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Iron Man 3

By Divyanka Pillai '14  |  may, 2013, Issue 1
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Neury on the biking portion of an Ironman race.


While Robert Downey Jr. needs the latest and greatest gadgets and gizmos, here at Booth that stuff is passé. That's right! We have our resident (and the real) Ironman who can show him how it's done. Read on to find out more about Neury Dias de Freitas and how he trains for the Ironman race.

Chicago Business: When did you first decide to compete in Ironman? What motivated you?

Neury Dias de Freitas: I've been always very active and involved with several different sports; however my dedication and discipline were drastically reduced when I started working full time (2007). Approximately three years later, during my first year (working very long hours) at management consulting, I noticed that I needed a tough challenge to create the necessary incentives for me to go back to my healthy life. At that moment, the Ironman goal became a perfect fit (an Ironman race consists of 2.4 miles swim, 112 miles ride and 26.2 miles run). Of course I prepared a detailed ramp up plan, with some shorter races before the Ironman - but I always had the Ironman as the final goal.

CB: How did you train for it and how long did it take for you to get ready? Did you take professional help?

NDF: Now I'm definitely addicted to sports; therefore I train virtually all year round (close to everyday). However, the training focused on Ironman is 16 weeks long and has a volume of around 60 miles of swimming, 1,600 miles of biking and 400 miles of running. To survive all the training, I use professional help, which involves having a coach (to create a realistic training plan), sports doctors (injuries come and go, so we need to live with them) and a nutritionist.

CB: When and where did you run your first Ironman? Can you describe the feeling when you completed it?

NDF: I completed the first two half-Ironman in August 2010 and November 2011 and then two full Ironman in May 2011 and May 2012. Most of the amateur triathletes (like me) think that the first Ironman is the best emotionally as we learn how to deal with the conflicts between the body and the mind for the first time. It's really very hard to describe the feeling, but what I do know is that it's so awesome that I keep doing it!

CB: What prompted you to go for it the second time?

NDF: The preparation to race an Ironman race requires discipline and determination and these requirements, in my view, have the power to improve your overall life - health, energy, concentration, focus etc. On top of that, and probably the most important factor is that the people that you train (hard) with become your best friends (they are all normal people... for example, traders (JP Morgan, Citibank), entrepreneurs, doctors, marketers, consultants etc. Having said that, I decided to keep this new lifestyle and signed up for the second race.

CB: We understand you are competing a third time this month. How do you manage your time? It must be hard to juggle between business school and training for something this intense.

NDF: Yes, my third race will be on May 26. The average time that I spend per week training ranges from 15 to 25 hours, and my "secret" is planning – I always block my training sessions in my schedule, so they are part of my daily responsibilities. Additionally, the workload at Booth is significantly lower than the one that I was used to, so here I'm much more flexible in resolving any conflicts that might appear (midterms, study groups, special events etc).

CB: Do you have new goals this time?

NDF: Even after being a slightly experienced triathlete, an Ironman race is always challenging, therefore I always create a sequence of goals: (First) finish the race, (second) finish it under 12 hours and (third) improve on my personal record (11h40min). But besides time, my main goal is to enjoy the race and have fun!

CB: How important is physical strength vs mental strength for this challenge?

NDF: First of all you need to be physically ready, so those very long hours and painful training sessions are very important; however, I think that nobody without the necessary mental strength can finish this race. Some say that the race (not the training) is 30 percent body and 70 percent mind (sorry, but I neither have the data, nor have run any regression to prove it). I don't know if this is right or wrong, but I tend to agree with this view. Just to illustrate this point, Chrissie Wellington (four-time Ironman world champion) said after winning her last race (and before retiring) "I thought that my body would give up on me...", showing how important the mental strength was for her.

CB: We all set goals ranging from running a 5K to a marathon. What tips do you have for training and keeping oneself constantly motivated?

NDF: Setting the goal (and signing up in a race) is the first step. After that, it's important to have a reliable training plan and to simply stick to it. Go with small steps, i.e., don't try to directly race a half-marathon (or even a full one); the experience won't be fun and it won't let you enjoy the sport. I truly believe that it's much better to set a realistic goal. For example, run/ride three times a week and stick to it, rather than set a crazy goal of running every day because it's impossible - don't even starting doing it. My other advice would be to join the Triathlon and Running Club; there you will find people of all levels and some professional athletes who are really willing to help.

Neury is running his third Ironman race on May 26 in Brazil. He can be reached at for more information.

Last Updated 5/12/13
Last Updated 5/12/13