There's a thread going on Slowtwitch.com about those who do a 16:59 Ironman. What are your thoughts about those final finisher folks? C'mon, be honest.
Now I have to admit a little prejudice in this department, as a slower-than-average runner. And an exceptionally slow swimmer. And a slow-but-getting-faster cyclist, thanks to the sprightly assistance of the intrepid Buttercup. My first two marathons ended with finish times over 7 hours. No, not mountain trail marathons, or Sahara Desert marathons - just plain old road marathons (Myrtle Beach and Maui in 2001). These days I'm still delighted to finish barely under 6 hours (Chicago and Richmond in 2004), about an hour slower than the average female marathoner in the USA (median finish time 4:52 - 4:56).
I would LOVE to do a 16:59 Ironman, myself. Anything before that horrible no-medal DNF cutoff - anything but 17:01!!! Two of my time goals for this year are to finish my first Olympic triathlon (Columbia on May 22) and my first Half Ironman (Eagleman on June 12). I want them to be happy, fun experiences, not filled with time-pressure and frantic flailing in transition, so I've set my only goals going into them as finishing by 4:00 hours and 8:00 hours, respectively. There are many more triathlons out there at which I can work on getting faster, after I get these safely under my belt. (Yes, I've also got Ironman Florida in the back of my mind for 2006, before I turn fifty).
But maybe I'm letting myself off too easy. Maybe (as one contributor said at Slowtwitch) when I do road races or triathlons I'm just taking "a vacation from being a Fat Bastard". Of course it is true that being a Fat Bastard is a fairly all-consuming full-time job. ;)