Sixteen hours. That’s how long Patricia Toomey of Fitzwilliam expects to spend swimming, biking and running at Lake Placid’s Ironman triathlon on July 25.
Ironman triathlons — which consist of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run — are organized by The Ironman Group and take place in more than 50 countries around the world, according to the organization’s website.
Toomey, 53, has the won’t-give-up mentality of a long-distance triathlete and for years has pushed herself to participate in increasingly difficult competitions. To her, it’s a logical sequence.
“I can do more,” she’s often thought after finishing a race or triathlon. “I can do more than that.”
The Ironman event became a bucket-list item when Toomey’s friend gave her a book, “You Are An Ironman,” about everyday people competing in the long-distance triathlon.
She remembers thinking, “If they can do it, so can I.”
Toomey grew up an athlete, playing field hockey and baseball in school, but fell into individual sports after college when team sports became harder to join.
At the invitation of a friend, she first competed in sprint triathlons, which consist of a quarter-mile swim, a 12-mile bike ride and a three-mile run. From there, she said, it was like a domino effect, with each race triggering an interest in the next longest triathlon. She went on to compete in an Olympic-distance triathlon, which is double the distance of a sprint triathlon, before moving into the world of Ironman.
Toomey began her Ironman training three years ago as she planned to compete in 2020. The pandemic foiled that intention, but she’s taking advantage of the extra time.
Toomey, who is a physical therapist at Cheshire Medical Center, trains shorter distances during the week, saving 13-mile runs and hundred-mile rides for the weekends. She swims laps at the Keene Family YMCA a couple of mornings each week but plans to start swimming in lakes as the weather gets warmer.
She’ll sometimes listen to music or Red Sox game broadcasts while she trains, but because she won’t be allowed to wear headphones at the actual Ironman, she’s getting comfortable running and biking without them. Instead, she focuses on the task at hand.
“I just kind of let my brain think about, ‘OK, what’s the next hill?’ Or ‘when am I coming up on my next downhill? What am I doing tomorrow for training?’ “
On May 22, Toomey organized her own half Ironman as part of her training. She swam 1.2 miles at the Y, biked 56 miles through Keene, Swanzey and Gilsum, and ran 13.1 miles along Keene’s rail trail.
Twelve friends and coworkers joined her for different parts of her personal triathlon: One friend biked 30 of the 56 miles, while two others biked along as she ran, peeling off at one point to retrieve cold water for Toomey, and other friends set up food and water stations for her.
“It’s nice when you’re doing this on your own to know you have the support,” she said. “It’s nice to know there’s someone at the rest stop to give encouragement.”
The triathlete said she hadn’t thought much about how she’ll celebrate after completing the race in New York next month. She expects to cross the finish line around midnight but doesn’t anticipate being there alone.
“I’ll just be happy I finished it,” she said. “They say even at midnight people are still there, the spectators. Even if you’re the last one to finish, people will be there and all the liveliness. I’ll just take that all in.”
After the Ironman, Toomey said she’d like to return to the activities she loved before training took up so much of her time, like hiking the state’s 4,000-footers, or maybe go beyond marathons and take a crack at ultrarunning. She’s still looking for that next bucket-list challenge.
“I’m waiting for my friend to give me a new book to decide what to do next,” she joked.