That sounds so profound - "Final Thoughts" - but they're really not. I didn't have anything in mind when I reserved a post for a bit of reflection after the actual race report ended, thinking that a flood of things would come to me in the days following the race. Unfortunately, the real world hasn't allowed me to really reflect much on this training cycle and the race itself. Dog health issues, work, etc., have kept me pretty occupied since the 13th. But, because you've no doubt been on pins and needles waiting for some Final Thoughts (ha!), I'll throw a few out there:
- The Ironman is so much more than just a really long triathlon. It's much more than just another endurance event. It's unique. I hope that my extended race report brought out even a hint of the emotion, and tension, and drama that surrounds the weekend surrounding the race. It's really like nothing else you'll ever experience. I'm not sure if it's because it's still considered by most to be such an extreme thing to put yourself through, or because the athletes themselves invest so much of their lives (and their family's lives, no doubt) into a single day, but the atmosphere surrounding race weekend is just amazing. To be a part of that stew of athletes, spectators and volunteers is like being initiated into a special club - one that meets only on select occasions and for only one day at a time.
- That said, the Ironman is a really hard race. And I don't mean just physically hard. They say that every athlete that competes in one will face adversity - usually severe - sometime during the race. As I mentioned earlier, there were times during the run when my body was begging me to stop and rest, or "just walk a few hundred yards." And I'm positive that there were plenty of other tired bodies out there making the same demand. And you just don't know how your mind will respond. Push forward? Or give in? I think this is actually one of the reasons a lot of people do this race again and again - they want to know how they're going to react on any given day when things go bad out there. It may sound crazy, but you really don't know until you're facing that challenge. And who doesn't want to know?
- There is one problem with Ironman racing: it makes all other distances look insignificant. I certainly mean no disprect to anyone who has/does non-IM distance triathlons, and perhaps has no interest in doing an Ironman race, but I will tell you that Ironman races are truly addictive. I don't know of a single person who has done their first Ironman race and thereafter said, "Well, that was nice, but I wouldn't want to do another." I'm sure it happens - bucket list item, or whatever - but I haven't seen it. If you've done one, you know the feeling.
- If you end up doing an Ironman race, you really have to watch the last finishers come in at midnight (the 17-hour mark). I swear, if you could harness all the positive energy coming off of the crowd during these last few moments of the race, you could light up a city. This is the first year that we were able to go back to the hotel, get cleaned up, and return for the end, and it was so worth it. Mike Riley, the official announcer, was leading the cheers/singing, and each finisher got a hero's greeting as they came across the finish line. Again, my weak description can't do it justice. Just make sure you go. You won't regret it.
- So, when's the next one? Hmmm....as much as I was determined to have IM WI '09 be my third and last Ironman race, there has already been talk of taking on Ironman Florida in '11. That's a quite a long ways away, and a lot can happen between now and then, but I'd be excited to re-live the experience. Like I said, it's addictive, these stupid IM races. It gets in your blood and causes you to spend an insane amount of time swimming, biking, and running - way past the point of being 'fun.' And Florida's a flat course!
2 days ago