of mine and a sincere push to keep training. They kept on asking me when I was getting on the bike that day, or when they could go running with me. That “together” as well as being a positive role model for my kids is a sincere motivation for my training.

6-What was the difficulty training during this period?
To be honest, I enjoy the training. My coach, the best in the world!, guided me through the process very well. For me the training provides me focus, achievement, inner quiet as well as time to let all the noise of life flow out so I can be true to myself. I tell people that when you are in the middle of a 3 hour bike training session, or even a 1 hour internal session, you don’t have the energy to waste on lying to yourself. So, in training your thoughts can actually be pure, if you let them. 

Almost every week when I got my training schedule I would think, there is no way I can do that sequence, that session so many times in a row. But each week as I let things think in, started to let my mind and body flow and not my instinct to stop myself go, things just worked out.

So the difficulty in the training is honestly all mental, its to stop stopping ourselves. It’s to believe in ourselves, it’s to stop listening to all the people who call us crazy. The rest, just works itself out.

7-What was the hardest part during the solo ironman?
In every long training session as well as during the Solo Ironman itself I always have a – what am I doing this crazy thing moment.  But I define endurance as just not stopping. So I just don’t stop, and those moments pass.

The truth is, there were a several things that could be defined as the “hardest” part. The run was harder than I thought from step one and throughout. I had practiced the transition before, even during the 30 Celcius+ heat of the Tel Aviv Summer. But for some reason I couldn’t get my head in the right space to push for a quick time. It was only at the end of the run, the last 10 kms that I realized why. The time I finished in didn’t matter, just to finish. While every step hurt, it was actually when I was running with the kids, even once, walking with my youngest son who said, Dad walk with me that I realized, those moments were what makes the entire run worthwile. Had I been pushing to finish fast, I would have missed those moments. The funny things about an Ironman, it was after I finally realized that, at km 32 of the race, that I started to finally feel comfortable and pick up the pace without really needing breaks.

 But the idea of an Ironman for me is making impossible possible. Taking a big red line of “impossible” and separating it into a bunch of little light green lines that you can achieve. Both in the training as well as in the logistics and in life.

Logistically I had to plan every single aspect down with lots of backup. 10L of water with me for the bike, all the nutrition, backup and equipment if I had a flat tire, places to ride on various amounts of wind (sometimes up to 26km an hour pushing against you).

But since I had lots of time to think and prepare during the longer training sessions, it all worked itself out.

8- Did you think about quitting? If yes, what made you keep going?

Never about quitting per se. Almost every time about stopping, I guess there is a slight difference.

For me all goals are personal, all challenges are with yourself and the competition is to make yourself better not beat somebody else. So it was always an inner self moment, and that helped keep it pure.

9- did this event changed you in any way shape of form?
It has only been a week since I finished so I am only starting to realize how it changed me. I think it changed me in two core ways: first, always make the impossible possible. I implement that now in every aspect of my life, with my kids and with my work. I am not sure what my next big goal is, but once I identify the idea that is a bit scary at first and seems impossible, I will know I found it. Second, inspiration. I realize this is the first thing I can think of where people have come to me and told me I have inspired them to do better, be better and achieve more. That is a tremendous feeling. That is something I want more of, helping other people be better at what they do. I am not sure exactly what that means in practice, but I am finding out.

10- did this quarantine changed you?

To be honest, the quarantine in Israel was a very positive time for myself and my family. First of all, its all about attitude. As soon as we understood that quarantine was on the way, we decided to use the time to strengthen our family. Also, my wife is an OBGYN MD at the Tel Aviv hospital so her hours are normally crazy. During quarantine, she worked, on what we call the frontline, but she was also home. As a family, we had time to bond, to play, to train together and overall, to be together. So if anything, it changed us as a family in very positive way.

11-anything else that you would like to add?

Thank you Coach! Your Zen perspective towards training and life has changed my attitude towards life and created the confidence in myself to not only finish 2 Ironmans in less than 5 months, but more importantly be a better person, father, partner and push for excellence in all fields.

And thanks for only telling me you thought I was crazy for planning a solo Ironman, after I finished.

12- what touches your soul?

The way people told me my solo event inspired them, that has touched my soul in ways I never felt before. Not in a pat myself on the back type of way. But they told me that their kids will always remember the event, they went to sleep with the medals, they were proud to have been in an Ironman race themselves and they now believe they can do it themselves. The inspiration that gives people, that touches my soul and I want to keep on doing that part again.

