With all the employees we have around the world, we wanted to bring to light who we are here at IIL. Each month we will spotlight an employee from one of our offices. Here, we introduce Leon Herszon, Senior Vice President at IIL US.

Leon Herszon was never a swimmer, cyclist, or runner. So it may come as a surprise that he competed in an Ironman Triathlon last year.

Most of his life, Leon was interested in three sports: rowing, tennis, and judo. That was until around 20 years ago, he had a serious issue with his lower back and his doctor told him he would not be able to do any sport that would have a direct impact.

A few years later, Leon visited a doctor in California who suggested a special back brace that could help with the pain. Leon gave it a try while playing tennis and found that he didn’t feel pain anymore. After using the back brace for some time, Leon tried running a short distance with the brace for five minutes. Still no back pain. So five-minute runs turned into ten-minute runs and eventually, Leon found himself competing in 5ks. Then a friend of his talked about triathlons. Leon always liked challenging himself so he thought he’d give it a try. He registered for his first Sprint distance in May 2012.

Triathlon has typically 4 distances:

  • Sprint: swim 750 yards, bike 12 miles, and run 3.1 miles
  • Olympic: swim 1,500 yards, bike 24 miles, and run 6.2 miles
  • Long distance: Also known as half-Ironman or 70.3. Swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles, and run a half-marathon (13.1 miles)
  • Ultra distance: Also knows as Ironman or 140.6. Swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run a marathon (26.2 miles)

After the Sprint, he was cautious about increasing his distance but did so each year, and has gone on to do Olympic and half-Ironman triathlons. After his half-Ironman back in May 2014, Leon started paying more attention to his nutrition, hydration, and the demand on his body. He would channel into project management methods to make sure all aspects were taken care of. For example, extensive planning to cover all variables, such as issues during the bike ride or assuring proper nutrition during the race.

Throughout his training, Leon has found the challenges to be more psychological than physical. “Once your mind says ‘No, I can’t’ then you’re out of the race,” he says. Completing the triathlons were more about challenging himself and pushing to see what he could do. “During the race I would think to myself how crazy it was that I was there, I should’ve been doing something else.” But no matter what, Leon kept pushing through. He learned to manage the pain and found a way to change his mindset. He would focus on the fact that he was bettering himself and had the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors.

Leon completed his first full Ironman event last spring. As soon as he finished the race he hugged his wife, who had been at every single race since he started his journey to the Ironman. When asked about the best moment after the race, he says, “Hearing the words, ‘Leon, you are an Ironman.’” The sense of accomplishment made everything worth it.

Leon Crossing Ironman Finish LineAfterwards, Leon slept for fourteen hours and took it easy for a few weeks. However, he isn’t done. Leon plans to finish another Ironman Triathlon this summer. He trains mostly on the weekends and aims for quality rather than quantity. He’ll go out on a Saturday at 6 AM and return at 2 PM and then on Sunday do a long run.

Through his experience, Leon has developed a true passion for triathlons. He shares that participating in the three sports helps prevent injuries. If you are constantly running, you’re more prone to injuries related to running, and the same goes for the other two sports. However, if you are constantly changing it up your body gets to take “breaks” from each sport.

“No matter who you are, your body is going to feel the aches and pains,” he says. “But it has been a great experience. I am very thankful to be able to enjoy being out there, for my health, and a chance to do something I never thought was possible.”

Leon is more than happy to share his experience with anyone who is interested. You can reach him at leon.herszon@iil.com.

Don’t miss next month’s IIL Spotlight to learn more about our team. We are more than just your average company. Together, we are a family.

Leon Herszon, Civil Engineer, Msc, PMP, is finishing his PhD studies and started his career at Shell managing HSE (Health, Safety, and Environment), Information Technology and strategic projects. He was invited by IIL to start operations in Brazil, and moved thereafter to the USA. Now he is based in NY acting as Senior Vice-President, managing global and strategic business. He also delivers presentations and training worldwide, including lectures at Rutgers Business School, and communicates in English, French, Portuguese, German, and Spanish.

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