Kristen and Toby Heath, of Cicero, are attempting to complete two Ironman triathlons in one month. The Heaths participated in Ironman Lake Placid on July 24 and will compete in Ironman Mont-Treblant on Aug. 21. (Courtesy of Kristen Heath/Facebook)
Cicero couple attempts two Ironman triathlons in one month
By Ashley M. Casey
Toby Heath wanted to spend more time with his wife, Kristen. He’s gotten his wish, and then some: The Cicero couple trains together nearly 11 hours each week for Ironman triathlons.
The Heaths participated in their first Ironman in 2015, but this year they are challenging themselves to finish two Ironman competitions in one month. Having completed the Ironman Lake Placid on July 24, the Heaths are gearing up for their second competition, which takes place Aug. 21 in Mont-Treblant, Quebec.
“Our biggest challenge is just not getting a divorce,” laughed Kristen.
The highly competitive couple sometimes butts heads during training, which accounts for 90 percent of their triathlon time. The other 10 percent is the races themselves; the Heaths participate in eight to 10 triathlons each summer in addition to their Ironman project.
“Literally, we are racing each other every race,” Kristen said. “I have five more years of triathlon [experience] on me than him. … It used to be I’d beat him all the time.”
This year, Toby has bested Kristen in all of the triathlons they’ve done.
“You spend all this time sweating and training, and you get tired and crabby,” Kristen said.
“I think sometimes it’s more of a challenge when one is tired and one isn’t,” Toby added.
Although they get on each others’ nerves at times, the Heaths said training together has improved their marriage.
“It did bring us a lot closer together,” Kristen said, adding that she and Toby have faced bicycle breakdowns, crashes, dehydration and other triathlon woes together. “Making it through all those challenges there and you expend all that effort, it creates a bond.”
The Heaths’ love for triathlons has become a family affair. Their 13-year-old daughter, Isabella, completed her first triathlon last year and is searching for upcoming competitions that fit with her busy schedule — she runs cross country and track for Central Square. Kristen’s mother started out following her daughter and son-in-law to triathlons to cheer them on, and now she participates as well.
“When you pass her on the races, it gives you a little pick-up, people cheering for you,” Toby said.
In addition to the level of fitness they have achieved, the Heaths have found other benefits of doing triathlons. They said they have learned to push their boundaries and find out what they’re physically capable of.
“It carries over to the rest of your life,” Toby said. “Instead of carrying five bags of groceries, I can carry seven — I’m an Ironman.”
“I gave birth. I can do anything,” Kristen said.
The Heaths have found like-minded athletes in the local triathlon community. They have encouraged their friends to take up the sport as well.
“My social circle is pretty much all people that do triathlons,” Kristen said. “When you spend that much time training, you don’t have time for much else.”The Heaths’ hobby is an expensive one. Registration for an Ironman costs $800. Add to that equipment, repairs, physical therapy, massage and lodging, the total cost skyrockets into the thousands. This year, however, the Heaths have some help: Blueprint for Athletes, an initiative of Quest Diagnostics, selected the Heaths as “beta athletes” to test a performance-tracking tool. Blueprint is sponsoring the Heaths in exchange for testing the athletes’ blood before and after races for biomarkers such as cortisol, proteins and albumin. Based on the results, the athletes can tweak their workouts or nutrition to achieve faster times.
“Most people wouldn’t do a second Ironman if someone paid for it,” Kristen said.
“If [Mont-Treblant] was one week later, I would have said no, but your body does heal,” Toby said.
The Heaths said the Central New York triathlete community is growing.
“I really wish there was a way that we could encourage people to push their boundaries because it’s so rewarding,” Kristen said. “Most people start thinking, ‘I can’t do that.’ … It’s such a lost opportunity.”
“[You see] stuff you drive past every day, but now you have no motor, no sound and you are going slow enough to notice things,” Toby said of connecting with nature on bike rides.
Above all, the Heaths have each other in their herculean adventure.
“One reason I’m glad I’m married to Toby is a lot of people think we’re crazy,” Kristen said, “but we don’t think it’s crazy.”
To follow the Heaths’ Ironman adventures, visit facebook.com/2IMSOneMonthTeamHeath.
Ironman by the numbers
-“Ironman” is a brand of long-distance triathlons that include a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike race and a 26.2-mile run. Participants must complete the competition in 17 hours.
-Of the nearly 3,000 people registered for the Aug. 21 Ironman Mont-Treblant, only 27 percent are women.
-More than 25 percent of participants in the July 24 Ironman Lake Placid either did not show up or did not finish.
-Toby Heath finished the Ironman Lake Placid in 12 hours and 56 minutes, beating his personal record by 44 minutes. Kristen Heath finished in 13 hours and 8 minutes, beating her personal best by 2 minutes.
Ashley M. Casey is a reporter for The Baldwinsville Messenger and The Eagle Star-Review. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 and previously worked for the Scotsman Press.