An iron man race consists of a 3.8 kilometer swim, 180 kilometer bike and a 42 kilometer run.
It is an incredible feat to finish just one iron man, but Roger Lehman wanted to do more.
The 1979 Bellevue East graduate recently competed in the first ever Triple Deca Iron competition in Castelnuovo del Garda of Verona, Italy, which started on Oct. 8. The race consisted of an iron man a day for 30 days.
Lehman was one of only 21 people in the world to start this race. Unfortunately, respiratory problems cause him to have to drop out after seven days.
“I was disappointed I wasn't able to hang in there a little longer,” Lehman said. “I wanted to at least get to the deca (10 days) but I just couldn't fight through. It's actually amazingly manageable to do.”
When Lehman stopped, there were nine runners left and eight of those completed the whole 30-day experience. Lehman took a lot from the event even after dropping out.
“One of the most amazing things was these guys were getting faster each day,” he said. “By the 11th and 12th day, once their bodies adjusted, everyone was setting personal records. It was a pretty amazing experience.”
Lehman is no stranger to stunning feats when it comes to iron man competitions. He finished fifth in the 2010 Deca World Challenge in Monterrey, Mexico. The race consisted of 24-miles of swimming, 1,120-miles of biking and 262-miles of running over a 10-day span. His total time of 262 hours, 56 minutes and one second was good for a United States of America record in the deca race. He became one of under 100 people in the world to complete the deca ironman.
When training for the triple deca in Italy, Lehman had to prepare for a new format. The traditional arrangement had the athletes do one event a day -- swimming, running or biking. The new format had the athletes do one complete ironman each day -- all three events.
“It's hard to know exactly what to do to get ready,” Lehman said. “I tried to get ironman ready and than in May switched to more extensive training for four months.
“It's a huge time commitment. I would spend 25-30 hours a week of intense training and go for 10 hours a couple of days.”
Being in top physical shape isn't the only hurdle Lehman and the 20 other runners faced in the event. The quick turn around from one day to the next got in the way of recuperation time.
The daily ironmans began each day at 8 a.m., regardless of how long it took the competitor the day before. It took Lehman 13:45 on the first day, leaving him time to just eat and clean up before he went to sleep to start it all over again.
On day two, he didn't finish until after 11:00 p.m. and by day five, he didn't get done until almost midnight. On his final day he didn't finish until 2 a.m. due to fluid accumulating in his lungs, forcing him to stop the competition.
“I can do an ironman in 11 to 11 1/2 hours if I'm doing just one,” Lehman said. “But when you have to do another one the next day, you have to pace yourself.”
When competing in the triple deca competition, it takes a lot of help from others to compete at the top level. The most important people for Lehman were his sister, Patti, and the race directors that provided transportation before and after the races.
“Patti has supported me for years,” he said. “She came out to help for the first 16 days and helped make sure I got all the nutrition I needed and got me food and Gatorade when I needed it. She also got all my equipment ready for the next stage.”
Lehman, who now lives in Evanston, Ill., was impressed by the scenery he experience during his time in Italy. Despite not performing as well as he wanted, it still was an experience of a lifetime.
“We were staying in wine country and the property was about 600 years old,” Lehman said. “In Chicago, a building that is 150 years old is considered old.
“That was truly amazing.”