With a true passion for racing, Great Neck mom Sharon Levy beat some pretty tough odds and emerged as an Ironman this past summer. On July 27, Levy completed the 2014 Lake Placid Ironman competition in 13 hours, 32 minutes and 13 seconds. Strong and determined, the just-49-year-old physical therapist and mom of two teen-age children, took on the strenuous training schedule and fought her way through physical injury just three months prior to the race to achieve her goal.
The new Ironman told the Great Neck Record how proud she is to have “met this huge milestone and conquered the hardest Ironman race in North America.” Along the way there were many “struggles, disappointments… and an extreme drive to cross the finish line and be declared an Ironman.”
For seven years Levy has been doing triathlons competitively. When she would tell people about her love of racing, they often ask why she has not done a “real one.” A “real one” meant an Ironman, “the mother of all triathlons.” She had not. So last summer, right before her 48th birthday, she decided it was now time to do an Ironman. Although she admittedly was a bit nervous, her husband and children were excited and supportive.
With “only” 364 days until race day, Levy knew she had to begin training. Her coach gave her a schedule, a “brutal” regiment that included hours upon hours of exercise. As the race day drew closer the hours and the intensity of training increased. By mid-April, she was feeling great. However, on April 21, Levy dropped a large box on her foot. Trying to ignore the injury, after a few days she realized she needed to see a doctor. “Sadly, the doctor told me I had broken my toe and asked me if I could drop out of the race,” Levy said. “I was heartbroken, but decided to make the best of it.” Still determined, Levy took time off from running and instead, focused on improving her swim times and core strength.
Six weeks after the accident, she was allowed to run a quarter of a mile at the track. “I felt like I had never trained before, that quarter mile felt like 10 miles,” she told the Record. Disappointed and feeling as if she had lost all of her training fitness, she switched to the aquabike race and eight weeks prior to the race she set her continuous training and then her two-week taper period. It was really hard running on her toe, but by race day she had logged her longest run at 15.5 miles, not as long as she had hoped for, but she did it. And she “prayed and prayed” for no rain on race day.
Her prayers were answered; when Levy awoke at 3:30 a.m. on race day, the weather was fine. During the entire 2.4 mile swim, she felt like a sardine, “constantly being bumped, kicked, and shoved by other racers.” And then it began to rain. Next was the bike race. “The down-hills were scary, as they were steep, curvy, and slick,” she reported. And the visibility was “ terrible” and it was cold.
At about mile 32, on her bike, she found a rear tire puncture. Shivering and crying, Levy managed to stay calm and 65 minutes later she was back racing, finishing the next 80 miles without incident.
Then came her first-ever marathon. But by mile 0.5, the jacket was tied around her waist and the run got tougher, “so happy to see each mile marker,” and at mile 23 her “gymnastics power” kicked in and her last three miles “flew by.”
As Levy entered the finishers chute she heard familiar voices cheering her on and then herd the announcer shouting: “Sharon Levy, come on home! Sharon Levy you are an Ironman.!”
Levy ran as fast as she could through the finish line with her arms up and an enormous smile on her face.
Sharon Levy is a physical therapist and a USA Triathlon coach. She and her husband Peter have lived in Great Neck for 22 years.. They have two children, one at Great Neck North High School and one at Great Neck North Middle School. The Levys own and operate Excel Workout, a physical therapy gym in Manhasset.