Perhaps it's the necessity of signing up a full year in advance to get a slot in one of the official Ironman (tm) triathlons. Perhaps it's the mystique which has developed around the name Ironman. Perhaps it's the magnitude of the journey - not only the 140.6 miles one must traverse on the day itself, but also the the journey to simply get to the starting line.
I'm sure I'll be writing about this in bits and pieces as the coming year progresses, but a few thoughts for now....
I do not have confidence that I will be able to finish the course within the cutoffs. No, it's not simple paranoia or insecurity. How about a hard, cold look at the facts?
- The longest swim I have ever done in my entire life was last June, in which I swam 1.2 miles in 82 minutes, and finished exhausted. At Ironman Florida I'll have to swim that same distance in 65 to 70 minutes, maximum. Then get right back in the water and do it again. If I don't, the race officials will meet me at the swim exit and politely tell me to pack up my bike stuff and go home. What's more, in order to finish the day, I need to come out of the water feeling nicely warmed up, not substantially fatigued.
- The longest bike ride I have ever done in my entire life was that very same day, 56 miles, which took me 3:55 (14.2 mph). I'll have to do double that distance at Ironman Florida at the same speed or faster. Plus I'll be doing it after already swimming 2.4 miles.
- Then after all that - complete a marathon. In about 6:30 or faster, in order to finish by the midnight cutoff. 4 of my 8 standalone marathons were even slower than that, without a swim and bike leg preceding them.
- And oh yeah, by the way, I'm 48 years old and fat. And not very energetic.
Actually (outside of the swim) the hardest part for me won't be doing the distance. It will be doing the distance inside of the time limits. If I could just go at my casual walk/run or casual cycling pace, I don't have much doubt at all that I'd finish. It would just take me about 20 hours!!
Unlike some faster athletes, I'm not going to drop out early and DNF because my time will be slow, as long as I have a realistic shot at the cutoff. My time will *always* be slow. I won't stop unless they make me, or I've injured myself. I'm quite confident in that, after all the races that I've done WAY at the back of the pack - it won't shake me up and rattle me mentally to be at the back of the pack in Florida, because that's where I always am!!
I'm also reasonably certain that I won't stop on course because I've bonked, run out of energy, gotten heat stroke, lost confidence, started vomiting, gotten angry, gotten hyponatremia, missed an aid station, or developed other adverse symptoms, because I've done enough tough, long races to learn how to keep an eye on such potential problems and to head them off before they've gone too far. I may go (even more) slowly because of problems like that, but I probably won't stop.
Then there's the other aspects which I won't belabor right now - things like getting up hours early on a couple hundred days over the next year to whip my body into shape. The pain of training hard. The untold hours my husband will contribute by watching our girls when I'm out training. The hours and days that I will miss from my family or other interests because of my triathlon activities. I don't count them as sacrifices - they are the logical result of my choice to take on this challenge for myself. It's part of the deal - they come with the territory. To complain about them would be complaining about my own decision, wouldn't it?
And there are the intangible rewards to think about. Bragging rights. The learning process. The results of the daily confrontations with Self that it will take to travel the entire road to the finish line. The process of setting a goal that I truly don't know if I can accomplish, but breaking it down into a million bite-sized pieces until just maybe I can handle it.
To paraphrase a famous motto:
Let me become an Ironman. But if I cannot become an Ironman, let me be brave in the attempt.
Okay, Ironman is a Big Deal for those of us who take it on. I just don't expect any non-triathlete to give a rat's ass about it. :-)