Lew Hollander holds the world record for being the oldest person to complete an IronMan Triathlon as well as the record for being the oldest person to complete the IronMan Triathlon Championship in Kona, Hawaii.
Red Rush: You’ve run about 2,000 races, correct?
Lew Hollander: That’s an estimation, counting all the little races and the endurance riding.
RR: Which triathlon is your favorite?
LH: Roth, Germany. That’s a great race. It’s probably everyone’s favorite. It’s very well run. You ride through all these little Bavarian towns on your bicycle. Some have cobblestone streets. That’s not so great on a bike, but there are tables set up along the route and on all the tables are beers. People sit at those tables and drink beer. It’s a comfortable race, a lot more comfortable than dangerous.
There’s no crowd control. That’s the way it is there. I rode through one of these towns and somebody said “That’s Lew Hollander, seventy-year-old triathlete”–I was seventy then–and everyone cheered and they pushed me and my bike up a hill which is sort of scary even though they were trying to help.
RR: Are there any that you don’t like to do?
LH: They are all a little dangerous, especially the swim. But any one that I finish is a good one.
RR: What’s the wildest thing that’s ever happened in a race. By wild, I mean interesting or weird.
LH: I don’t know about wild, but I have two ghost stories.
1) I’m riding my bike one year. They made a big point of making sure that the riders had handlebar inserts. Somebody in one of the races had been thrown over his handlebars and was killed. So they changed the rule that if you didn’t have a handlebar plug, you were disqualified.
I’m coming back. It’s ninety degrees out and miserable. I notice that I don’t have a plug in my handlebar. There will be some marshal or somebody waiting for me when I get to the bike exchange to make sure I’m wearing my helmet and that I have a plug, some bureaucrat. I thought about stuffing wrappers into the hole or taping over it, so he wouldn’t notice.
I start getting closer to town, and I’m getting into panic mode. I thought about buying one at the bike shop. It’s just off the course. I could steal one or do whatever. My imagination is running away. It’s just a plug in the bike. I’m trying to weigh my options. I look down at the ground, and there was a plug. It looked brand new. There are two sizes of plug and it just happens to be the right size for my bike.
There was nobody around. Never in my life had I ever seen a plug lying in the road. Nobody I know has. I’ve never lost one either. It was like a miracle. When I got in, I had a plug.
2)This other one is a little scarier. I was running one year, about seven miles, not too far into the race. I met a very sweet girl, about 23 or so, an aid worker. Aid workers are the race course volunteers who bring you water or aid.
She says, “I’ll run the rest of the way with you. It’s only eighteen miles.” She turned out to be very sweet. She ran all the way in. You’re not supposed to have outside assistance in the races, but she was an aid worker and part of the race, so it was all right. We talked all the way around. She told me her story. She was from Calgary; her husband had died three weeks earlier. I was enthralled by this young lady. I wanted to connect her to my son. I thought they would hit it off. We ran to the finish line up to a little barrier. She turned off the to the right.
I said, “No, no. Finish.” I wanted a picture of her to show my son and get those two in communication. I grabbed her hand. “Come get your picture taken.” We ran through the arch and toward the big lights of the cameras. I introduced this woman to my wife. Got her address and name.
Later, I went to get the picture and looked at. I dropped the picture. There was nobody else in it. I’m a scientist. I got my microscope out and looked to see if she was behind me or something. I couldn’t find any trace. I did write her. Tried to find her. Nobody ever answered. Life is filled with mysteries. I like that a lot.
RR: How important is nutrition for training and longevity?
LH: You are what you eat. Nutrition in the broad sense, you survive. I don’t eat anything I can’t identify the part to. No hot dogs or hamburgers. I guess, I eat candy bars. Who knows what are in those? But I like to see a bone or a wing or some feather. Nothing ground up. I try and eat healthy.
I like to say without chocolate, life is darkness and chaos. I also left bacon off my list of things that I can’t eat, so I could eat it.
RR: Do you feel there is a psychological component to the aging process? A sense of people saying I can’t do such and such because I’m x years old.
LH: Oh, absolutely. There is nothing unique about Lew Hollander. There are people who bike faster, think better, run faster, do everything better than me. I’m pretty persistent. I fall down just like everyone but I keep going. I think people find excuses for a more leisurely lifestyle. “I’m too tired. I’m too cold.”
If I know I have an entry in a race, I like to think backwards. I’m crossing a finish line. I have to do it in seventeen hours. What do I have to do to be at that spot? I need good running shoes. If they don’t fit well, I’d be in pain by mile seventeen. How about my eating? How about my weight? I can’t eat that it’ll cause me to gain weight. I won’t be able to finish.
You can preserve your quality of life. The older you get, the longer you have to push at it. I know a lot of people who are still alive at my age, but they are being wheeled around with an oxygen bottle, waiting for the coroner to come. One of the big differences is the quality of life. You had better start training at forty.
I was checking out of the Sheridan in Clearwater years back and a lady goes, “Hey, look at this guy. He’s eighty and he did the Iron Man.” A guy looks at me and says “What do you take?” I said, “Nothing. You want to spend a day with me and see what I do? This was a conscious decision.” He didn’t want to come with me.
You get your first forty years free. You can overcome and repair a lot of damage then. You get to forty and then you have to pay. Life, your length of life, is like a bank account. You can put money in, or you can take it out. You can be in debt and die early and you’ll be miserable.
Eat right and exercise and have a full life. That’s money in the bank.
RR: Can you talk about your motto of “Go Anaerobic Every Day?”
LH: I talked to a guy in a Triathlon club in Mississippi. He said “You go anaerobic everyday. We run that way because you told us. We run up hill that we named Hollander Hill.”
How do you know when you’re going anaerobic? When you can’t breathe. It’s not rocket science. You run as hard as you can. The next time run a little farther until you clear your anaerobic threshold.
I’m a physicist. What I think, I’m really out on a limb here. This is only an observation. I think when you’re in that state, I think a whole lot of things happen to your endocrine system, your pituitary, your thyroid. All these things are linked together. You were designed to die at thirty-five like the cavemen. All those glands and hormones just start to give out. When you go anaerobic, your body goes “this guy is serious” and it keeps producing that stuff. Most people won’t make that choice.
RR: Congratulations on your win in Florida.
LH: I opened a new age group at the next Hawaiian Iron Man. 85-90. I tell people that two things helped me. Idaho potatoes and Red Rush beet juice. I drink Red Rush all the time. I love it. I drank three during my race in Florida.
I have always recognized the necessities of nitric oxide. Most people are not aware of the value of nitric oxide. It’s necessary to the ATP cycle. You can use it to lose weight and it helps your sex drive.
I think you have a good product. Why not take it? Why not increase your nitric oxide? If you want a better life, take nitric oxide.
I also take Red Rush for ping pong. I think it elevates your reaction time and your ability.
RR: Do you have races between now and Kona in 2015?
I have like twenty races between then. I just did the Hot Chocolate Run in Seattle. I do something every weekend: a run, a bike race or a swim race.
I put my max effort into everything. That’s my philosophy: persistence. I heard a talk once at a high school graduation. “Everybody falls down. Everybody, every day. The great ones get right back up.” Just suck it up and keep going.