13- an example on how not to be an asshole:

Not being an asshole is an attitude and way of life. It is something we have to remind ourselves in every action that we do. With three young boys, there is a lot of challenging going on in my house. When my kids challenge me, I have to remind myself to be strict, but fair. Never to lie, not to be an asshole. But the only way not to be an asshole is to believe in yourself, have confidence and be respectful in ever thing that you do, all day every day.

That’s what’s all about

The big question is why? What is the purpose of Rirou doing all of this. Well, this sounds a little crazy. Since a little kid Rirou became fascinated with Iron Maiden, they were like gods to him and their music touch his soul like no other music. Well maybe ACDC since that was his first album. Around 7 years old he wanted to play the guitar and let his hair grow like the Maiden guys. That never really happened and Rirou did not say a word about it for years. On top of all that, the art Rirou wanted to do was considered evil. Well, due to that Rirou became an angry man. Rirou did not dream about being famous, he just wanted to rock, is that simple!

As a kid Rirou has always been fascinated with Star Wars and he said his first kid would be called Luke. As a young kid he wanted to have 2 kids a boy and a girl. The boy he wanted to call Luke, because of Luke Skywalker his favorite character growing up. That was something his friends reminded him not long ago.

Luke was born a natural Rock star and fan of ACDC. Rirou knew it that history could not repeat itself, not with his kids. So Rirou and his family didn’t think twice they ran to the hills, they ran for their lives and moved to Colorado. Rirou always trusted the metal gods…

Since Luke became a really big fan of ACDC, and Rirou’s wife said: “Boy you can turn any kid into a Rock fan”, which is true, he had turned many kids into rock fans during his life time. Just a side note Rirou does not talk about his wife cause she likes to be behind the scenes. If you are married, you know what he is talking about, she is the boss. Anyways, that was a sign for Rirou so he created a master plan after all dream without a plan is just a wish.

The master plan

Rirou’s master plan is simple; transform classical kids songs into punk song for kids and create some of his own, while learning his favorite songs in the guitar. This way he could change the world by creating punk rock songs for kids, and building an army of little punks. When those kids grow up, they can read Rirou’s holy E-books of the Religion he created and became his own Pope. That is Rirou’s master plan to leave his mark, the mark of the beast. Again, the gods iron maiden were guiding Rirou the number of the beast song, Rirou’s favorite of all times. In that song he said, “I will be back…and make my evil take its course and here we are!

What makes this plan so hilarious is that it fits right into a description of a midlife crisis, and it seems pure evil for some people or even completely insane. But it’s not like that, the project is pure unconditional love, and is not a midlife crisis. Is simply healing.

Rirou always told his clients that they need a purpose to whatever they want to hit a goal. We always need a reason why we do things, and seems like this is a higher purpose for Rirou. What makes this project hilarious and ironic is:

  1. A 40 year old learning how to sing and play the guitar it is funny, because it is fun to be a beginner in something, specially at this age. Also, doing that is like being a kid again, and you must agree that a 40 year old man having fun like a kid is beyond hilarious.
  2. Rirou uses the enemy (Religion) as a metaphor to create his project to punk the world.
  3. Rirou is a pope of his own Religion, and Rirou’s archenemy is the Pope that prohibited Iron Maiden to play in Chile in 1992.
  4. For many metal, punk and death metal is considered evil is what makes Rirou a better Dad, husband and human.
  5. Rirou transformed his anger into something beautiful, even if you don’t like the music, the idea is based in pure love; and that is beautiful.
  6. Rirou does have a comedy show but for now is in Portuguese. In the show Rirou goes to therapy, and since therapy is made in the first language, for now is in Portuguese. English maybe soon (long story).

Rirou had this plan for awhile now, and on 02/20/2020 he sang live for the first time ever and that was the day he said “fuck depression, let’s rock” and Rock-it-ology establish. Rirou was having a hard time implementing the plan, so this 40 introspective days through the COVID-420 made Rirou lose his fear and became the Punk Rocker Dad. What makes it so hilarious is that he just have to be himself!

The conclusion is: Looking good naked and not afraid, that is what’s all about! Maybe life is all about the hokey pokey, you know… “you do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around, that’s what is all about.

