Saturday, October 3, 2015

Why Ironman?

A long time ago (seriously, it seems like forever) I sent out a pretty large group email, the body of which is contained below (paraphrased):

...One of the things I'd really like to do is examine a bit about WHY people/athletes sign up for and - to a degree - why they almost feel compelled to sign up for it. In the sense that it is something you HAVE to do if you do triathlons.  I've encountered this mentality quite a bit at the store and talking to lots and lots and lots of varying levels of triathletes so I know it's there, but I am curious if any of you have any sort of things you'd wanna say regarding that.

Take, for example, the first IM you signed up for (or if you haven't done one yet maybe why you have or are contemplating signing up for your first one). Why did you do it? What motivated you to go down that path? What made you sign up for your most recent IM if it is not your first...? Etc

There are a large number of people I am asking this of and the full spectrum is represented, from first time never done it before to top 5 pros on this email list. So don't feel like your answer isn't "right" or "good enough" or anything. I am just interested in perspective; your answer IS the right answer because it is YOUR answer.  And all that jazz.

It was pretty vague, let's be honest. But how do you even begin to try and examine what the answer "means" without, at least, starting the conversation...? That's what ran through my head, anyway, when I posed this query to a large group of email contacts, friends, and acquaintances. 

The answers I got varied, but they didn't vary AS MUCH as I would've expected. While we all have our own personal context for why we sign up for an Ironman, the reasons all seem to be relatively similar. (more on this later)

If you wanted ME to answer the question I posed to those willing participants...well, I can't say I blame you for asking...

I began triathlon-ing in the summer of 2008. I had been running after college and once that got old and I realized I wasn't that great at it I decided to start biking again to try and relive my glory days of B and C level collegiate cycling.  I quickly realized I STILL wasn't actually ever going to be a "GREAT" cyclist and decided to complete the trifecta and pick up swimming (laps, not anti-drowning) to make sure that if I was going to do 3 sports I might as well just be average at 3 instead of average at 1.

Dude, a frame bottle? Loose clothing? WTH!!?? So not aero.

 I signed up for a triathlon that would fall in late 2008 called Patriots Internationl but unfortunately Tropical Storm Hanna dumped a bunch of weather on coastal Virginia that weekend and the swim in the James River was canceled. Consequently, my first multi-sport event was a duathlon. 

There are few things more lame than duathlons.  Well, when you're expecting a triathlon anyway, duathlons are MUCH harder than triathlons. But that's a whole other subject area that we just aren't going to try to examine today (or any day really).

It was terrible. Miserable. Horrifying. I had such high hopes of mediocrity and when the actual experience was even worse I thought I'd seen it all.  (I'm being dramatic, the race was fine). Be that as it may, I had already signed up for New Orleans 70.3 the week prior to Patriots so my first triathlon was going to be a 70.3!  

Compression socks? What is going on!?

It went well enough, I had a great time (and crossed the line saying "I have NO IDEA how my friends do two of those in a ROW!?" to my parents) and met new people and generally got into a really fun group as the spring and summer progressed. 

I spent most of my weekend training with guys that were doing Ironman Louisville 2009 (Fletch, Behme, Woody, and Brad).  I was doing 100mi bike rides and 2+ hour long runs with them and I then met Ashley who talked about how he was doing B2B Full that year and I said: "Why not?"

Obviously much has changed about myself, my abilities, and my thoughts regarding triathlons in general since that point in time...but a few key phrases stick out to me:

"At a certain point you have to stop over analyzing and worrying and just get over yourself."

"It'll be fun and challenging. I'll see how far I can push myself..."

Glad it's over

Sometimes I wish I still saw things that way. In a way, that's what Louisville this year is for me: it is simply a challenge.  I have time "ideas" obviously, but just finishing is a challenge enough. I remember quite well walking most of the first loop in 2010, feeling sorry for myself; thinking I was such a terrible athlete because it had gone so poorly.  Yet right next to me were people whose races were going great and they were simply pushing on and happy to be out there.  

It's easy to forget why we do stuff, sometimes, especially in the face of self-imparted and peer applied pressures.  

And, out.

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