Phil Claudy ’18 races Ironman to raise money for OneOrlando

by Emma Sklarin | 9/26/16 12:00am


This past Sunday was far from a lazy one for Phil Claudy ’18. While most students were sleeping in, Claudy was racing in the IRONMAN Chattanooga Triathlon in Tennessee. He had never competed in a triathlon before, but now he was racing in a distance at the very highest level of the sport.

The Ironman Triathlon is a grueling mix of endurance sports — a 2.4-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride and topped off with a marathon, or 26.2 miles of running. The race course in Chattanooga featured a slightly longer 116-mile bike ride. First competed in 1978, this day-long race is arguably the pinnacle of physical achievement. The invention of the Ironman was the result of a friendly rivalry between the fastest swimmers, bikers and runners from O‘ahu. They debated which sport’s athletes were the strongest, fastest competitors and came up with the obvious solution of a 140.6-mile race to find out who really was the best. The winner would be named the “iron man,” giving the race its name and starting a tradition of superhuman athleticism.

This is not Claudy’s first adventure in endurance racing; he’s already run two marathons, one his freshman spring and the Philadelphia Marathon last fall. He was also on Dartmouth’s rowing team his freshman year. However, he had never swam or biked at the Ironman level of training before.

“I actually didn’t know how to swim two months ago,” he laughed.

Claudy said that the values and themes that the race embodies inspired him to sign up for an Ironman.

“It’s about perseverance and resilience and pushing yourself past your limits and past really what is thought to be possible of the human body,” he explained. “And that had a lot of themes that connected with me and my experience, not only with coming to terms with my sexuality, but also in preparing for the marathon and falling in love with running, and using that as a vehicle for self-acceptance and moving forward from depression.”

Claudy is trying to create change through his race, raising money for OneOrlando, an organization that collects funds to support victims of the Orlando shooting and their families by covering hospital bills, alleviating funeral costs and helping Pulse, the club, to rebuild. On his GoFundMe page, Claudy surpassed his original goal of $2,500 by raising $3,200 by Sunday afternoon. Claudy said that the Orlando shooting affected him deeply and that he wanted to do something to support the LGBTQIA+ community in its aftermath.

“A lot of those individuals…lived very bravely and unapologetically,” he said, “and they served as inspirations for me when I was struggling to come to terms with my sexuality.”

Claudy started a GoFundMe and began to spread the word through social media and articles. Then, in working with OneOrlando, he realized a fated coincidence.

“They’re actually dispersing the funds on the day of my Ironman, which is pretty cool,” he said. “So the day that all of these people are going to see the support from this organization is the day that I will be running an Ironman.”

The length and intensity of each of the three sections of the race calls for an extremely high level of time and commitment during training. Claudy wrote his own training schedule, compiling plans and workouts from the internet and doing most of his workouts on his own, with a little help in the pool from the one of the swim team’s assistant coaches, Eliot Scymanski.

“It was just me going out, swimming pretty much every morning at 10 a.m. when the pool opened up, and later that afternoon working out for two to three hours, either biking or running or a combination of both,” Claudy said.

On the weekends he did even longer workouts of five or six hours. Two weeks ago, he raced in a half-Ironman as his longest workout to prepare for the structure of the race. At the peak of his training, there were many weeks when his practices totaled 30 hours or more.

Claudy explains that sports have always provided structure for him, which made it possible for him to balance so many hours of training with the already taxing nature of any student’s academic, social and extracurricular life at Dartmouth.

Gabby Lowry ’18, one of his closest friends at Dartmouth, said of the now iron man, “Phil and I would be studying together, and he would say, ‘I’ll be back in four hours. I’m going for a run.’ And I would say, ‘You’re going to run for four hours?’ It was crazy.”

The reception from the general public wasn’t much different.

“A lot of what I get is like, ‘Phil you’re crazy. Or Phil, why would you do that?” he chuckled as he looked down at his hands, lips spread in a grin.

But Claudy has also received an overwhelming amount of support and positivity from the Dartmouth community. His friends offered to go on runs and bike rides with him, to teach him how to swim or just to be there after a hard workout to relax and have fun.

His friends also know that his reasons for racing and all of his hours of swimming, biking and running extend far beyond himself.

“Phil really wanted to make his race about the organization and not about him,” Lowry said. “It was so important to him to spread awareness about the Orlando Shooting and support the LBGTQ community.”

This is what drives Claudy to continue to push himself past what he’s ever done before. Before the race, Claudy felt ready.

“[I feel] mentally [and] physically prepared, I think,” he said. “I get a little nervous and sometimes second-guess myself, but then I just have to remind myself that I’ve been training for a while now. I’ve been training intensely.”

His only worry? Not being allowed to listen to music to distract himself during the run.

Claudy will have a lot to think about during the race, though.

“Those individuals who inspired me and the victims of the shooting and the cause is often what I think about when I’m running or I don’t want to get up for a workout. When I’m struggling to finish a really long workout, it’s something that keeps me moving, knowing that this exceeds my own experience and that this is more for furthering the progress of the LGBT community and not letting this experience set us back.”

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