Hinsdale Central alumnus tackles Ironman competition
Robbie LaRocque runs on the path at Waterfall Glen Saturday. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 13, 2012 7:05AM
On June 24, Robbie LaRocque of Hinsdale completed Ironman Coeur d’Alene with a time of 12:42:20, but really felt his brother had completed the race.
“My biggest inspiration undoubtedly in doing an Ironman is my brother Grant or the ‘G-man’ as my family calls him,” LaRocque said. “Over the past two years my brother’s degenerative disease has unfortunately taken away his ability to walk, so he is now in a wheel chair. As you can imagine that can be very emotional so endurance sports became a way for me to put aside all the difficult challenges life brings.”
The Ironman triathlon fit the bill, helping LaRocque overcome obstacles with perseverance.
“There has not been one training day where I did not think of my brother, because he is a sports lover and would love to compete if able,” he said.
LaRocque completed two half Ironman triathlons prior to his full Ironman — New Orleans 70.3 and Racine 70.3 — and started training nine months prior to race day.
“To do an Ironman at any age is impressive but for Robbie to do it at 20 makes the feat even more impressive, but that’s just how Robbie is,” says Mark Finan a friend. “Robbie has the heart and courage to finish an Ironman.”
LaRocque was a member of Hinsdale Central’s varsity soccer team in high school, but decided to focus on running when he started college at Denver University.
Rick Lapinski, LaRocque’s former high school soccer coach, introduced him to triathlon and mentored him along the way.
“He was a major component in my ability to complete an Ironman,” LaRocque said. “We trained together and he scripted an ideal program to make sure I took in proper nutrition and got the training hours completed.”
Most of LaRocque’s training was done by himself. Swim training in the early mornings at Lake Michigan or at the Denver University pool before class, bike training in mountains near Red Rocks Amphitheater, and runs at Water Fall Glen or along the lakefront.
“The hours of training time spent alone allowed me to think about important things in my life and what my goals and aspirations are,” said LaRocque.
He said he found the bike portion of the Ironman was the most difficult.
“Spending 6 1/2 hours doing anything is just awful, but biking up and down hills is pretty much hell. When I got off the bike I felt like I just ran a marathon, but instead I was about to start one,” he said.
LaRocque doesn’t plan on competing in another Ironman anytime soon. He as decided to abide by his mother’s wishes and concentrate on his studies.
“In the end it was simply the hardest thing I have ever done yet the most rewarding. There are parts in the race where you want to quit but when you train 12-15 hours a week for nine months your mind and body won’t let you,” he said. “The mental aspect of Ironman is as difficult as the physical side.”
LaRocque believes his family and friends were a huge reason why he made it to the finish line.
“When I crossed the finish line on June 24 the announcer said ‘You are an Ironman,’ but I really felt like my brother was the Ironman that day because we got to the finish together.”