Thursday, September 3, 2009

The agony and the ecstasy

When my buddy Drew first brought up the idea of possibly committing to an IM distance triathlon, I distinctly remember thinking two things: "Oh, God, are you kidding?! No way" and then "Well, really, how hard could it be?"

With time, the idea of doing one became less crazy and more doable - I figured that we all exercise anyway, that we might as well have a (major) goal at the end of our training, that we had already done a 1/2 IM (and lived), and that it would be fun to go back to Wisconsin - where I had lived a bit as a youngster and later attended law school - to race the ultimate in triathlon. So, we signed up and ended up finishing it (albeit not entirely the way that I had hoped). But the journey from registration to finish line was a lot more complicated than I had ever imagined.

Make no mistake, twenty-four to thirty straight weeks of ever-increasing training is a beast. It's not just a series of workouts, it's a gauntlet of sessions designed to trick your body into going harder and longer than it would otherwise want to go. It beats your body up in more ways than you can imagine, but, hopefully, at the end, you'll be acclimated enough to move continuously for 140 miles. Once. And then have nothing left. A lot can happen during that period, and most of it's bad. Cath signed up for IM WI 2006 with Drew and I, and had put in a huge amount of training, only to have a freak bike crash take her out of the race before she even got to start. My blogger friend Kristin is now, sadly, in that same boat - a freak injury may prevent her from competing in a race that she's already invested so much in. It's not fair. Both gals put in the time and effort, made the sacrifices, had gained the fitness, but had their IM dreams put off for another day.

Unfortunately, Ironman can be cruel like that. Maybe that's what makes it so special. The race, itself, is just one (long) day, but the training it takes to get to that day makes up a huge chapter in your life. Watching a competitor cross the finish line is merely the last page of the IM novel. If you miss a 10k this weekend, there's no doubt another scheduled for next week. The next IM is a whole year away, and another long training cycle awaits. But it will be there. If you want it enough, it will be there. Cath put the disappointment of 2006 behind her, and successfully completed IM AZ in 2007. I know Kristin will be back, as well. And all the disappointments will be forgotten. That's the Ironman.


  1. Thanks John. As usual, this is very well said and very true. And yes, not only will I be there next Sunday for as much as I can possibly experience that day, but I'll be back as well. We should make plans to meet up when you get to town.