From Phd to Ironman in One Week

When I started my PhD in the summer of 2007, I never thought it would take me ten years to complete. While I could write ten different blogs explaining why it took me so long, I would rather focus on what got me to the finish line.

It was 2015, and my doctor told me I had to lose at least 10 pounds in the next 3 months. My weight had skyrocket to 185+ pounds, and it kept creeping up. I had also been seriously ill for months. Between the stress from work and the pressure to complete my dissertation, I fell very ill. I had been diagnosed with a throat infection, and I was on round three of antibiotics and steroids to cure it. No matter what I was being given, my illness would not go away.

Weight gain, stress, anxiety and depression are all PhD side effects. I had them all and one tells you this before you sign up to complete a doctorate. This is when I turned to one of my old Triathlon teammates, Ismael Rodriguez. I met him in 2008, when we were both on a local NYC Tri team. While I stopped doing triathlons, he went on to becoming an Ironman and creating his own team, TriHuracan. I turned to him for help and we came up with a plan. I would start running again, compete in a couple marathons and by 2017, achieve my life long dream of becoming Ironman. For those who are unfamiliar with this race, an Ironman consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride followed by a marathon, 26.2 miles of running. All must be completed in less than 17 hours. Needless to say, this is not an easy task. Regardless, soon after I started running, my illness went away, and I found a new way to release my stress and fuel my writing.

Thus began a new discipline for me – running and writing. Everyone thought I was crazy- how was I to train for a marathon if I had to write my dissertation; more so, how was I to even attempt to train for an Ironman?

Fast forward to 2017, I had been teaching at BMCC as an Instructor for five years, my deadline to defend my dissertation to keep my job was approaching. Although I had moved along in my progress, I was not sure if I could complete it in time. Meanwhile, I was training almost every day. What I did not realize was that running and triathlon training were actually helping me write. I would wake up, go run and then, I would come home and write. Or I would wake up, go ride my bike, and then return home to write. When I could not write anymore, I would take another break and again go for a bike ride or a swim or another run. Every time I did this, I realized three things: my mind would become clear, I would get ideas while training, and I would even start writing in my mind. The exercise helped my writing immensely. I honestly do not think I would have ever finished if it was not for my training.

The author and her dissertation chair, Dr. Nancy Smithner.

When the time came to schedule my defense, I had a choice. I picked my defense date, knowing full well that in less, I had to complete the Ironman. I figured, why not go for a double crown.

On 7/17/17, I successfully defended my dissertation, by Sunday, I completed the Ironman with a sub 15 hour time.

You can now call me Dr. Ironman Sicre.