One tired Dawg: DPT student shares insights on balancing school and full Ironman training


This past October, second year Doctor of Physical Therapy student Kevin Doherty-Regalia, SPT, completed his first Ironman in Sacramento, CA. He spent most of 2023 training for the event, which consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile run. Kevin says that on the day of the event, his wife, parents, and in-laws were all present to cheer him on throughout the course. The weather that day was a mixed bag, with overcast skies during the swim, some heavy rain during the bike ride, and even a little bit of sunshine during the run. Kevin was able to complete the 2023 Ironman California’s 140.6 mile course in 10 hours, 43 minutes, and 58 seconds (2.4 mile swim - 44:18; 112 mile bike - 5:43:03; 26.2 mile run - 3:55:37).

We asked Kevin a few questions about his experience as an athlete and as a DPT student. 

Have you always participated sports, or was this a new experience for you? 

I've always considered myself a fairly active person. I grew up playing a lot of team sports like baseball, lacrosse, soccer, and football. I've also been a life-long skier, and since moving to the PNW 5 years ago I've gotten very involved in backpacking and mountain biking. I was first introduced to more endurance type sports when I joined the cross-country team in high school. I continued running in college, participating with the club track team at my school. During my senior year of undergrad at Boston University, I had the wonderful opportunity to run for a charity team in the Boston Marathon. Since then, I've been hooked! I have run a handful of 1/2 marathons, marathons, and one 50k trail run. In 2021, I completed my first 1/2 Ironman in Maple Valley, WA, and after completing it I knew I had to try for a full Ironman!

You are a DPT student. What drew you to physical therapy? 

My first experience with PT came after I suffered a few minor injuries from an unfortunate mountaineering accident while attempting a summit of Mt. Rainier. I had an incredibly positive experience with my outpatient orthopedic PT. I found myself at a bit of a crossroad in my professional job at the time, and with encouragement from my wife I decided to go all in on making PT a career. When I made the decision to apply to PT school I was active duty military in the US Coast Guard, so I had to obtain all my observation hours for school applications in my off time volunteering. I've been so happy with my decision, and really look forward to becoming a practicing clinician!

Did the experience of training for and then running an Ironman intersect with your interest in PT?

I feel like both my experience as a PT student and training for the Ironman fed off of each other. For example, in my last spring quarter we learned a lot about the concepts of high endurance training in our Exercise Physiology class. A lot of the principles discussed in the curriculum were the basis of my training program. Being able to learn about how your body is adapting to training, and what components of your training program are purposely set in place to change your performance as an athlete was a very wholesome experience. 

It’s a big accomplishment to complete a race like this while in school. Do you have any advice for anyone who is balancing school or work and training for a big event? 

I've always been a person to try and find balance in life. First, I have to say that I'm incredibly grateful to have the privilege to not only pursue an education in physical therapy, but also have the means to train for an event like this. That being said, I definitely won't deny that it was still quite a challenge to balance both training for the event and school work. I always try to use my primary goals and objectives as motivators in anything I pursue. I would always recall the incredible feeling I had crossing the finish line during my first 1/2 Ironman, and then thought to myself "This feeling is amazing, but what would finishing a full Ironman feel like?" This drove me through all the arduous training workouts and late nights studying. Careful time management, prioritization, and some small sacrifices were some of the things that helped me stay on top of school and complete my Ironman. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share? 

I'd like to thank my wife, family, friends, and my dog for all the love and support during my training, I could not have done it without you! Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share my story. I also want to let everyone know that I have an entire cohort of classmates in PT school who are also accomplishing incredible things while pursuing their education. Shout out to all of them, and Go Dawgs!!!

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