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Crazy way Aussies prepare for Maccabi's toughest event

Posted: 03-Jun-2019 by PanAm Games 2019

It’s 4:30am, and Sydney sleeps. The sun isn’t up, but our Mac Men are!

Representing your country in one sport is hard enough, but Alan Kaplan and Daniel Rifkin are essentially preparing for three as they get set to pull on the green and gold at the Maccabi Pan-American Games in Mexico.

The duo are Australia’s only competitors in the brutal Maccabi Man event – a gruelling series of body-crunching endurance sports comprising a 30km cycle time trial, Olympic distance triathlon. 3km open water swim and a half marathon all in the space of just eight days.

It’s quite literally the most punishment you can put your body through that still counts as a sport. As such, the pair’s astonishing training regime is beyond most people’s wildest nightmares.


 Daniel Rifkin in action

Both Kaplan and Rifkin gear up at stupid o’clock throughout their work week to hit the bike, pool or road. Oh, and they do it 12 times-a-week. Twelve.

“I get up at 4:30 and I do an hour and a half in the morning during the week, and then I do an hour in the evening,” Kaplan said. “And then on the weekends I do a long run and a long ride.”

Rifkin adheres to a similarly extraordinary training schedule: “Whether it’s two in the morning or whether it’s on a Sunday and I do an hour and a half on the bike into an hour running… I’m doing four runs a week, four bikes, four swims.”

As you may have guessed, it’s neither’s first rodeo.

Both boast extensive experience in endurance sport, and are no strangers to international competition. Kaplan has run over 115 marathons and ultra-marathons and picked up a trio of bronze medals at the most recent Maccabiah Games back in 2017 – his second with Maccabi Australia.

Contrastingly, Rifkin comes from a swimming background and has represented Team Aus in the pool at three separate Maccabiah Games – as well as winning a slew of medals across the MacMan event two years ago. Add to that a pair of Triathlon World Championship appearances, including at the Gold Coast last September where he placed 197th in the world, and you come to understand how impressive these athletes really are.


 Rifkin on the bike

But what makes them continually subject their bodies to such extremities?

“Life is suffering just generally, everyone is suffering in their own way,” Rifkin says in a deep moment of self-reflection.

“These events [Mac Man] are acute suffering, and you learn who you are in the midst of this suffering. How you deal with your mind, when your mind is telling you you can’t do this or hang on, in these races you figure out who you are, you learn.”

The 33-year-old, who has only been a competing triathlete for three years believes his exploits in the sport have translated positively into his day-to-day life. Rifkin has been working seven days a week to launch a start-up since August, and believes he knows how to get the best out of himself owing to his time competing. His goal is to win the Maccabi Man and bring home a gold medal for Australia.

Meanwhile, Kaplan is looking forward to doing his thing somewhere different as he hits a decade in triathlon after seeking a new challenge following some injury troubles. Rest assured, he’ll be in top shape when he crosses the start line in Mexico City.


 

“The reality is, as you can see triathlon is three sports in one,” Kaplan said.

“With triathlon you’ve got to put in the work with every leg. Because MacMan is such an onerous event, you’ve got to be well prepared. I don’t do anything at half measures.”

Being the most intense event on the program, competitors are compensated nicely. Medals are awarded for each of the four legs as well as for the overall standings.

So, despite being our smallest contingent for any sport, the duo could still come contribute handsomely to the Aussie medal tally.