When discussions of the greatest contests in sports arise, many think of the marathon, that ancient capstone of cardiovascular exercise. But to village residents Liz Fernandez and Donald Mayerhofer, a marathon is just a warm up.
“I’ve run a lot of marathons — I think seven — and I just got kind of bored with just running all the time,” said Fernandez, who, with Mayerhofer, finished her first Ironman contest in Lake Placid in July. “This is my third season doing triathlons.”
The race, a grueling, high-octane triathlon invented in Hawaii in the late 1970s, occurs yearly in Lake Placid — the picturesque Adirondack mountain town famous for hosting the Winter Olympic Games of 1932 and 1980. Athletes begin the race early with a 2.4 mile swim in Mirror Lake, spend mid-day biking 112 miles in loops through the mountains, and then finish with a marathon — 26.2 miles through the town and around its eponymous pond.
Fernandez and Mayerhofer, both veteran marathon runners, signed up last year for guidance from Bob McKeown of South Shore Tri Coach, a Babylon-based triathlon coaching program. The two trained together for months before jumping into the race.
“It was pretty crazy,” said Mayerhofer, who began his training in December. “I had a base because I did a couple of half Ironmans last year. Up to six hours, seven hours of training [a day].”
“It was a lot of family and training balance,” Fernandez added. “That was the hardest part — not the training, but trying to figure out how to do everything. Every day was pretty much a double training day. A lot of 5 a.m. workouts.”
The two worked together almost 90 percent of the time, said Mayerhofer, a firefighter based in East Harlem. During training, the two often met in upper Manhattan and biked up Route 9W for hours at a time.
“We’d ride our bikes from East Harlem all the way up to Bear Mountain and come back,” said Fernandez, laughing. “And then we’d go for a run in Central Park.”
Despite the seemingly endless training, the two agreed that when it came to the actual race, the hard work certainly paid off.
“Amazing,” Fernandez said. “It was, probably aside from the birth of my kids, one of the best experiences of my life. It ended up being 70 degrees and overcast the entire day.”
“Obviously, it was an unbelievable experience,” Mayerhofer concurred. “The energy up there is hard to explain. The whole town is all about the race. And the race itself was just unbelievable. You train 8, 9 months, six days a week, then you get to the starting line and you’re like, wow, this is really it.”
Both athletes beat their set goals, with Mayerhofer clocking in at 12:12 and Fernandez turning in a stellar time of 10:59:58 — just slipping under her desired 11:00.
And as far as they’re concerned, this was just the warm-up. Both athletes intend to compete again — and when asked if she’d consider entering next year’s event, Fernandez just laughed.
“I’m already signed up,” she said.