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An ‘unpleasant strain’ in family life

Review: “Irondad Life,” by Russell Newell

Russell Newell’s wry and self-deprecating “Irondad Life” chronicles his preparation for and participation in the 2018 Ironman Lake Placid triathlon. After volunteering for the 2012 competition, Newell committed himself to completing the triathlon that includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run.

Such a commitment is rare. Newell notes, “Only 0.5 percent of the United States’ population has run a marathon. Of that half percent, 99.9 of them start on fresh legs. … But in the Ironman, you’re already 114.4 miles [2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike] in.” Training for such an event impacts Newell’s mind, body, family, and wallet. The author’s chronicle of his training and the race day itself make for interesting reading.

Much of Newell’s mindset is revealed via dialogue with Jim Kane, his friend and fellow competitor. Their conversations offer (sometimes scatological) insights into the details of the torture they go through so they can exhaust themselves in Lake Placid.

The familial impact can be inferred in many of those conversations, but is more clearly articulated by Newell’s wife Karoline, who contributed a chapter. She details her husband’s obsession that “has caused a bit of unpleasant strain on our relationship. On more than one occasion, it’s been disruptive to our lives and has been the spark that ignited a few arguments.”

Some of that strain is financial. Swimming coaches and nutritionists, not to mention bicycles and wetsuits, don’t come cheap. Karoline notes that her Ironman husband resisted hiring people to do their lawn, but paid $2,000 for a bike.

Both Russell and Karoline offer tips for the would-be competitor and/or partner.

Newell’s descriptions of the three sections of the race are well done, especially for local readers. His account of Adirondack beauty is in contrast to the self-inflicted pain he’s experiencing as he cycles past the remnants of the Land of Make Believe, next to the AuSable on Route 9N.

A former writer for Disney-ABC Television, Russell Newell writes well — analytically and humorously about his own self-absorption, the expense, and the fatigue.

Newell did complete the 2018 Lake Placid Ironman: “I crossed the finish line, arms extended to the sky, exalted, and let out a warrior scream.” He had been encouraged by Sir Francis Drake’s words, “Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,” and Teddy Roosevelt’s famous Man in the Arena. And his marriage appears to be intact.

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