Q&A With a First-Time Ironman Finisher

Savas Gunduz recently did his first Ironman, completing Ironman Lake Placid in 11:56. His story is a common one but with some very uncommon aspects.

Savas only trained an average of 6.9 hours per week preparing for the race. While he has an athletic build at 5-foot-11, 165 pounds, and his past high school soccer and college rowing endeavors surely shaped some of his ability, he is no Olympian. He could be a fantastic athlete and possibly qualify for Kona. But his lack of consistency over the years has been the biggest issue for him (like most people).

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Despite this lack of consistency over the years and less than seven hours of training a week leading up to the race, he accomplished what many people fall short off—a near-perfect race in his Ironman debut.

Here is a Q&A of how he did it:

What Drove You To Do This Event?

A Subaru. Just kidding. The real impetus was the fact that two of my best friends and former rowing teammates were going to sign up. I got a four-page email from one of them, stating something to the fact that we aren't getting younger, and this would be a great challenge, and on and on and on and on.

His dissertation was summarized by the simple question, "So, you in?", to which I answered his lengthy email with the one-word answer, "Yep". Therefore it was a combination of some very positive peer pressure, with the fact that if I were ever to do an Ironman, that Lake Placid was one of the toughest, most iconic, and closest ones to me.

More: 3 Training Tips for Aspiring Kona Athletes

What Other Priorities Do You Have in your Life?

Pretty much everything else, except for clean socks. Family, job, training, and then clean socks, in that order. My wife and I had a 6-month-old daughter when I decided to do the race, and we had another child during my training—so my kids were 2 and 6 months when I did the race. They were definitely a priority in my life. Following that, my job was very intense. While I sometimes worked from home, those were 12 hour days, and I often had to travel during the week. Behind those two things came training.

What Were Your Goals for This Race?

I had two goals: to finish the race upright and feeling good, and to break 12 hours, even though my coach said time and time again that time doesn't matter. I knew what he was saying, that the weather could be rainy and thus the bike descents would be slower than normal. Or the course could be windy, which would slow down times. Or I could have a great race, but have a mechanical on the bike which would affect my time. But still—I wanted to finish sub-12.

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