The Journey Never Ends – A Conversation with Ironman Extraordinaire Jim Ristow

Triathletes are for the most part a breed all their own. These are athletes who for love of sport pay hundreds and hundred of dollars to see how far they can push their mental and physical limits through swimming, biking and running vast, incredible distances. It also seems the longer the race, the more positive the attitude of the athlete. Triathletes are a joy to be around. The warped sense of humor combined with a family “we are all in this together” mindset make time spent with triathletes an absolute blast.

But one athlete just stands out from all others. Jim Ristow completely embodies the Ironman mantra of Anything is Possible. Jim truly represents the best our sport has to offer. His giving attitude in terms of advice to newbies is fantastic, his sense of humor in terms of getting people to believe donuts and A&W Root Beer are legitimate nutritional and hydration training products is absolutely infectious and his “day job” as a Timex Factory Rep gives him the ability to connect with athletes both at events and social media and impart knowledge and technical advice that athletes have found invaluable.

On September 20, Jim finished the inaugural Ironman Maryland, a finish that many thought impossible a few short months ago but when you are Jim Ristow and Anything Is Possible, you get to hear your name and “You Are An Ironman” as you cross the finish line. As he was leaving Cambridge to head back to Florida and see his new home, he took a few moments to chat with us. I believe you will find Jim as motivating and inspiring as I do.

Oh and I do hope the WTC people are paying attention as I believe after this gutsy performance, Jim Ristow definitely deserves a Kona slot just for showing that you can go from a surgical suite and hospital bed to an Ironman Finish Line in 9 months when you truly live and believe that Anything Is Possible. Come on, Ironman. Hook Jim up, he is one of your finest ambassadors.

Onefortypointsix Media – How long have you been a triathlete?

Jim Ristow – Triathlete since 2006.

Onefortypointsix Media – What got you into the sport?

Jim Ristow – Well at one time I was a rather large person, had enough of it, started to eat better, found running and lost 80lbs. After completing the marathon distance, I was looking for something different. Started with sprints, the next year Olympic, next year 1/2, and the next year finally the full.

Onefortypointsix Media – How many 140.6 Ironman races have you done so far?

Jim Ristow – I currently stand 5 out of 6. IMWI 2010, IMFL 2011, IMKY 2012 (dnf), IMLP and IMKY in 2013 and now IMMD in 2014. Still deciding on IMFL 2014. Looking to get to 12.

Onefortypointsix Media – Which brings us today. Yesterday you finished the inaugural Ironman Maryland. For many, finishing an inaugural Ironman race would be a thrill but for you, it held a special meaning. Explain what happened 9 months ago.

Jim Ristow – Well it actually started a little before 9 months ago. Mid Nov I bent over to pick up a pair of shoes and blew out my L3/L4 discs in my lower back. Never had back issues and in one simple movement I was done. Add on the fact I was in the middle of a move from Chicago to Orlando things got a little interesting. My Family, friends, Ironman family and fb friends came to my rescue. By Christmas time the nerves in my upper left leg were being affected. I had two doctors tell me my Ironman and athletic career was over.  I was devastated. Through a fb/ironman friend I found a surgeon that has worked on other Ironman athletes and by dec 31 I was in the hospital being operated on. When I woke up the doctor asked me if I wanted to be an ironman and if I did I had to follow his orders to the “T” and by next year I would be an ironman once again. I agreed. The second day I was outside for my first walk. My left wasn’t exactly working well, so basically had to remind it to take a step. One minute from my house and a minute back, I was done. At that point I didn’t think I would be an Ironman again. Next day 1:30, the next day 2:00 and so on. Soon I got the approval to swim, then light weights and three months ahead of time I received the ok to run and ride. The WTC purchased the Maryland race and all of a sudden there was a fall IM on the schedule that wasn’t sold out. Knowing I was starting from 0, after receiving the ok from the doctor and the wife it was a go. It wasn’t easy and I was no where near the athlete I was in 2013 I took it day by day. Less structured than I like, but the injury and business travel basically derailed my training. September 20 I was toeing the start line with 1800 other Ironman family members.

Onefortypointsix Media – Is this is it or are you continuing on with your Kona journey?

Jim Ristow – No it is not it. I am scheduled for Florida this year, but after yesterday I don’t know if after recovery, this body has another one in it this year. I am signed up for Mont Tremblant next year and there could be two more with that one. See, I am not exactly fast, but I have the same passion for Kona as my fast Ironman friends have. I have two ways to get to Kona. The lottery and/or the legacy spot. I do the lottery every year and to be a legacy person you must complete 12 WTC ironman 140.6 distance races. They have me hook line and sinker, a dream is a dream. As much as I post about those things I actually try to keep them at arms length. Last year I was much better at it than I was this year. If I am going to build a better Ironman for 2015 it will have to be more like 2013. It is hard, they are so yummy.

Onefortypointsix Media – What advice would you give someone just falling in love with our sport and wishes to do an Ironman?

Jim Ristow – Why would anyone want to do an Ironman? I mean it is impossible! Right? Well there are a few of us that like the challenge of doing things that most people think is impossible. Actually let’s change that word impossible to limits. The majority place limits on their lives, Ironman is simple. We stand there and say there are no limits, let me show you. This is not for everyone that is for sure. There so many things that must happen just to get to the starting line. Being an Ironman is not about a 140.6 mile race, being an Ironman is a lifestyle. It is about being a part of something bigger than your own life. If it is a bucket list item, fine but there many more enjoyable things to do with your life that are a lot less painful. Still it is pretty damn cool being one, I give you that… Crossing that finishing line the first time, the second time and so on never ever gets old. To hear you name and then being called an ironman, it doesn’t get much better than that.

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