Ronnie Toth: destined for a career on two wheels, life of tenacity and thriving through adversity

WE TALK to Ronnie Toth about his extraordinary triathlon and cycling journey.

Ronnie Toth

Ronnie Toth started racing triathlon when he was 16.

WITH HIS first word spoken being ‘bike’ there was every chance Ronnie Toth would grow up with a sporting nature. He started racing in triathlons at 16 and completed his first full Ironman at 19.

Here Ronnie talks about his triathlon triumphs and how the sport has led him to a cycling career which sees him race around the world.


Ronnie is looking forward to exploring his writing and marketing talents so if you feel he would make a great addition to your team shoot him an email at toth.ronnie@gmail.com or go to http://www.innervoice.life/ronnie-toth


When did you start out in triathlon and what inspired you to give the sport a go?


I started racing triathlon when I was 16. I was a cross country runner and the upper class men were always talking it up. It had a certain cool factor to it and I figured that it would be a good way to use my penchant for suffering as a 16 minute 3 mile race wasn’t long enough for my endurance to shine.


Ronnie Toth

At 17 Ronnie shocked his father by asking him to drive the distance of a marathon and letting him run home.

Tell us about some of your earliest triathlon successes?


When I was 17 I wanted to do my first marathon so I had my dad drive me 26.2 miles from home and then I ran back. He joked that I could call him if I couldn’t make it and needed a bailout. I tossed him my flip phone as I got out of the car as a statement to let him know I wouldn’t be calling and was all in.


As a sort of burning of the ships I set off determined to make it home on my own two feet. Dad told me I could always make a ‘collect call’ if I was absolutely knackered and couldn’t make it. He said he was going to get breakfast and run some errands. I told him don’t take too long or I might beat him home. Some 3 hours 30 min later I arrived home while he was still about town expecting a collect call from a boy who wouldn’t dial and couldn’t quit.


Ronnie Toth

Ronnie competed in his first full Ironman at the age of 19.

A few months later I was able to lie about my age and use a fake ID to get into the Oceanside 70.3 half Ironman. You had to be 18 but I figured getting belligerent with the wobbly legs of triathlon was better than the alternative of most fake IDs. I went 4:46 that day and it gave me a huge confidence to have a crack at my first full Ironman when I was 19. I trained by commuting 80 miles round trip to work waxing cars that summer after freshman year at university. I had this running bet with friends that I was going to do an Ironman without doing any swim training and that working as a “car masseuse” (waxing cars) would prepare my shoulders for the 2.4 mile dip in the Russian River.


After coming home from a 40-mile time trial from work riding from Ontario to Temecula California, I would lace up my running shoes and grind out an 8-mile run on tired legs. All the training in 100 plus degree temps set me up for success as on race day at the full Vineman Ironman Triathlon I went 10 hours 13 minutes taking 8th overall. The car massage training seemed to work as I managed a 1:04 swim despite no swim training. I cranked out a 5:25 bike taking me from 100th out of the water into 25th. I then ran a 3:34 marathon cracking the top 10 overall taking 8th, making me an Ironman at 19 years old. 


Who have been your biggest supporters and mentors along the way?


My first word as a child was actually ‘bike’ as my dad used to strap me to a child seat on the back of his Raleigh 10 speed racing bike. My parents had me racing BMX from 4 years old to 9 where I then got into soccer which led to running and eventually triathlon.  Outside of mom and dad, a family friend and local Ironman stud Bruce Wilson was pivotal in teaching me what it meant to suffer and how to train properly. Bruce and I used to meet up on his lunch hour and smash out a 25 mile time trial effort with some local triathlon studs. I would then ride home and get in a transition run. Those 105 degree runs were pivotal in my success at the Vineman. 


Ronnie Toth

Triathlon has led Ronnie to a career in professional cycling.

Where in the world has the sport taken you and what do you see as your biggest accomplishments in triathlon?


Triathlon led me to develop a really powerful cycling engine. Mom always said I was better on the bike than as a runner so when I was 26 I got into USA cycling categorized road racing. I went from category 4 to category 1 in 4 months. Keep in mind I had a collective 22 years of bike handling skills and cardio under my belt.


Tragedy soon struck when I was involved in a fluke crash where I took a metal barrier to the face during the final sprint at the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix Pro race. I broke every bone in my midface, had my humerus bone come through the skin, and was in a coma for 4 days where I had a tracheotomy tube cut into my neck. After 3 weeks in the ICU I checked myself out of the hospital. 4 days later on day 25 after the accident I got back on the bike with my jaw wired shut and a tracheotomy tube in my neck. I started pedaling my way back to recovery.


My body had eaten itself and I had lost 30 pounds so I would ride with one leg alternating each side to build the booty back. I won my first race 10 weeks later, and on the one year anniversary of the accident I won 4 bike races in a 48 hour period. That next year I was sent to 9 countries to race my bike, and I had the privilege to race in the Red Hook Criterium brakeless track bike series all over the world. I then raced in the 24 hour solo mountain bike world championships coming 18th in the men’s pro category. It’s been a heck of a ride of coma to comeback. 


Ronnie Toth

Ronnie has raced on his bike around the world.

When did you decide to give Ironman races a go and tell us about the successes you’ve had in them?


I did my first Ironman at 19 going 10 hours 13 minutes taking 8th overall at the Vineman. 


Ronnie Toth

Ronnie is looking forward to competing in triathlons in Europe at the end of this year. photo Dusky Wynne Photography

How hard are you currently training and what events and races do you have coming up in the next few months?


The pro road cycling season is just wrapping up. I managed to win the overall jersey at the California Bicycle Racing series racing in a tuxedo skinsuit and having no teammates. Lately I’ve just been running getting back to my roots and doing a bit of fun torture on the spin bike. I may have a crack at Red Hook Crit Barcelona or Milan and the Tinsel Triathlon in December. Life is good, much to be thankful for. Thrive On!

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