At the end of 2010 I finally quite my job at the running store and started to live the triathlon life full time. I was coaching and racing professionally full time, so I can say I made but by 2012, I started to see professional sports with different eyes.
May 28th 2013 I finally won my first triathlon race. After I won that race things started to get kind of blurry again, because the truth is I won the race but how I felt inside did not change. I really thought I would feel different, but I didn’t. Crazy because I had that goal since 2004. After I won the race I kept looking for the stars looking for answers, because that was not it! The empty feeling was still there.
Triathlon was not making it, in fact it was making it worst. I mean, I was physically getting tired and sick, and I started to find out about all the drugs in the sport (I was a basket case). Not only that, but also how almost nobody played fair even during the race. Long story, but that just made me angrier. After that race, I bought a book that changed my life forever: The secret race by Tyler Hamilton, a book that tells in details the drugs in the Tour de France when he raced with Lance Armstrong. On that book Tyler talk about 1000 days, something like that he said: “takes about 1000 days in the sport to realize either you take drugs or you will never go far in your career”. Little by little I was realizing that was not for me, and the count down of my 1000 days started.
On December 23rd, Festivus Day I went to a friends house to borrow his bike, because I was changing sponsors and my bike was not ready yet. That day when I saw him with his kids I had a intuition, it was almost like time stopped and I heard: Fatherhood is what you been looking all for all this time.
2014 came along and I did 2 ironmans that year, and after the last ironman of the season in Arizona, I decided to smoked a joint the day after the race. I haven’t smoked in so many years so I went to Ruby Tuesdays and 2 burgers and 2 deserts later I stop to think. I look up the sky and thought: “What the fuck I am I doing?” I was so confused, I had a huge triathlon team, I was racing pro, technically a dream come true, with 6% body fat, another dream come true but I was not happy, or healthy. Weed always opens my mind, and like I always say “it does not numb my emotions, it just amplifies”. However, I was addicted to the stress, and my I guess my ego spoke louder so I signed up for another race in January.
January 2015 I did probably my best race ever, even with a 45 minute flat tire I got 2nd place in the local ironman. My best race ever, but after the race that feeling was back again and this time even stronger this time. It felt like I was being choked. Well, the inevitable happened: CRISIS! This time the worst crisis of my life. I was fucking up in so many levels and in all areas of my life. I remember getting in therapy with a headache for hitting myself in the head, and I told the therapist I finally did something right I am in pain. The answer of course was “that’s not good”.
Anyways, that crisis made me release a lot of shit. I took on writing and made me feel really good. I took sometime off from training, racing and increased my meditations. In one of those meditations I realized I was ready to be a Dad, and at first try we got pregnant. Luke was so ready to come. However, I decided to do another ironman in Cozumel and boy that was not a good idea. I lost my bottle, dehydrated and the race was a disaster. So, I did not finish the race and took the rest of the time as a vacation.
When I came back home I thought, that can’t be the last race, so I signed up for a local 140.6 (Ironman Distance in miles) in Naples Florida, same as January 2015. I did the race, won and came back home the same day, cause that is where my soul wanted to be. I didn’t even stay for the podium next day cause I was really done. The funny thing is back in 2004 I had a dream that I won an ironman with the time of 9 hours and 50, and guess my time on that race? 9 hours and 55 minutes close enough.
February 22nd I complete 1000 days and that day I went for a run, after the 1st mile I stopped because everything was hurting, specially my neck. I looked up the sky and thought, “I think I am done with this shit”. But what about the my business? That was a good question that I had no fucking clue! All I knew is that my soul was screaming for a change, I could not keep that going physically, mentally and emotionally.
Today is father’s day in Brazil and since I am an amerioca, a mix of american with carioca, I decided to launch my fatherhood blog. Carioca is someone that is from Rio de Janeiro, which is my home town, and that explains the statue with my face on it. That being said, let’s go by part.
I wrote a few things in this blog before, but once I read back again I notice it was quite confusing, just like the way I was. I am not going to lie, the last few years were hard and confusing but once I turned 40 things started to make more sense to me. However, this confusion started way back in 2004 when my soul searching started.
So who is Rirou? Well, Rirou is simply Richard Wygand soul. I can say that in 2016 when Luke was born I found my soul, but once I found I did not know what to do. Those 4 years were intense, with lots of changes and raw primal emotions while I was escaping my own matrix, and started to feel good in my own skin. Now that we know that I no longer need to speak in the 3rd person, because Rirou is me.
So why I considered myself a punk? Well, like I said before punk is about attitude. The reality is I was always different, meaning I was always the sensitive boy, the radical, the weirdo or the crazy one. The truth is, I just had different view of life, I did not wanted to go to college, I did not want to be rich or famous. I just wanted to be happy. When I turned 19 I started to try to fit in, get in college and have a “normal” life. However, a few years later this process was crushing my soul to a point that I didn’t even know who I was still alive. In fact, I was totally numb inside. In 2004 the situation was unsustainable that I started therapy and decided to pursue what made my soul happy. I started to do Ironman because the physical pain was helping my emotional pain, and that felt really good. This attitude for me is being a punk, it simply means do what makes your soul feel good. This is exactly what I want to teach my kids, is to be who they are and share their light what makes their soul feel good, and only the crazy ones know that. That is why is this post have this tittle, which is a song from one of my favorite bands in Brazil.
This past Thursday, I was asked to give a mini testimonial on what it means to be a Dad for a show in Brazil, which made me realized this would be the perfect kick off for my blog. Also, since I have another kid coming, a girl this time, and is bringing a lot of memories I decided to the recap my fatherhood story with my clear mind. I actually separate the things a little bit, I made an YouTube channel for the kids Punk Rock songs that I am creating. And another channel where I do cover of my favorite songs with video clips of me relearning how to skateboard at the age of 40, and the crazy things I do with my kids.
Here is the video of my testimonial and what I think it means to be a Dad. The video is in Portuguese but I did my best to put subtitles.
Song: So of loucos sabem:
Now I know exactly what to do
Good start, be able to count on you
Cause I remember everything brother
I was there too
A man when at peace
Don't want war with anyone
I held my tears
Because I didn't want to show the emotion
Since I was just there to watch
And learn a little more about perception
They say it's impossible to find love
Without losing reason
But for those who have strong thoughts
The impossible is only a matter of opinion
And that crazy people know
Only madmen know
That the crazy know
Only madmen know
All positivity I wish you
Because we need it in the days of struggle
The fear follow our dreams
The fear follow our dreams
Beautiful girl, I want to live on your street
I want to see you again
I want to see you again
Now I know exactly what to do
I'll start over, be able to count on you
Cause I remember everything brother
I was there too
A man when at peace
Don't want war with anyone
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
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.
Last year in the week Rirou turned 39 years old he told my family that I wanted to be a stay home Dad. But I also wanted to be a:
The Pope of his own religion
With therapy Rirou realized that he was to Punk to be all of that, except T-shit designer, he have some sick unfashion designs. However, his ideas were pretty funny. So, Rirou created a concept to compete with the soccer moms; The Rocker Dad, but Rirou is a punk by nature so he still created his own religion and became the Pope (a story that started when he was 7 years old). He also became the opposite of every life coach out there, he is selling some sick T-shirts, created his own diet, but most important Rirou made a comedy YouTube channel, and he is creating punk songs for kids. So, here we are!
Next week this blog will start the story from the begging, so coming soon the first part of Star Punks: Not another hero!