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So you wanna do an Ironman?

Posted by velowoo

Why? That is really the first question you have to ask yourself. Are you doing it for the accomplishment? a wager/challenge? For charity? because all your friends are doing it? to gain respect of others/bragging rights? Whatever the reason, it is not for me to judge. But understand that the motivation will play a key role in your success. It is my hope that if you are considering an Ironman, it is because it is something you are personally motivated and WANT to do. It ashame that so many people sign up and don't know what they're getting into. In a sense, they disrespect the sport of triathlon as a whole, Ironman itself, and its athletes. I actually had a friend ask me "Steve, am I not a real triathlete unless I do an Ironman?" Wow. That blew me away and it really bummed me out realizing that the accomplishment of finishing and competing in any other triathlon besides Ironman, and even a marathon, had been minimized. I cited the many pros that had never done an Ironman and told her it doesn't make you any better of an athlete or person. She did go on to complete an Ironman but had a subpar experience, vowed never to compete in one again, and retired from triathlon altogether. When I signed up for my first one (Ironman Canada '98), I had been successfully competing in triathlons for seven years enjoying races of varied distances. Back then, I knew very few people who had even attempted such an event as Ironman. (Ironman Canada was the only North American Ironman race at the time). I had admired Dave Scott and Mark Allen, and Paula Newby Fraser, but I thought for anyone else, that distance was nuts. No one really knew how to train for such an event. There were no books, articles, coaches that could tell you how to complete one. The whole Julie Moss thing (one of the most inspirational images ever in Ironman history), to me, made the event seem so ridiculously over the top and it scared me. Almost failure. Is finishing like that success? To me, no. Success was finishing strong and savoring it like Dave, Mark, and Paula. The race and those positives images remained in the back of my mind for years. I knew I was ready when a good friend from college and fellow triathlete (now pro), Susanne Achtenhagen, called me up out of the blue and asked me the simple question, "Do you want to do Ironman next year?". It told me everything I needed to know - we are both seasoned and capable triathletes. We can do this. Her confidence was my confidence and it was all the little extra push I needed. When I didn't hesitate to say "yes" I knew I was ready. I've since completed six Ironmans including a qualifying trip to Kona. You don't have to wait seven years, but the the key take away is to do one when you and only you are personally ready. When the motivation is truly you're own, you'll be the most successful, have the most fun, and feel the most fulfilled. Ironman is a HUGE undertaking. Only attempt one when you're properly motivated, ready, and have your ducks in a row! It takes a lot of time, energy, planning, commitment, courage, confidence, and support of others!
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Your post shed some light for something for me...  My boyfriend of 7 years is currently in intensive training for next September's Ironman.  He has spent the last 18 months running 10ks, half marathons and marathons, buying and riding several types of bikes, eating properly, abstaining from booze and drugs and decided to take the plunge in November and pay thousands for a trainer.  I have been very supportive - I run, too, and I have overlooked many incidents of rude and inconsiderate behaviour knowing that he is achieveing a fabulous, admirable thing:  getting and keeping sober and becoming an elite athlete at the same time! Wow. We recently broke up - short story he chose the Ironman over me, his girlfriend (and other friends in his life, too, which he has acknowledged).

Reading your post is helpful to me, particularly the last two sentences.  I mean, I understand and 'get it' but seeeing it in print is helpful some way. Do you train to the extent of pushing of loved onesaway or have you managed to have a relationship whilstdoing your focused training?

Good luck to you on your future Ironmans.

Hi ajay, Thanks for your comment and sorry for such a delayed response!!!  Glad to hear my post helped you understand how nutty Ironman triathletes can be.  I'm sure you've moved on and have a new awesome BF (or husband?!) but still wanted to answer your question as its a really good one.  

Early on, I used to train to where I would miss important social dates with friends, family, etc.  It was never to the extent of others I trained with but it killed me to make the conscious decision to make sacrifices just to stay on a training schedule.  I learned quickly that I was compromising relationships.  I thank my good friends and loved ones for calling me out before I was going to be absent - "oh that's right, you have to train."  It made me feel bad with a little bit of FOMO. I valued my friends and loved ones and I knew a balance in life was healthier living - mentally, physically, and emotionally.  

Fortunately as a seasoned triathlete,  i know i could attain my goals with just 13 hrs of training a week. I also know I can still drink (sacrifice beer - are you kidding me?!) as i burn way more calories than I consume and still wake up early the next day to make a big workout.  I also know the best hangover cure is working out (however it can be painful the first 30 minutes!). Needless to say, not a single one of my Ironman campaigns has been a dry one!

I think its ok to go for it and dedicate yourself to an athletic achievement or goal as long as you understand the cost, sacrifice, and affect on others.  For some, that tunnel vision focus is what it will take. Triathlon can be such a selfish sport as it requires so much "me" time.  You're trying to fit in training for 3 sports and the workouts are long and taxing.  There are days when you are totally useless to the world and you want nothing else but to chill and do nothing (or sleep) so you can recover for your next workout.  That said if you're training wisely it shouldn't totally break you.  And to completely push off someone you really care about is extreme.  But maybe that's just me and I'm an anomoly.  And I'm good with that. 

Finally, I will say you are not alone in this.  There have been many articles written about how Ironman affects relationships.  Funny though, none that I know of have been published in general health and fitness pubs, only the tri specific ones of which the loved ones may never read!

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