To be an Ironman requires excellence, passion, and commitment. It is a test of physical toughness and mental strength. To be an Ironman you must persevere and endure. Rondi Scoular is an Ironman!
Ironman is triathlon consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride, and a 26.22-mile run. All are raced in that order without a break. Ironman is considered the most difficult one-day sporting event in the world.
The idea for this uber-triathlon was sparked by a debate at the Waikiki Swim Club awards banquet in 1977. Which athletes – swimmers or runners – were the most physically fit? Navy Commander John Collins, who had participated in triathlons, was part of the debate and added cyclists to the list of possibilities. Collins, determined to settle the debate, fashioned a race by combining the courses of the Waikiki Rough Water Swim (2.4 miles), the Around-Oahu Bike Race (112 miles, originally over two days) and the Honolulu Marathon (26.2 miles). He stated, “Whoever finishes first, we’ll call the Ironman.”
On February 18, 1978, 15 men, including Collins, lined up for the inaugural race. Only 12 finished. The race rules and course description included a handwritten note: “Swim 2.4 miles! Bike 112 miles! Run 26.2 miles! Brag for the rest of your life!” It’s still part of the official documents of the race. Gordon Haller, a US Navy Communications Specialist, was named the first Ironman. His time was 11 hours, 46 minutes and 58 seconds. The runner-up, a US Navy Seal, led for most of the race, but ran out of water during the marathon segment.
“It still hasn’t hit me I did this,” Scoular said after finishing her Ironman in Waconia, MN, on August 20. She completed her Ironman in 16 hours – a full hour under the allotted time. “There were many times I wanted to quit, she said. “I did a lot of praying.”
Scoular and seventy-five other athletes signed up for the Minnesota event. The day before the race that number dropped to 50. More dropped out the morning of the race and just 25 men and five women took off when the gun sounded. “Most did not want to take on the rain and wind. But this was my race,” Scoular said. “I was not quitting!”
During the swim, waves and whitecaps added intensity and caused swimmers to become disoriented. According to Scoular, she was not able to see the buoy markers and headed towards the wrong one. “A boat told me I was going the wrong way and redirected me.”
Between each leg of the race, athletes changed their gear. “I thought I was organized and had everything laid out and ready,” she said. Despite her preparations, obstacles kept appearing. “I went into the swim with my watch. It wasn’t waterproof, so I had no idea what time it was for the rest of the race. Then, when I started out on the bike, I forgot my sunglasses and had to go back. At about the seventh mile on the bike, my odometer fell off. I couldn’t tell how fast I was going or what mile I was on. I also forgot to grab my extra belt with nutrition and water in it. When I got to the run, I forgot to put on my number. Everything seemed to be going against me.”
Scoular’s determination, mental toughness, and the support of her family, won out. She began the race at 7:15 a.m. and finished at 11:01 p.m. “During that time, I saw my parents and my daughter, Rylee, about six times. They kept me going each time I thought I was about to give up. And not giving up is the hallmark of every Ironman. In 1982, a college student, Julie Moss, competed as part of her thesis on Exercise Physiology. As she neared the finish line, severe fatigue and dehydration began to take its toll. Just yards from claiming victory, she staggered, fell to the ground, and was passed by Kathleen McCartney in the smallest margin of victory in race history: 29 seconds. Moss dragged herself to the end and completed the race. The image of Moss crawling to the finish line was broadcast around the world and remains an inspiration to competitors to “just finish”.
Scoular became interested in running after a career in high school and college basketball. Her career was cut short by an injury. “Basketball is all I ever knew,”she said. “That was what I did. When that was over, I think running might have filled a void.”
She began running longer distances after she moved to Milbank and became friends with runners Melissa Schuneman, Jessica Frederiksen, and Amy Van Lith. “It’s funny because I was a sprinter in high school, she recalled. I thought a 400 was long. There was no way I could even run three miles for a 5K.”
But after Scoular ran her first 5K race, she was hooked. “I might have a slight addiction,” she admitted. She graduated to a 10K and then decided to try a half-marathon. “During that time, I also started running shorter triathlons with Melissa and Jessica.” She ran her first triathlon five years ago and has now completed about eight or nine. “I like the three different parts to the race. It keeps me interested.”
Perhaps there was always an Ironman inside of her trying to break loose who continued to push her. After several triathlons, she kept going. “I wanted to improve my time and try an Olympic distance triathlon.” She also completed a 1- mile swim, 24- mile bike, and 10K- run. She then progressed to a half Ironman, which involved a 1.2- mile swim, 56- mile bike, and a half marathon (13.1 mile) run. “After I crossed the finish line, I said I was never going to do a full Ironman. Two days later I signed up for the full.”
Scoular, though active all her life, amazed even herself that she found the time to compete in such a demanding sport. ” I’m a mother to four children, work full time as a pharmacist, and the wife to a teacher and coach.” But it was her husband, Ryan, who encouraged her to run a full marathon, mostly because it was a component of the full Ironman. “I hadn’t any desire to run 26 miles, but took Ryan’s advice and ran a full marathon last fall.”
She started serious training for the Ironman 12 weeks before the race. “ I never could have done it without the support and encouragement of my husband. He pushed me when I wanted to quit, was there to help with the kids, and gave me ice baths. My family, along with the fact that I was vested in something, kept me motivated.”
At her peak training point, she put roughly 20 hours per week into swimming, biking, and running. She trained one to two hours per day with longer combination training activities on the weekends. “At my peak, I swam 1.6 miles, biked 100 miles, and ran 13 miles.”
It all paid off. She now can call herself an Ironman. She stands with an elite group estimated to be .01 % or less of the people in the world. Surely, she has reached all her goals. Maybe not. As she said, “The Monday after Ironman, I asked Ryan if it was bad to already be thinking about what I could do next.”