From Couch to Ironman: Mike Tarrolly

Mike Tarrolly's transformation during the first year of training.

Most people sign up for Couch to 5k programs with aspirations of getting back into shape or getting into a healthier lifestyle. Little did Mike Tarrolly know when he signed up for Nashville Running Company’s couch to 5k program that he would go much further than 3.1 miles. In less than two years, Tarrolly would be on his way to a 140.6 mile race. Enter the legend of Couch to Ironman.

“It really started when I hosted a football watching party with some old friends. We took some videos and pictures and I could hardly recognize myself. It was then that I realized I needed to get back in shape,” Tarrolly told of his desire to join the program.

Jim Schwann, Tarrolly’s longtime friend was helping coach NRC’s first session and invited him to be part of it. Mike decided to utilize his stubbornness and competitive edge. He knew that if he signed up for a program, he wouldn’t back down from the challenge. His first few practices weren’t too bad. He found he actually liked running and that the program was tough but manageable.

Finding his rhythm within the program, Tarrolly found himself enjoying this new found passion. It was something he was naturally good at, but he also had to work hard. With the first race approaching, he felt the pleasant twinge of addiction. He decided to sign up for a 5 mile race the following weekend. The craving kept him going, the next weekend was a 10k, which went very well considering he had just started running four months prior. So, like any sane human, he naturally signed up for Nashville’s Country Music Half-Marathon.

Upon reflection, Tarrolly said, “I don’t know if I’d recommend doing all those races within a five week period. Once I was done with the half marathon, it was just painful. So I took it easy for a bit.”

His version of “taking it easy” included the pursuit of triathlons during the summer. He had dabbled in bike riding before and thought that swimming wouldn’t be too hard to add on to the work out plan. His first sprint was in July, it was also his first step into the triathlete world.

He went to watch his first Ironman race in Louisville a month later.  When he saw these athletes grueling through one of the most intense races known to man, he knew this is where he could truly find his niche in athleticism. He perused the list of Ironman locations throughout the year and set his eyes on the fifth hardest course: Wisconsin. Not only would Wisconsin be a challenge with its picturesque hills, it would also mean going home. Greeting the past version of himself and getting to measure just how far he’d come in the challenge of healthy living.

His chapter of becoming an Ironman had similar characters to his Couch to 5k chapter. Jim Schwann was still there by his side encouraging him, this time they were training together. They put in many grueling hours along with the rest of their training group and offered each other just the right amount of sanity to persevere. Tarrolly trekked on, injury free and made his debut as an Ironman in September of 2013.

After a few years of earning his way into Nashville’s athletic scene, Tarrolly still makes his way around races ranging from the 5ks that brought him in, to other Ironmans. He recently partook in Ironman Louisville. It was a grueling hot day that left him and other athletes wanting to stop and not push through. But he did push on, and now he has his sights on another goal:

“I’d say since I’ve gone from Couch to 5k, then Couch to Ironman, the only logical next move is to push on and earn the title of Couch to Lee Wilson. One can only dream on that status.”

Mike Tarrolly has learned a lot through the process of becoming a better, healthier version of himself. He learned that patience was the key element in everything. His advice to anyone else that wants to start a Couch to 5k program or to simply start on the journey to fitness is to practice that same patience. "You just have to be patient and ride the momentum. Don't force anything, you simply have to trust the process. You can't wake up one day and cut everything unhealthy out, being healthy shouldn't be a punishment. If you take it slowly and add in the good stuff, your life style will change slowly but surely with it. Just don't give up when it gets hard."

To read more about Mike's story, click here to visit his blog!