PAULA ROCHMAN HADN’T given much thought about completing a triathlon until the day she turned on the TV and caught the tail end of Simon Whitfield’s epic run at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Inspired, she turned to her family and said, “I want to do that.” Months passed and Rochman forgot about her declaration – until her husband surprised her with an expensive road bike for her birthday. She completed her first triathlon nine months later, having only ridden twice. The experience of this first race, however, was enough to instill the motivation to pursue the sport. She has since completed the Peterborough Half Iron in Ontario 10 times and eight Ironman races. She raced her first full to celebrate her 50th birthday. She is also a sixtime Boston marathon finisher.
Rochman has seen the greatest transformation in her training on the bike and admits that it took many hours in the saddle to build her confidence. “I began as a very fearful rider,” she explains. “I am certain that I was slower going downhill than uphill as I was petrified of speed and kept my brakes on the entire time.” With this fear behind her, she has recently tackled one of the most challenging bike courses – Ironman Lanzarote, where she placed second in her age category.
The demands of her work, as a criminal defence lawyer, makes it challenging to adhere to a structured training plan. Instead she focuses on being as consistent as possible, aiming for 90 minutes most weekday mornings, plus a brick workout on the weekend with friends. Her work also takes an emotional toll that the sport helps offset. “I couldn’t do my work if I didn’t do my training,” explains Rochman. “It’s so important to find a way to relieve the stresses from my job; training allows for this as it gives me the opportunity to clear my head and to put things aside.”
Rochman sets a fine example with the way she balances her tenacity and determination for training without losing perspective. She takes her training seriously and always gives her best effort, yet isn’t fixated on all aspects of training. Her focus is on getting to the start line, rather than trying to find and adhere to the best training plan. This doesn’t mean, however, that there isn’t a competitive streak in her. Her greatest joy in a race is to pass a guy in his 30s racing on a disc wheel.
“Paula keeps everything in perspective and balanced,” explains her training partner, Elizabeth Model. “As focused as she is on her training and racing, it doesn’t define who she is. The mother, successful lawyer, talented gardener and socially conscious Rochman would, for example, only buy shoes made in Spain when shoe shopping there during her recent Ironman.” Case in point: after placing second in her age group at Ironman Lanzarote, Rochman passed up the opportunity to attend the awards dinner and the Kona roll down so that she could tour the island with her daughter, who had come on the trip to support her.
Although reaching the age group podium has been a more frequent occurrence in the past five years, she is not fixated on securing an elusive Kona spot. “Of course it would be amazing to qualify for the race, but I hope that I’m never in that stage where I’m disappointed that I didn’t qualify for Kona,” explains Rochman. “Triathletes are so privileged to be training and to attend these races. My mantra is to train and set goals that will keep me wanting to do this next year.” As such, Rochman is looking forward to figuring out which exciting destination will host her ninth Ironman.
Jennifer Faraone is a competitive runner and coach. She is the co-author of the recently released The Athletic Mom-to-be (p.69).
PAULA ROCHMAN RACES THE
2014 Ironman France
Paula Rochman races the 2015 Ironman 70.3 Muskoka