Monday, December 19, 2005

Then again ... it IS a big deal

While the Ironman triathlon may not be a Big Deal in the grand scheme of things, I do admit that it's a Big Deal to me personally. As it is to anyone who starts along the journey to become an Ironman.

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.
Ironman is a demanding taskmaster, and I won't be able to fake it on race day. I'll have to be ready to handle it, through and through, down to my core, or I won't make it.

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. :-)


Susan said...

Oh, the IRONMAN is a HUGE deal. What a journey you have ahead of you.

TriFeist said...

You just posted the reasons why ironman is a big deal in the great scheme of things. Not every person can face down those realities and self doubt EVERY DAY OF TRAINING, toe the line on race day, and finish the same person.

It's a big deal. It's exciting. You'll find a way because your going to be an ironman.

Iron Benny said...

You just completed the second step. The first is deciding to race and signing up. The second is determining what needs to be done. Third, doing what needs to be done. Ironman is more than one day. It is all the training days and the early mornings. All the conversations with yourself. Wondering if you have what it takes. Turning yourself into the person that can finish this thing. It's natural to wonder, but detrimental to doubt. Don't doubt yourself, but don't fool yourself. You have your work cut out for you, now it's time to get it done. Put your foot down and make it happen. Turn yourself into an Ironman (women in your case)and be the person you know you can be.

I don't have any experience in Ironman. I too, am a first timer. I've had similar doubts; however, I know I have what it takes to turn myself into an Ironman. I will not faulter, I will not fade. Ironman is my goal, an Ironman I will be.

You can do this Nancy. You have what it takes to make it happen. You just have to make it happen. I hope this helps.

Ellie said...

You can do it 'cause I'll be holding your hand, smacking your butt, and otherwise dragging/pushing/pulling (or trying to catch up with) you this whole year.....

Cliff said...

Is ok..i don't give a rat's ass about them :)..

U do what u need to do.>Your husband is super supportive for taking care of the kids while you train..i think that's so important..

family amazing..without that i don't think I would (and could) train as I am right now.

When I do my IM, i know two reason for me to keep going..i did spend all this time training and these much money to enter a race to DNF...

Triathamom said...

Reading your entry just makes my pulse quicken. The same thought process has happened for me twice. When I did a sprint tri & then the 1/2 marathon. And for me at the time it seemed as insurmountable as the Ironman does to you. But you can do it. Make your plan, work your plan. I am so inspired by you. You are such a superhero!

soccerdad said...

the fact that you realize how much work you need to do, and that you are able to realistically assess your current physical state is a major step. you know what needs to be done. you have a plan. i know you'll get it done. i had a lot of the same types of thoughts as these before my ironman. but you work at it, and those months of training pay off when the canon goes off. i was so nervous in the minutes before the swim start. but after a couple of minutes in the water, i knew i'd be ok.
any yes - it is a HUGE deal. but in a personal way. most other people have no idea what goes into completing such an event. you just gotta remember that.

Julia said...

So what's your strategy on getting in shape so that you'll make all the cutoffs? Are you getting a coach? Are you going to follow a specific training plan?

Flatman said...

That's more like it, is BIG!

trifit said...

You have a lot of work ahead of you, but you'll get it done.

I have no doubt that you'll make it - within the cutoff times!

tarheeltri said...

Have you read any of Jeff Galloway's workouts? I have a book of his somewhere that breaks down marathon goals from 3-6 hours into training based on run/walk intervals. They really work.

nancytoby said...

Thanks, everyone! :-)

Tarheel: Yes! I think they're great. I just can't work in running 5-6 days per week and still do my biking and swimming and have a life and not be injured!

Though looking at the site did give me some good ideas for a Goofy pacing plan - I need to remember to start my walk intervals very early on day 1, and stick to them for the distance, in order to maintain a moderate pace and speed recovery for the Day 2 marathon.

THANKS for the reminder!

Steph said...



I'm going thru the same thoughts on a smaller scale right now. And hope, in 2 or 3 years, to go thru the same thoughts for an Ironman of my own.


TriMom217 said...

I am looking forward to followingyour journey to becoming an IronWoman. It's a HUGE freakin deal and I admire anyone who tackles it. I hope to join youin the quest some day.

Lynne said...

You signed up... Now, here's the YODA saying that got me into Marathon training...
DO or DO NOT...
I have NO doubt that you CAN DO ! I have the same problem with the door thing, and the slow thing and the fat thing... But you have the drive thing inside of you that I can only hope to imitate!