On Sunday October 15, Drs. Robert and Bobbi Stanley competed in the Louisville Ironman competition.
The first Ironman occurred in 1978 in Hawaii and only had 15 competitors. The race came about through a spirited discussion concerning the world’s strongest athletes. Was it swimmers or runners? Ironman founder and U.S. Navy Commander John Collins argued that Sports Illustrated had recently showcased a cyclist for “highest oxygen uptake”. Could it be cyclists were the fittest of the bunch? They came to the conclusion that anyone able to accomplish the most challenging competitions from all three sports would surely be the "Ironman".
In the first competition, each participant was given three handwritten pages of rules. On the last page was the now trademarked, "Swim 2.4 miles! Bike 112 miles! Run 26.2 miles! Brag for the rest of your life.” The first Ironwoman was named in 1979.
The Road to Ironman Louisville
When Dr. Bobbi celebrated her 50th birthday in 2016, she carefully reviewed a bucket list she made a few years ago. One of the items not yet checked was “complete an Ironman triathlon”. She thought about the feat, her family commitments, a bustling family dental practice in Cary NC and decided she could safely attempt a half Ironman (swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles, run 13.1 miles). She and Dr. Rob agreed to train for the Raleigh City of Oaks Half Ironman in June 2017. Dr. Rob’s training got side tracked with commitments at Stanley Institute and the couple agreed he would sit it out. On race weekend, the excited atmosphere got the best of him and he surprised Dr. Bobbi by joining her at the starting line with very little prior training!
After they finished the race, they both decided they had to go all the way! “I’ve never been someone that only goes halfway. I wanted the satisfaction of saying ‘I am an Ironwoman.’, quipped Dr. Bobbi. The doctors set their sites on Louisville.
Training intensified in preparation for the big event with a rigorous 3-4 hour daily regimen. They worked with John Austin at Tri-n-Run Coaching to ready themselves with intensive workouts which included riding their bikes to Wilmington NC from the Triangle. Between their workouts and a ketogenic diet, the duo felt as ready as possible. “I turned 50 this year and I have never been in better shape”, said Dr. Robert Stanley.
It really was a family affair. Drs. Stanley’s parents, team member Gayle Banic, daughter Megan and a handful of family, friends and colleagues made the trip to cheer them to the finish line. "It meant the world to us to have such a great support team! We couldn’t have done it without them and it made the whole trip more fun!" said Dr. Bobbi. They were able to visit Louisville restaurants and points of interest and preview the course prior to the big day. Daughter Megan Stanley made signs and strategically mapped out points to catch a glimpse of and offer words of encouragement to each of her parents.
The first leg of the day was the 2.4-mile swim in the Ohio River. This was a wetsuit legal race but with a water temperature in the mid-60's, the water felt refreshing. It is a staggered entry based on estimated swim times and Dr. Rob entered the water first (7:51am) with Dr. Bobbi beginning about 17 minutes later. “I’ve really been working on my swim technique. My focus was to improve the mechanics of my swimming in order to cut my time.” Said Dr. Rob. It worked brilliantly! He finished his swim in 1:08:15 which was approximately 8 minutes longer than his half Ironman swim time (for twice the distance!). Dr. Bobbi admits that the swim is typically her weakest segment but was pleasantly surprised by a steady pace with a total swim time of 1:31:37, a new personal record.
As they left the water, each was happy with their performance on the swim leg. Dr. Rob likened the event to a game of chess. You MUST plan and pace yourself. Dr. Rob practiced his nutrition or "gut training" during his last weeks of preparation and felt confident as he followed his plan. He narrowly escaped hurricane force winds and storms by finishing the bike leg just before 4 pm. Dr. Bobbi began her run during a downpour after being batted around by the strong winds and experiencing a 20 degree temperature drop while on the bike. Dr. Bobbi really felt the old adage, Ironman is more mental than physical when she was halfway through the marathon (3rd leg) portion of the race. "I really had to dig deep to find the strength to finish. It was harder than childbirth!" said Dr. Bobbi.
To be considered an Ironman finisher, you must complete the race in under 16.5 hours from the time you started. Dr. Rob completed the entire race with a time of 14:04:03. Dr. Bobbi came in just under the cutoff with 5.5 minutes to spare! Her race time was 16:24:35.
The saying really is true-bragging rights for life
Dr. Rob was really amazed and grateful to all the people that made this possible. The race begins with proper preparation and gear. "Of course we couldn't have done it without our coaches, John Austin (Triathlon coach), Stacey at TriStacey coaching for run and bike coaching and swim coach Jeanna Chain. We even had a patient give us the inside scoop on what an Ironman is really like. In addition to the athletic training, we received nutritional counseling from Registered Dietitian Chris Newport that really helped us perform at our peak. Two days before the race, my watch broke and Garmin customer service ignored their standard return protocol to overnight ship a brand new watch to me. The Garmin Forerunner 935 really helped me maintain a steady pace throughout the event by monitoring my heartrate and keeping it in the right zone. We couldn't have done it without Inside Out Sports, the Cycle Surgeon taking great care of our bikes and the folks at Cycling Spoken Here for giving us top of the line equipment!" commented Dr. Robert Stanley. In addition to the pre-race planning, the Ironman organization ran an amazing event. "The level of professionalism was on par with the standard of excellence we strive for at Stanley Dentistry so we quickly recognized and greatly appreciate the attention to detail at the event, said Dr. Bobbi.
Thousands of people raced in Louisville this fall. However, statistically (at most), the number of people that have ever finished an Ironman Triathlon event is estimated at 1 in 10000 but is likely less than half that amount. That amounts to fewer than .01% of the world's population!
Dr. Rob & Dr. Bobbi have finished their first Ironman and lived to tell about it. Now they will focus on recovering from Ironman with rest and relaxation, giving some thought to their next endeavor and enjoying their lifetime bragging rights!