I recently had the opportunity and great pleasure to help athletes through 11 Ironman finishes, with 6 of them being first timers.
Throughout the months of training, you try and describe to them what ironman is all about and what they can expect on their big day. Two things you can for sure count on; 1- it’s going to be a long day, and 2- expect the unexpected. It’s hard to explain or describe the freight train of emotions they are about to experience. So following their race and having a few days or weeks to reflect on their experience, I asked the question:”what does ironman mean to you”? They replied with the following —
- Giving serious consideration to moving into a garden home.
- You are never so relieved to be at the start of a marathon.
- You go to bed before your 5 year old does.
- Avoiding anyone who might be sick or anyone who knows anyone who might be sick.
- Finding out you just burned 5000 calories in a workout and raiding the refrigerator.
- You can run a marathon on any given weekend, because it’s only a 3 hour run workout.
- You spend more time on your bike then in your car.
- Living with circles under your eyes from lack of sleep and permanent goggle marks.
- Going to the matinee movie so you can go home and get to bed because you have a 6-hour ride the next morning.
- Knowing that any phone call from Matt that starts with Mr. Culp…….. Is not a good thing.
- Pushing yourself well beyond what you thought possible.
- You realize you haven’t seen your family in weeks, because they are not on the same schedule as you are.
- You can accomplish something that 99% of the world’s population cannot imagine doing.
- You see 3000 athletes with their gear and bikes and think “what recession?”
- Learning what running on tired legs (after the bike) is REALLY all about.
- Doing a 3 hour bike ride followed by a 60 minute run and thinking it was a “short day”.
- Realizing food comes in many different forms.
- You think spending $2000 for a set of wheels to save 15 seconds over a 40k time trial sounds like a good deal.
- 96 degrees feels fantastic if you are use to 115 degrees.
- Learning how to politely decline social activities of non-triathlon friends.
- You are willing to set goals and then take the actions necessary to accomplish those goals.
- Peeing your pants is actually VERY hard. Once you do it, you are surprisingly proud of yourself and tell the world.
- Starting a bike ride at 5:00 am when the sun doesn’t rise until 6:15 and not having a headlight.
- Realizing a 50-mile bike ride is short.
- You can’t believe how willing people are to help you and that your 62 year old father will walk all over Kentucky with his cowbell to help you reach your goals.
- Completing a 2.4 mile swim at Chris Culp’s house and thinking “that was easy”.
- Living a truly changed life–If I can do an IM, I can do anything.
- Crossing the line of you first IM and seeing the guy who coached you to your greatest athletic achievement smiling as if you where his kid who just hit the home run to win the game….PRICELESS.
- You change, yet, you are the same person. But, you now know that really, truly, anything is possible. And you can’t stop thinking about those possibilities.
- You realize that finish lines are just starting lines for new things.
- You recognize the similarities of having a child and completing an Ironman:
Such as, you never know when the right time to “sign up for one” is. I mean, you talk about it a lot but pulling the trigger and going for it takes guts. Then, you “train” for about 9 months, you pay out the wazoo to get equipment and coaches or baby gear and doctors, you eat and sleep like no other and have justification, you need a whole new wardrobe, you can get away with being cranky because you either had a rough training day, or, because the baby is kicking your stomach like it’s Pele, you are constantly going to the bathroom because you are hydrating or the baby is using your bladder as a chew toy, you lay around for the last three weeks before the “event” because of taper or because you are too fat to put shoes on, you have one big day of crazy pain, the finish will probably be indescribable and the memories of pain will become nonexistent (causing you to stupidly think you could do it again), then you are not supposed to do anything physical for weeks so your body can recover.
Almost the same, except you will be fat and unable to sleep after a baby, however you can finally have that beer. You argue over the fact that “Matt Morrow and Chrissie Wellington” would be great names for children!
Ironman is a mental and physical ride you will never forget or take for granted. As far as sporting events, it will break you down to the lowest of lows and then reward you with the highest of highs. For those who think Ironman is not possible, all you need to do is go to an IM race and watch the final hour before the cutoff (11:00 pm – 12:00 am). It’s there you will quickly realize ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!
Once that seed is planted; well, you might as well sign up because your journey is about to begin!