Saturday, April 28, 2007

For Ruth

You asked a question recently that I can't answer, yet.

Why would anyone do an IronMan more than once?

I can't answer that, yet, but I can answer some questions leading up to it, and I can put it out there for those who are training for their next Ironman to answer. I suspect, as a mother myself, you might even be a bit disappointed that I don't just put my foot down with Your Boy, and say, "No More" after what happened in Arizona.
Ruth, I might as well tell Sweet Baboo not to breathe. I have put my foot down before, in matters of conscience and safety. I suppose I could do it now, but you and I both know we'd have a very unhappy Baboo. Plus, it would be kind of hypocritical for me to do that, since, you know, I'm doing these too...

I once asked the question, "Why anyone want to do this more than once?" after I watched Sweet Baboo come across the finish at his first sprint triathlon, red-faced, panting, completely out of breath and largely untrained, I figured that would be the end of it. I feared it. But he was high. Then when I started doing them, I learned why.

Part of it is doing something that most people would never conceive of doing. Part of it is the endorphins. For others, at each finish line some poor judgement or mistake from the past gets hazy, and voices in our head that whisper "fat," or "lazy," or "worthless" or worse, are silenced. Each finish line perhaps, negates some earlier thing that never got finished.

So then you, the triathlete, are hooked. And you're in a community. People are pulling for you. They call out your name, and you feel that they care about you finishing. The thought you had when viewing a sprint distance, "Hey, I think maybe I could do one of those, become the thought you have when you watch people finish an Olympic Distance. "But I'm pretty sure I'd only do it once."

So then, you do your first Olympic. And it's hard. It takes you 2 or 3 hours or more, if you're me, but you finish. Another finish line. Another T-shirt. Another sense of accomplishment that leaves you high. Another invisible athletic disploma. No matter what happens after this, you've done something that nobody can ever take away.

Part of it is a goal. Sometimes exercising can be a bit monotonous, but now, training for an event, well, then there's an end point, right? Something to accomplish. Another piece of craziness that, most people say, "I would NEVER do,"

I've said that before. I've said it while training for difficult sprints. "I'm pretty sure that I'd never want to do an Olympic." and then I decided to train for one. I entered the water terrified, and crossed the finish line alone, last, and exhausted, thinking, "That was too hard. I'd never be interested in doing a half iron" Then, sat in the lake and drank a cold beer. Then I did three Olympics, and each one got just a bit easier. Not faster, mind you, but easier.

Then, my brain whisperied, "if you actually train more, they get easier."

With good training comes eaiser races and good times. It's you and the sun and the bike and your footsteps (and sometimes the snow and the wind and the rain and the bugs) You're alone with your thoughts and your breathing but you're with others. The afterglow is what does it for me. Every finish line is followed by, "Cross that one off. That one's done."

Then, I saw people finishing a half iron, and I thought, "I think I could do that, but I'd only do it once. And I'm pretty sure that I'd never want to do an Ironman" When I finished my first half iron, I cried, and was the medical tent for dehydration, and didn't think I'd want to do another one again.

I did my second one a month later. It was easier. I learned. The endorphins kicked in, afterwards, like they always do, and I was high. I ate two dinners and slept hard, and then I woke up the next day and started thinking, "I could go the distance. I could do an IronMan. But I'd only do it once."

Maybe it's something to prove. For most of us, though, I suspect the race is with ourselves. Sometimes it's against others, sometimes it's against officials pulling us from the course at the cutoff. But it's always with our selves, putting away the little voice that says, "Relax. Sit down. Have some cold tea. Why do this?"

But none of this necessarily answers your question. At this point in time, as I contemplate my first ironman, it's easy for me to say I'd only do it once, just like I did all the others. But even as I've started training, I've already amended that to, "I'll do iron distance races with generous cutoffs, but I'll only do one official IronMan."

But see, I said that before, about sprints, olympics, half-irons, and marathons, and I've already planned on doing more of those. So who knows how far I'll go.

I started writing this by saying that I can't really answer your question, Why Would Anyone Do An Ironman Than Once? I can't, because I haven't done my first Ironman yet. So for you, for your question, I thought I would put it out there to the triathlon community.

So, here it is, triathletes.

This is for Ruth, a worried and puzzled mom who loves Her Boy, Sweet Baboo, and worries for his safety. She knows how brutal the winds were at Arizona, and she knows about him being in the medical tent. If you, in the triathlon blogging community, are currently complemplating or training for your Nth Iron distance race, tell her:

Why Would Anyone Do An Ironman Than Once?



  1. In the rest of your everyday life (unless you're some kind of performance artist) how often do people CHEER and CLAP for you and say "I wish I could do that!!"??

    Happens to me all the time. :-)

  2. To have someone who loves me at the finish line....I didn't the first time. And that sucked.
    Love your comment pix by the way! (I viewed it larger 'cause my eyes even WITH the readers don't see too well, and you are so stoked in that pix it's contagious!)

  3. I'm just now looking at doing a sprint triathlon - in fact, that's why I stumbled on your blog just now, because I was researching them. I'm actually mostly just looking at the idea of maybe possibly training for one. You've done a great job of verbalizing what is in my head about doing them. Thank you for writing this.

  4. I ran my first triathlon because a group of 8th graders challenged me to complete one. I ran my second (Olympic) because I wanted to prove I could swim the distance.

    I think it was during the training for the Olympic race that my wife said, "You're going to do an Ironman, aren't you?" It was something I honestly hadn't considered. I told her, "I don't know." A couple weeks later, I did my third race at a co-worker's request.

    Shortly after that, I tried to get into IMWI. And was mad when I couldn't. Louisville was a great opportunity.

    Will I ever do another. I would say, "I don't know." My wife would say, "Of course. You've never seen the point of training if you aren't going to go for the biggest event you can find."

  5. There is no satisfaction like what you get when you work hard for a goal and reach the mountain top. Why would anyone climb Mount Everest again?? The emotions you experience are overwhelming.

  6. So many goals are wishy-washy (thinking teaching here) with too many variables that are beyond our control. With IM: you train, you let it consume you for a year, and if you do everything on that training plan, you cross the finish line. How many other experiences provide challenge, yet almost-assured, quantifiable gratification?

    Yeah, and like Nancy said, the cheering isn't bad either.

  7. I did Arizona this year as my first Ironman. I had my shoulder kicked out of the socket on the swim. It was windy, real windy. I had stomach issues on the run. That race hurt...a lot. The pain fades and only the good remains! So why not do another one? It's just like any race only longer and with excellent support! It's the perfect opportunity to put everything you learned from the first one to use.

  8. What a great post! Having finished my first race yesterday (the 5-mile Sharon Classic) I can say it's the children cheering that got me that last 200 yards with a smile on my face! I have a feeling I'm already addicted to this sport and I haven't even done my first tri yet!


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