November 19, 2017

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Crossing Off Her Bucket List: Dr. Jill Vroman’s Ironman Moment

Vroman at Ironman“Jill Vroman, you are an Ironman.” This announcement rang out at the finish line of the 2016 Ironman in Tempe, Arizona on November 20th of 2016. After 14 hours and 32 minutes, ACMC Marshall’s Dr. Jill Vroman crossed this athletic accomplishment off her bucket list. Complete an Ironman.

The Ironman is known as the most challenging endurance race in the world, combining 2.4 miles of open water swimming, 112 miles of biking and 26.2 miles of running. Each event is done in succession with no breaks in between, challenging the mind, body and spirit of each athlete.

It all started for Dr. Vroman five years ago when a friend challenged her to try her first sprint, a short-distance triathlon designed for beginners to the sport. As an experienced runner, Dr. Vroman took on this test of her skills as a way to broaden her exercise routines. “Competing helps keep me motivated,” Dr. Vroman said. “I like having something I’m training for so I can look forward to accomplishing it.”

At the time, Dr. Vroman admitted that she didn’t know how to swim but wasn’t going to let that hold her back. She decided to take individual swimming lessons but learned even more about herself in the process. “It was one of the most humbling experiences of my life,” Dr. Vroman reflected. “To be 40 years old and learning how to swim.”

In August of 2011, Dr. Vroman completed her first triathlon sprint at the Maple Grove triathlon in one hour and 26 minutes. That first race was all it took for Dr. Vroman to become hooked and spark her journey towards her new goal of completing an Ironman.

Although the Ironman race itself is long and strenuous, the training for the race is even more intense. Dr. Vroman spent approximately 25 hours a week training for several months leading up to her race. As a full-time family medicine physician and a mother, this time-intensive program became a challenge to fit into her busy schedule. With help from her nurse Rhonda, Dr. Vroman was able to coordinate her schedule to allow morning workouts in before her practice opened.

Dr. Vroman also battled injuries throughout her training, adding another element to overcome. “I had a problem with my knees from overuse,” Dr. Vroman said. “But I knew I had to push through it.” She is very thankful for the training partners she had through the process to help keep her “sane” especially on the long bike rides around Marshall.

When the time came for Dr. Vroman to head down for the Ironman in Arizona, she was fortunate to have a huge support team both on the sidelines and cheering from afar. Among those in attendance on race day were her husband and daughter, her father, siblings and their spouses, friends and a co-worker, her aunt, niece and her niece’s boyfriend. Dr. Vroman also had lots of friends and family cheering her on from hundreds of miles away, watching the race results online. “I had the best support during the race,” Dr. Vroman said. “It was so awesome having everyone cheering for me.”

As Dr. Vroman approached the starting line, she admits she had some pre-race jitters, wondering why she had signed up in the first place. But once the race began her doubts disappeared and Dr. Vroman set out to accomplish what she had trained so hard for. “The challenge is so much more mental than physical,” Dr. Vroman explained. “You can’t let your brain go to places it shouldn’t. You need to just look 10 minutes ahead and not get overwhelmed with the race as a whole.”

Vroman IronmanDr. Vroman endured a swim through Tempe Town Lake, biked through the Sonoran Desert and ran across Tempe Town Lake and Papago Park en route to her goal. At 10:52 pm, 14 hours and 32 minutes later, Dr. Vroman crossed the crowd-covered finish line to earn her Ironman title. “If I can inspire anyone that is great,” Dr. Vroman said. “I believe that we can do anything that we want to do. We just have to convince ourselves that it is possible, whatever that may be.”

When asked if there is another Ironman in her future, Dr. Vroman said that one race is probably enough for now. “It just takes too much time to train and I had to spend too many hours away from my family and work,” Dr. Vroman explained. But she does plan to compete again in the half Ironman and other endurance races.

Dr. Vroman believes that her passion for fitness is a good reflection on the practice that she’s created for her patients in Marshall. “I try to encourage my patients to be active,” Dr. Vroman explained. “I think that if you’re doing some sort of physical activity you will feel better overall.” 

After years of preparing, months of training, and hours of competing, Dr. Jill Vroman has truly proved that “anything is possible”.

Congratulations Jill Vroman, you are an Ironman.