Genius or insane? I let you decide as this project takes off, because Rirou found himself, he just still didn’t figure it out if he is a genius or insane in the brain.

Feel Good,

Rirou

Day 37 of 40 – Guess who is back?

Not is not Neo, Morpheus or Jesus, is just the return of the Punk. Rirou indeed wanted to share his story and do life coaching, he got certified and all. However, Rirou as a master punk wanted to do his way, and his way has always been quite different after all Rirou is different; and it’s ok to be different. So, Rirou simply said “I gonna be the opposite of every life coach out there”.

Life is about attitude, and the only magical formula is to follow your heart. So, Rirou never understood how many people claimed to have a magical formula if the only formula is to follow your heart and everyone is different. Anything other than following your heart is simply a formula for disaster, and Rirou knows because he tried. He tried so many times to fit in a box, but it just did not work.

Rirou got a lot of baggage (depression) by trying to fit in the box, since now is time to heal he came with a plan that would combine his inner child dreams and his adult dreams. If everybody wants to rule the world, Rirou wanted to Punk the world, so he created “The not so fashion show” where he could spread his wisdom.

PUNK THE WORLD

Rirou’s called his coaching method the art and science of life, that was actually the name of his last presentation. The science was simple, pure math and the art is from the heart and his art is what made the difference between him and other coaches. Rirou wanted to share his art, that many believed was an art to reinvent yourself, but the truth is that is the art of reconnecting with your soul. So, I present you the not so fashion show:

  • The blog is the story of Rirou’s life.
  • Life is a show, a show that includes the good, the bad and the ugly.
  • Life is all about attitude, feelings and dreams. Rirou’s attitude was always Punk attitude, something he called the art of not working (do what you love and you will never work a day in life).

Punk wisdom

Rirou wanted to heal himself and also share his wisdom so he applied his own coaching methodology to himself. A mixture of a kids dream and an adult dream. As a kid Rirou’s dream was to learn the guitar, and as an adult his dream was to coach for free and Punk (change) the world. He always believed if people follow their heart to world indeed would be different. He decided to share his wisdom in the following format:

  • The good: His jokes are pretty good and insightful.
  • The bad: His guitar playing. Is pretty bad now but since his started playing Rirou really started to love himself, and getting better is a matter of time. Just like he did with Ironman and he end up winning one.
  • The ugly: His singing is pretty bad, but also can get better (or not!). Either way is fun and is helpful. Is a metaphor of Rirou finding his voice.

The YouTube channel, Rirou the punk have three shows that consist in:

  1. Stand up comedy. In portuguese from now, but there is comedy in English on his blog, a satire from on the session “How not to be an asshole”.
  2. Midlife crisis TV with song covers, skateboarding and reality show.
  3. Talk show, but is still in the process, but in the blog there is the “case of the Mondays” interviews.

Now the final question is, why a religion? Well that is Rirou’s sin. He took it personally, but is also a dream to change the world. In order to do that we must go to the core of the issue, and Rirou believed that religion is the core of the issue, at least for him since in his matrix Religion is a big issue.

This project is runs on coffee, and if this inverted life coaching truly touches your heart you can buy Rirou a coffee (is not a donation). The message must truly touches your soul, meaning that you have been thunderstruck, to a point that you can see in your bank statement $6.66. Remember, what you do in this life echoes in the eternity. The project is run under the Go Luke Wygand Foundation INC a non profit organization, and when the cup over flows the profits are donated to Nemaline myopathy Research and mental health programs.

Rirou is either a genius or completly insane! Either way he will find out soon on later!

Feel Good,

Rirou

Day 35 of 40 – Slayer Saves!

Thursday April 16th, Rirou have finally learned how he felt all those years, and a big part that made you feel like an asshole was Religion. A story that started long ago as early as 3 months old when he got baptize, that water made him laugh. He did not understand, but that was a cool bath.

Years later he was the only in the family who refused to do the first communion for the simple fact that the Pope once prohibited his favorite band to play in Chile. Rirou that day called the Pope an asshole for stopping millions of people to enjoy one of the biggest band of all times. That stick with Rirou for a long time….

When Rirou turned 35 years old he decided to unbaptized himself, and later that year he baptized himself by getting a guitar. After Rirou moved to Colorado Slayer came to play their final tour. Rirou had never seen slayer live, and slayer have saved Rirou so many times. Slayer has always been Rirou’s biggest emotional help, every time Rirou needed to lift up his soul Slayer was there.

