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.

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 23 of 40 – The meaning of life

Day 23rd of Rirou’s COVID-19 isolation and his is things were getting clear by the day in his matrix, while the collective matrix was still a mess. Rirou was finally understanding his higher purpose, and that it’s what was missing in Rirou’s life. After Luke was born Rirou had a clear picture in his mind of the meaning of life, he now just needed a higher purpose.

Luke’s favorite song in the womb!

After coaching for so many years and so many different types of athletes, Rirou realized that all of them have the same goal of “Looking good naked”, including Rirou. After awhile Rirou realized that looking good naked was much more than just the mind and the body thing. Looking good naked was about how you feel when you look in the mirror and how you feel when you go lay down in bed.

Back in 2003 Rirou made an option for his life, the option of laying down in bed at night with a clear conscious. That is the main reason why Rirou did not take any drugs during his athlete career, and the reason why Rirou quit business school; he saw too much corruption on the low level and the highest level, that he did not want to be part of it. Rirou has always being a punk and he did not tolerate bullshit, and the older he gets the ability to tolerate get lower exponentially.

Back in 2013 Rirou’s crisis was more about the body, since he made the option in 2003 that he would sleep with a clear conscious he was feeling much better. In 2013 he had achieved his dream body with 160 pounds and 6% body fat, but he still didn’t feel like he looked good naked. So, Rirou went into a new revolution that went all the way up to 2018 when he ran to the hills. Rirou accepted his body.

Back 2016 Rirou did not have a crisis, he had an spiritual awakening that Luke brought to him. Luke brought Rirou something that no life coach, no religion, no parent, could have giving him, only a child can give, after all children are the biggest teachers in life.

Rirou finally realized the true meaning of looking good naked, and its about mind, body and soul. Looking good naked is the ability to feel good in your own skin!

Rirou is a moonchild and he believes in being the change he wishes to see in the world, and since the meaning of life is to look good naked; which is totally related to how you feel about yourself. Rirou, as a master punk, decided to get something that made him feel bad for years (Religion) and make one that is the complete opposite, a religion based on JOY! The collective matrix was going to an existential crisis with the COVID-19, so now was the perfect time to start writing about it.

Rirou was no longer a procrastinator, and now he was finally fulfilling his prophecy. He finally looking good naked.

Feel Good

Rirou

Day 21 of 40 – The gift of fatherhood, part 3.

Continuing from part 2.

On September 2017 they were going through their second hurricane, and in order to escape they went to a friends house is Alabama. Breathing new airs for Rirou was extremely good cause he realized he was ready for a change.

The trip to Alabama was a very stressful trip and in order to keep the vibe of the family up Rirou was using a lot of music, specially with Luke. After Luke was born Rirou didn’t have much time to play the guitar, but on that trip to Alabama he got a Toy Guitar and started doing songs for Luke.

Rirou notice that music made Luke not only makes him happy but helped him move with the rhythm and he kept asking for faster songs. Moving fast is one of the key things to help overcome nemaline myopathy, since the muscle fibers affected are the fast twitch ones. Therefore an exercise with fast movements would definitely be beneficial. Rirou had always trained listening to Rock, that is where he performed the best. Another mind blowing moment for Rirou.

Rirou had no belief, but he knew it that he had a special connection with the universe. Every time Rirou needed guidance he would look you at stars, specially the moon. Rirou considered himself a moon child. During that trip, Rirou look to the skies over and over again, after all we all know Alabama is where the skies are so blue. Rirou had never felt so whole in his life, fatherhood is his biggest gift, his life purpose. Rirou believes in the stars and in the life force,after all he saw in the NICU but now he had proof that was writing in the stars.

The seed was planted now it was time to change, and the universe pointed to Colorado with a new opportunity. Another mind blowing moment, since Colorado was where they announced the name writing in the snow on February 2016. It was time to Run to the hills!

Now, is day 21 of Rirou’s walk to the desert and it is time for a change and start his project.

Feel Good,

Rirou

Day 19 of 40 – The gift of fatherhood, part 1.

Rirou woke up that Tuesday morning March 30th and he knew it that his world was about to Rock, and for those about to Rock, we salute you. Rirou needed to salute his inner child in order to be a good Dad. You can call him a dick, an a$$hole or even an worthless punk, but he wanted to make it different. Rirou did not want to pass his emotional issues, he wanted to break the cycle. In order to understand that we must go back in time…

It was Festivus day somewhere back in time and Rirou was debating his existence, he went to a friend’s house that just had a baby. After holding and playing the baby for hours Rirou knew it he was ready to be a Dad. However, first Rirou needed to go through his biggest crisis of his life. That was Rirou’s worst crisis but with therapy and time Rirou came back stronger and on Halloween day Luke was conceived.

Rirou decided he was going to do one last ironman. He signed up for Ironman Cozumel, however his mind and soul were in a different place. Rirou was tired of the ironman life. He started the race, and never finished. His lost his water bottle, and rode 25 miles (40km) with no water. He got dehydrated due to the 90 F degree (35 Celsius) weather in Cozumel. Rirou has pushed the limits many times, but this time he did not feel like it. He saw his wife, Luke in the belly and 90% of the race cheating, he said “fuck it! I am done.” Rirou stopped and took the rest of the time in Cozumel as a vacation.

Rirou did not like to quit, he came back home and didn’t train for 4 weeks but he decided to do a local Ironman in Naples Florida in January. He didn’t train much because he just wanted to finish and take the sour feeling from his mouth. Rirou liked local races cause there is less cheating; a local race have at max 400 athletes, and an Ironman race have 2000+ and in theory less drugs. However, on a smaller races he could recognize the athletes that cheated and he talk shit in their face. Rirou is a punk in so many ways, and he did not tolerated that, and he said that loud and clear whenever he felt like it.

Anyways, Rirou did the entire race with Luke’s ultrasound picture with him, he knew that was his last ironman and he was dedicating that race to Luke. Rirou won the race, waited to his athletes to finish and congratulated them. After racing for 10 hours he drove 2 hours because he wanted to go home and stay with his family. He even skipped the podium.

Rirou’s last ironman

A few weeks after that Rirou found out they were having a boy, and he started to build his room. Rirou gave the name idea because he is a big fan of star wars (yeah, it’s not Luke from the bible, it’s from star wars) but Rirou only told his wife about Luke Skywalker character after she already was hooked on the name.

Rirou wanted to be a super present Dad and he knew he needed to talk to Luke as much as he could to build that connection. Dad’s need to build a connection. The mom caries the baby, so they are already connected. Rirou created an email for Luke, and the first e-mail he wrote was about what they were doing in preparation for his arrival. Rirou attached on that e-mail the soundtrack that he used to build Luke’s crib, and how that music touches his heart and how happy music made him feel….

To be continued…

Feel Good,

Rirou

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