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From Ironman to Marathon Man in Three Weeks

October 29, 2012 at 6:00pm EST | by Barbara Huebner, NYRR News Service

As they traverse the 26.2 miles from Staten Island to Central Park on Sunday, many runners in the ING New York City Marathon will look around and compare themselves to the other 47,000 in the race. “He looks faster than I am, she looks fitter than I am, I’m gaining on the one in the red, that guy looks like he just did Ironman last month … ”

An exaggeration? Not if you’re running near Rob Brink.

Brink, 27, of Westport, CT, had had quite a year. Last November, he made his debut at the distance in the ING New York City Marathon, running 3:01:13. In May, he ran the Brooklyn Half Marathon in 1:18:22, qualifying on time for entry into the ING New York City Marathon on Sunday. In August, he did his first Ironman-distance triathlon, the NYC Ironman, in 10:01:03, which qualified him for the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.

 “At first I wasn’t going to do [Hawaii],” said Brink, who was surprised that he qualified for it on the brutally hilly NYC Ironman course on a hot and humid day. “But the World Championships is a really prestigious event. I talked to a few people and they said ‘it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.’ So I did it.”

On Sunday, three weeks after swimming 2.4 miles, cycling 112 miles and running 26.2 miles in 10:02:21, Brink will be right back where it all started, at the ING New York City Marathon.

“I’m sure you’re not surprised but [people] usually say I’m crazy,” he reported. “They say it takes five weeks to recover from an Ironman so I’m really doing [New York] just for fun. And I usually get a crazy look from people when I say that, too. I’m just trying to fit it all in and hope I’m not burning myself out.”

Skipping the Marathon, however, was not an option, not after the surge of emotion he felt at the starting line last year.

“Building up to that moment for months, so many people, being there with my training partner, the atmosphere of race morning, the helicopters around … Ironman was cool, but that [marathon] morning was pretty awesome,” he said.

This is all new to Brink, who ran cross country at Staples High School in Westport but has since battled a series of foot, shin, and knee issues. Recently, he drastically changed his running style, attempting to strike on his midfoot or forefoot; between the altered style and the cross training he automatically gets from triathlon, Brink has been running injury-free and faster than ever.

Which isn’t to say that he’s had smooth sailing through the past hurricane year of success: In March, he separated his shoulder in a bike crash, and he competed in NYC Ironman while on antiobiotics for a case of Lyme disease.

“It was miserable,” he allowed.

So even though Hawaii is a grueling course, Brink thought that it couldn’t get much tougher than that. Until, that is, he found himself battling gusty headwinds of up to 50 miles per hour on the bike course both out and back, thanks to a nastily timed shift in wind direction. Then midway through the marathon portion, he thought he might have to drop out as he struggled with dehydration in the famed heat of the lava fields.

But he’s already planning on doing Ironman Canada next August, hoping to qualify again for the World Championships. And of course, if he qualifies for the Boston Marathon with his time Sunday in New York, he might do that next April.

First, he acknowledges, he needs a rest. Except for his hometown Turkey Trot 5-miler on Thanksgiving, of course.

Photo courtesy Rob Brink