On august 2018 Rirou watched Slayer and that night his life changed forever. That was Rirou favorite concert EVER! He was so impress, they were so raw, even more than Iron Maiden. Don’t get me wrong Iron Maiden is God, but Slayer live is fucking insane, even faster than normal.

That night was full moon and the energy was amazing. When Slayer played “Read between the lies”, there is a part in the lyrics that says “There is no heaven without a hell”, at that moment Rirou had a huge deja-vu.

Rirou knew it that was a sign, after all in one interview Tom Arraya (Slayer singer and bass player) once said, “Deja-vu is a sign that you are in the right path”. That day Rirou have made his first YouTube video about Rock. Rirou had find out he was an artist, it was in his face all the time, and his art was making people feel good. That was the essence of his old coaching business, after all the slogan was “Train Smart, Feel Good, Race Faster”.

After the show Rirou got in his mini van (the only one in the parking lot) and while driving home he was thinking how fucking awesome that concert was. That was literally the best concert of his LIFE, and he still did not understand how people could say that was a bad thing (yes even in 2020). And how could one go to hell for simply enjoying art? During the drive back home listening to Slayer Rirou knew it that he needed to do something about it, he needed to heal…

April 16th is the day after tax day, and Rirou had closed his old coaching business forever and only kept his non profit organization, and decided to pursue his destiny by talking about this stuff. Rirou claims he is a “comedian in the closet”, and it was time to come out. In order to share his art Rirou became the Pope of his own Religion… This is either saving him from hell or taking to hell first class. Now in the final days of Rirou’s walk through COVID-420 isolation he was organizing how he would share his wisdom; The ways of the punk!

To be continued…

Feel Good,

Rirou

PS: Thank you Slayer your art truly changed my life!

The video I made that day…

Day 33 of 40 – Thou shalt eat and train like you give a f*ck

This last punk rule is where Rirou have more authority to talk, since he have been on a diet since at least 13 years old. Diet and exercise. Weight was one of Rirou’s biggest issue, besides Religion if you haven’t figure it out.

Rirou have tried pretty much all diets in the planet, honestly, he done vegetarian, vegan, raw vegan, keto, paleo and carnivore. He also played around with detox and natural supplements. Rirou also tried several different training approaches. He just wanted to find out how he could perform his best without drugs so he tried it all. Add to that, the fact that Rirou had an obsession with being skinny since very early childhood.

At the age of 33 Rirou in theory achieved his perfect body with 6% body fat, but at a huge cost: his health. The crazy part of all, is that was he still didn’t like his body. Even with 6% body he could not run shirtless, or even look at his own eyes in the mirror. Rirou was killing himself in his workouts and eating the “cleanest” and yet he was sick and not happy.

After 10 years training as hard as he could, trying all diets he had achieved the dream body but he was sick. Rirou was having hot flashes, yes a 33 year old man can have hot flashes! His thyroid has fucked up and his was almost pre diabetic.

Rirou started to unlearn what he had learned about health and did what he did best, he challenged the status quo like a good punk he is. He started to realized that:

  • Athletes are not healthy (90%+), and they take a lot of shit to be “healthy”. There are a small % that don’t take.
  • Skinny does not mean healthy.
  • You don’t need to exercise a lot, neither every day to be healthy. Is actually quite the opposite.
  • You don’t need to eat every 3 hours, neither have to have 3 meals a day, and breakfast is not the most important meal of the day.
  • Food and exercise are totally related with how you feel, since both of them are easy ways numb our emotions (at least for Rirou). Rirou was the living prof of that (definitely more on this topic coming).

That was very hard for Rirou because he had realized that he was repeating the same mistake as before but in the other side on the spectrum. He was again addicted (he substituted the cigarette addiction to exercise) and sick. That is when this punk rule started, a simple concept of eating and training like you give a f*ck about yourself. Now, he eats when he is hungry, what he feels like it (real food), skateboards and do yoga when he feels like it. Health is at it’s best, with energy and weight is stable.

This quarantine was being good for Rirou, he was finally understanding how he felt, I guess going to preschool with Luke was helping. Today is Tuesday April 14th, and it was the day before therapy and Rirou did not even have his PTW (male pms). He did not even think he had much to talk in therapy…

Feel Good,

Rirou

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