Iris Mack Dayoub is an advisor,
a triathlete-and a grandmother.

    Iris Mack Dayoub likes to exercise a lot. In October, the 69-year-old grandmother participated in her second Ironman Triathlon World Championship, a grueling event comprised of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a marathon within the required 17 hours. During her so-called down time in November and December to recover from months of grueling training leading up to the event, she maintained a vigorous (by most standards) routine of swimming, running and biking five or six days a week. Ultimately, her goal is to be the oldest woman to ever finish an Ironman race. "I haven't been able to confirm if that's 72 or 73 years old," says Dayoub, founder of Alpha Financial Management in Savannah, Ga.
    It's somewhat amazing that Dayoub is a competitive triathlete at her age. But it's even more so considering she smoked a pack of Pall Mall cigarettes a day until she was 35 years old, and that after she decided to lead a healthier lifestyle she couldn't make it around a quarter-mile oval track when she first started running.
    Dayoub's road to her second world championship competition began in November 2005 after she completed an Ironman qualifying event in Florida. She cranked up the intensity of her training in the six months leading up to the title meet. Dayoub trains in four-week cycles: three weeks spent building intensity, followed by a less-intense week for recovery. She uses a color-coded exercise schedule printed on a spread sheet to help keep track of her exercise routine. After Dayoub reached her peak endurance training in September with a couple of 100-mile bike rides, 17- and 19-mile runs and a 2.5-mile swim, she tapered off the intensity heading into October. "Someone my age needs five to six weeks of tapering to rest before the race," she says in her slight Southern accent.
    The Ironman world championship is held annually on Hawaii's big island. Dayoub, who competes in the 65-to-69 age bracket, didn't finish the event her first go-round in 2004 because she got sick during her bike ride. She hoped 2006 would be different. Dayoub spent ten days in Hawaii before the race, for sightseeing and maintenance training.
    While on a pier preparing for a practice swim on a Sunday morning, the earth started to shake. "I thought it was a volcano erupting," she recalls. "Then I thought a ship ran into this large pier I was on." Turns out it was the major 6.7-magnitude earthquake that struck the island of Hawaii on October 15 and was centered just ten miles off the coast of Kailua Kona, site of the Ironman event. "It shook violently for 65 seconds," says Dayoub. "It was the longest minute of my life."
    Conditions weren't great on the following Sunday during the world championship event. Changing tides made for a difficult swim that slowed times and knocked more than 100 competitors out of the race. The first half of the bike ride took place in pouring rain. "It's hilly terrain, and at one point I was going 41 miles per hour and it felt like I was hydroplaning," says Dayoub. And then the wind picked up after the rain stopped. She had a brief wipe out during her bike ride, and she missed the cut-off time by 13 minutes. Her day was over. "To come that close was heartbreaking," she says. "I cried."
    But Dayoub's ebullient persona doesn't seem to let her stay down for long. "I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. To be around people who share a similar goal, and to be among the few people in the world to qualify for this race is a satisfying feeling." Dayoub is already signed up for the Louisville Ironman qualifying event in August, and if she completes it within the 17-hour qualifying time she plans to give Hawaii another crack in 2007.
    People Dayoub's age generally engage in pursuits no more strenuous than a walk around the neighborhood or a round of golf. She continues to compete at such an intense level mainly for the mental challenge. "I love the discipline of training for an Ironman because it takes you to a whole different level," she says. "An Ironman is about endurance, and it becomes a mental thing. At my age, that's more challenging than the physical part. I don't think I'll ever win; it's more about overcoming adversity in overcoming a long race like that." Injuries are always a threat, and she has had two knee surgeries to repair cartilage. "I have to really listen to my body and sometimes knock off or curtail a workout when it warns me rather than risk injury."
    Dayoub and her husband, Mike, 70, a periodontist, are the oldest members of the Savannah Triathlon Team. For many triathletes, the sport becomes a way of life that revolves around a culture of fitness, and Dayoub embraces it fully. "She's a person I'd use as an example of what everyone is like in the sport," says Kemp Nussbaum, president of the local triathlon team. "There's nothing you can't accomplish with the right attitude and hard work, and Iris embodies that."
    Dayoub came to both triathlons and financial planning relatively late. Originally from the small town of Winfield, W.Va., she majored in mathematics education at Morris Harvey College (now the University of Charleston) in West Virginia. She and Mike met there, and they married during their junior year. Dayoub had five children by the time she was 27, and Mike ultimately joined the Army as a way to pursue a graduate degree. It turned into a 20-year military career that took the Dayoubs around the country, during which Iris earned a two advanced degrees in math-related fields while teaching mathematics.
    Her masters degree was in topology, a branch of geometry that examines spatial properties by stretching and bending them. In practical terms, it helped create our modern communications systems. Her doctorate focused on how people learn math, and Dayoub applied that to teach elementary and high school teachers how to teach math.
    During one of her husband's three stints teaching microbiology and periodontics at Walter Reed Hospital, Dayoub learned sign language and taught math at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.
    Teaching was an ideal job when the children were young and they could all have summers off together, but after her youngest child graduated high school Dayoub pursued a long-held desire to enter the business world. She worked as a stockbroker for Merrill Lynch for eight years, and gradually grew interested in the financial planning field.
    Dayoub started her own independent advisory business 12 years ago. Originally named Dayoub Financial Design, she later changed the name of her fee-only practice to Alpha Financial Management. She says the name conjures images of something old and continuous with a good foundation, and she likes that it denotes the notion of being first.
    No longer a one-woman shop, Dayoub's five-person staff includes a certified financial planner and a paraprofessional soon to begin her studies for the CFP. Dayoub emphasizes what she calls the "total person" approach that seeks to provide financial peace of mind to clients while encouraging them to live to the fullest now by pursuing their interests and dreams.
    "She makes a connection between the whole person versus just financial behavior and spending habits," says Dana Boyd, a performance psychologist and a Dayoub client for five years. "She aligns all of that with how you think and believe rather than just telling you what to do with your money."
    Alpha has $30 million assets under management, and Dayoub wants to grow that amount 20% annually. In other words, she shows no signs of slowing down. One of her goals is to promote the professional development of her staff so the business will continue after she retires. Evidently, that won't be for awhile. "I think I'll be here into my eighties," she says. "I love this job and creating this business. I get almost as much of a high from this as I do from finishing a race."
    As for racing, Dayoub obviously plans to keep going. She looks forward to turning 70 so she can compete in the 70-to-74 age bracket, where she'll be the youngest in the group. She'll have plenty of encouragement. Her husband and three of her children are triathletes. "To be a better athlete, I've just got to keep on keeping on, I guess."