Photos by Sincerely Gone Photography
Not just anyone can compete in the Ironman World Championships. Each year 80,000 athletes attempt to qualify for a spot, but only 2,000 actually make it. Rich Blaser is one of those elite athletes who made it to the starting line in Kona, Hawaii.
We met up with Rich at Split Rock Trail (one of his favorite running spots!) to discover just what it takes to be an Ironman.
How do you live a 360life?
For me, that just means that I make wellness a priority. I make sure I carve out time to stay active, and I’m mindful of my choices and how they affect my health.
What is your wellness mantra?
You only have to work out on the days that end in “y.”
How long have you been active/competing?
I have been active as long as I can remember. I played every sport I could in high school, and I’ve always liked to spend my spare time outdoors. I like surfing, biking, skiing, and playing racquetball and tennis; I like finding new ways to challenge myself.
I competed in my first triathlon almost 20 years ago, and about six years ago I began training for Ironman triathlons.
Tell us how you started?
I set a goal in 2010 to complete an Ironman race. The first triathlon I did was an hour and 15 minutes, and that was the longest I’d ever done. To finish an Ironman race (which is a 2.4-mile swim, 114-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run) can take up to 17 hours, so it was a big leap for me.
I trained for my first Ironman over two years, and it took sacrifice. My exercise routine took 16 hours per week with just one day off every three months. I’m not a morning person, but I’d get up at 5 a.m. to go to the gym because my goal was that important to me. I’d never decided to go for a run in the pouring rain before, but I had to stick to my routine, so I ran in the rain.
It was often tough balancing my other commitments, and there were times it would have been easy to give up, but I didn’t. I put my family first and made sure I kept my priorities clear. In the end, I completed my very first Ironman race successfully. The professionals can usually finish a race in about eight hours. I was able to finish my first Ironman in just over 10 hours, and I’m now an Ironman three times over.
Please share your favorite competition/event, in detail, and what it meant to you.
My favorite event is the Ironman triathlon I did in Kona, Hawaii, which is the birthplace of the Ironman event. It is the world championship, and I’d always watched it on TV and hoped I could do it someday.
I can’t think of any other sport where the amateurs and the professionals compete on the same field. It was such a surreal feeling to walk out with my bike and see some of my personal heroes walking out beside me. It had been such a big goal of mine for so long, and it was incredible to finally get to be there.
Kona is an elite race that athletes need to qualify for, so I was racing against the best in the world. I’d been finishing in the top 5 percent of my races, but in Kona I was only in the top 50 percent. It was very humbling and also very inspiring.
What keeps you motivated?
We are only given one body, and I want to be able to enjoy traveling and playing with my future grandkids.
Do you have races/ competition/events that you would like to complete on your bucket list?
I have thought about trying to qualify again for Kona. I may also want to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
What are you training for right now?
What is your go-to diet?
I never “go on a diet” because that means I would come off of it at some point. I eat what I want to eat, but I don’t overdo it. I rarely eat red meat, and my fiancée and I split meals most of the time when we eat out.
I set a cap weight that gives me a five pound cushion, and I weigh myself every day, first thing in the morning. When I hit the cap, I increase my cardio, eat more fruits and vegetables and cut back on unhealthy foods.
How would you encourage others to start living a 360life?
Start exercising and make it fun. It helps if you can find something you enjoy and then work your way up. Wellness is a lifestyle, so it should absolutely be part of your daily routine. If you’re trying to lose weight, weigh yourself at least once a week and then weigh yourself every day at the same time once you hit your desired weight.
Make the scale your friend and accountability partner to let you know when you are starting to gain your weight back. Almost everyone who gains the weight back has stopped getting on the scale. When it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind.
What is your daily workout routine?
I do at least an hour of cardio exercise every day when I am not training for a specific event. On weekends, I like to devote a little more time and do a long run or a bike ride. I also work on my core a few times per week.
What is the most important lesson competing and being active has taught you?
Most people don’t set goals, or they set them too low, but training for the Ironman triathlons taught me that we can accomplish way more than we think. It helped me begin setting my standards higher and my goals bigger in other areas of my life as well.
Anything else you would like to share?
A healthy lifestyle is just like any other habit. Building new habits is tough, but once you get into a regular routine, it’s hard to stop, like with smoking cigarettes or biting nails. The difference is that you’ve created a positive habit instead of a destructive one.
I’m at the point that I miss the gym when I can’t go, but it took a long time of following a consistent workout regimen before I could get to that mindset. Most people don’t just start going to the gym and change their lifestyles overnight. It takes time and dedication, and it’s not always easy, but as with so many things the key is not getting discouraged.
What is your favorite book?
Last question! What is one thing you wouldn’t run without?