Last fall I wrote an article about one athlete I coach, Ray Picard, and his journey to qualifying for Kona. As I mentioned in that article, there are plenty of resources out there about qualifying for Kona, but looking at one athlete, and his or her journey, can often lead to many lessons that we can all learn from. In that continued spirit, I am writing another article about an athlete that qualified for Kona: Rob Mohr.
Rob and I met in Hawai’i in 2014, a couple days after I raced the event. He and his girlfriend had traveled over to the island for a vacation and to view the race. Rob was, and is, a fan of the sport. He wanted to personally witness a race that he aspired to join.
Shortly after meeting, I started to coach Rob. At that particular time, he was working a full time job for a PR firm in Manhattan with intentions to make a life and career change in the middle of 2015. Rob had intentions of moving to the West Coast and would be phasing out of his professional role in New York City by the year’s end.
With all this in mind, we made a goal of racing Ironman Mont Tremblant at the end of the summer and Ironman Cozumel at the end of the year if he did not qualify in August for Hawai’i.
Rob has an athletic background, but it was primarily made up of explosive sports like football and lacrosse. Additionally, during his time in college, and the years shortly after, he made it a point to get in the weight room fairly frequently and eventually bulked up to 180 lbs, which is pretty solid considering his height at 5’8”. When I met him, he had made some drastic lifestyle changes as he shifted to doing some running events and had almost converted to an entirely vegan diet (and weighed in around 140 lbs). As he later described it, he came to me as a “decent runner who owned a bike.” He certainly had already displayed an ability to run, but there was still a lot of upside to the swim and bike.
2015 was a very mixed year of training for Rob. The first half of the year was spent in Manhattan, while the second half of the year had two blocks of training in Boulder, Colorado. While in Manhattan, we kept the training at a moderate level and used the blocks in Boulder to up his volume well above baseline.
Rob’s NYC training typically consisted of four swims/week in a 20-yard pool, mostly indoor riding and a mix of outdoor and indoor running. Since the training was primarily indoors, I often broke up his trainer ride into 2 x 1-1.25 hour sessions and only went longer during one ride on the weekend. Even then, I typically capped the total duration of that session at 2.5-3 hours when indoors. When the weather eventually warmed up, he did some longer rides in New Jersey. His run training consisted of running off every bike workout (but just once on double ride days) and key workouts taking place on Wednesdays and Sundays. We rarely saw more than 15 hours of training per week while in the city and probably never saw more than 10-12 hours when he was still working full time.
As the year progressed and Rob was looking to make a career transition to the West Coast, I suggested that he consider doing a training block in Boulder prior to IMMT. He had the flexibility to work remotely and I felt that even if he had more free time in NYC, he was still going to have to train within NYC and the logistical considerations that come with that. Rob decided to come to Boulder and during this time we were able to string together three weeks in the 20-25 hour range. One interesting observation Rob made to me afterwards was that he didn’t realize he enjoyed riding bikes until he got to Boulder. Most of his riding had always been indoors so riding a bike was always “training” as opposed to simply being an enjoyable activity.
Following Ironman Mont Tremblant, Rob went back to NYC for almost two months and then returned to Boulder for four weeks of training leading into Ironman Cozumel. While this time the weather in Boulder was no longer sunny summer, it was still much more logistically convenient for training than being in the city.
Race Selection and Execution
Rob raced Ironman Mont Tremblant with the intentions of trying to qualify for Kona. He came very close with a 9:38 finish which resulted in a 5th place finish in the M25-29 age group. As it turned out, that time would have qualified him in any other age group. Nevertheless, it was still a 2 hour PR from his first Ironman in NYC in 2012.
The second race Rob attempted was Ironman Cozumel. We felt that the windy, flat bike did not necessarily play to his strengths, but the hot, humid run certainly would. Rob put himself into a good position coming off the bike and as the run progressed he slowly worked his way up the field. Cozumel is a run course consisting of three out-and-backs, but it also had a rolling start, so while he could see his competition, he wasn’t sure where exactly he was in regards to their starting time.
On the final out and back, Rob caught the leader of his age group and they ran shoulder to shoulder to the finish line. Rob realized they were the top two in his age group so his spot was solidified if no one caught them, but he still pushed all the way to the finish line and forced a sprint out of himself that had him breaking the tape first. In the end, he had almost a minute lead, but he later told me, “If this was the only chance I ever had to win my age group at an Ironman, I didn’t want to let it pass me by.” He ran a 3:03:59 marathon and finished in 9:26:02, winning his age group.
That final quote speaks a lot to Rob’s character and to how he approaches the sport. He understood the opportunity he had in that moment and also understood that it could pass him by. Racing presents a lot of discomfort and 2nd place would have still been pretty darn good that day. Finding the self-talk and motivation to not settle is an intangible that I see in many of the athletes that I have helped get to Hawai’i. They know when and they know how to fight when they have to. It has, and continues, to inspire me in my own racing.