Campus Culture

From PhD to Ironman in One Week

When I started my PhD in the summer of 2007, I never thought it would take me ten years to complete. While I could write ten different blogs explaining why it took me so long, I would rather focus on what got me to the finish line.

It was 2015, and my doctor told me I had to lose at least 10 pounds in the next 3 months. My weight had skyrocketed to 185+ pounds, and it kept creeping up. I had also been seriously ill for months. Between the stress from work and the pressure to complete my dissertation, I fell very ill. I had been diagnosed with a throat infection, and I was on round three of antibiotics and steroids to cure it. No matter what I was being given, my illness would not go away.

Weight gain, stress, anxiety and depression are all PhD side effects. I had them all and no one tells you this before you sign up to complete a doctorate. This is when I turned to one of my old Triathlon teammates, Ismael Rodriguez. I met him in 2008, when we were both on a local NYC Tri team. While I stopped doing triathlons, he went on to becoming an Ironman and creating his own team, TriHuracan. I turned to him for help and we came up with a plan. I would start running again, compete in a couple marathons and by 2017, achieve my life long dream of becoming Ironman. For those who are unfamiliar with this race, an Ironman consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride followed by a marathon, 26.2 miles of running. All must be completed in less than 17 hours. Needless to say, this is not an easy task. Regardless, soon after I started running, my illness went away, and I found a new way to release my stress and fuel my writing.

Thus began a new discipline for me – running and writing. Everyone thought I was crazy- how was I to train for a marathon if I had to write my dissertation; more so, how was I to even attempt to train for an Ironman?

Fast forward to 2017, I had been teaching at BMCC as an Instructor for five years, my deadline to defend my dissertation to keep my job was approaching. Although I had moved along in my progress, I was not sure if I could complete it in time. Meanwhile, I was training almost every day. What I did not realize was that running and triathlon training were actually helping me write. I would wake up, go run, and then I would come home and write. Or I would wake up, go ride my bike, and then return home to write. When I could not write anymore, I would take another break and again go for a bike ride or a swim or another run. Every time I did this, I realized three things: my mind would become clear; I would get ideas while training; and I would even start writing in my mind. The exercise helped my writing immensely. I honestly do not think I would have ever finished if it was not for my training.

The author and her dissertation chair, Dr. Nancy Smithner.

When the time came to schedule my defense, I had a choice. I picked my defense date, knowing full well that in less than a week, I had to complete the Ironman. I figured, why not go for a double crown.

On 7/17/17, I successfully defended my dissertation, by Sunday, I completed the Ironman with a sub 15 hour time at Lake Placid, NY.

You can now call me Dr. Ironman Sicre. And this year, I will be back at it again!

6 Responses to From PhD to Ironman in One Week

  1. Betsy Montanez March 7, 2018 at 10:27 pm #

    Dr IronWoman Sicre is amazing. She left out that after she defended her dissertation and completed her first Ironman she continued to train. When most would hang their hat after these amazing accomplishments she continued to train and support me on my journey to my first half Ironman a few weeks later. She is as beautiful inside as she is outside. A true driving force.

  2. Janae March 7, 2018 at 10:28 pm #

    Daphnie Sicre is the reason why I believe nothing is impossible. Her spirit is so kind and beautiful and nurturing, she is a true inspiration to me and her students. She is the iron man this world needs.

  3. Jim Berg March 16, 2018 at 3:05 pm #

    This is a great story! And very inspiring.

  4. Eliza October 1, 2018 at 10:42 am #

    Very Inspiring! Congrats!

  5. Angela Elbanna October 9, 2018 at 1:38 pm #

    That is amazing!!! You’ve motivated me, I really want to pursue my PhD.

  6. Namibia October 11, 2018 at 3:58 pm #

    Wow! This really puts things into perspective. I’m happy to hear this. I often just strap myself down to a chair for days on in and feel guilty about taking time to exercise. I understand that it can give you more hours than what it would take.

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