Ironman: Doing It Wrong – Part 1

The Triathlete who shouldn’t

The Triathlete who shouldn’t

You might be rich, you might have done six Cape Epics and have a Phd in astrophysics, but somehow, people draw a bigger breath when you tell them you’ve done Ironman. For most people, making money seems humanly possible, cycling 8 consecutive days seems possible, anybody can study, but swimming 3.8 km, cycling 180 km and running 42,2 km non-stop, is superhuman. And this is why many people decide to do Ironman: they want to collect the biggest bragging rights they can, and nothing looks more lucrative than Ironman. But the question is: can they ride this horse all the way? When fear for failure and the unknown determines your preparation, things often spiral out of control and that is when Ironman gets done wrong!

Part 1- The Over-Emotionalizers.

Once ENTER has been hit for the online entry, the emotional rollercoaster takes effect like rabies. A once placid soul becomes a saliva dripping, snarling Ironman killer machine. Dull eyes light up like a vampire smelling blood, anywhere and any time they hear the word Ironman or recognize the famous M-dot emblem. Endless mantra’s, cliched Facebook posts like “pain is weakness leaving the body” (I mean really?!) flood the timeline. FB friends also get a daily update of the rigorous training that went down. Multiple triathlon magazine subscriptions get EFT’ed. The Kindle search words are one of three: Ironman, triathlon and yes, you guessed it: swimming. To the IM newbie swimming is what a silver stake is to vampires: they fear it more than anything else. Little do they know that the swimming leg is the easy part. But that’s another story. The Ironman vocabulary grows every day: aero, active recovery, non-draft, cadence, slow-twitch, it goes on forever. (However, where the term “brick run” originates from, never ever gets asked. Most Ironman die without ever knowing. The knowledge that it means running after a bike ride, is enough. Rather not know than ask and look stupid!)

Because IM is so awesomely fearsome it gets elevated to the realm of spiritual pursuits. Prayers asking for guidance and courage to achieve this goal come into play. Everything about Ironman becomes a faith building exercise and a path to enlightment. One puncture while biking is just that: a puncture. Multiple punctures is God testing their faith. The fact that wheel maintenance was neglected and a spoke caused multiple punctures, does not count. For them world peace and incurable diseases have taken second priority in the Bigger Plan. The heavenly angels received a new command: to inflict those punctures on said individual’s bike to test his faith.

Let’s get one thing straight, as much as hardship builds faith and character, Ironman is intrinsically an egoistical pursuit. Poor, destitute people don’t do Ironman. They work three jobs to make ends meet. There is no time for something like Ironman. If you can pay the entry fee, accommodation, air fare, all the nutrition, bike, wetsuit and afford time and emotion for the training and everything right up to the start line, life is treating you well. The funny thing is, Ironman emotionalizers still want to project the idea that they are the ones making the sacrifices. Those long 180 Km bike rides and 30 Km long runs could only have been sacrifices. After all, how can anything that hurts that much nót be a sacrifice! According to their faith, those not doing Ironman have a thing or two to learn about living a sacrificial life. Some actually do good by using Ironman to raise money for a charitable cause. Good idea without a doubt, but if you would take all the energy, hours and money necessary to race Ironman and use it to solely raise money for the poor, you might just raise more money.

Once the triathlon magazines are stacked up to the ceiling in the toilet and next to the bed, and keywords like mind-over-matter, courage, will-power, never-give-up and other profoundness dominate your thoughts, with no bearing on feeding your family or other hungry people, Ironman became a monster in your life. You will be its main meal, with many people close to you, to follow as dessert. Those that do Ironman only once and never again, more than often fall squarely into this category. They over-extended their energy and ego’s to the point that there cán be no second time. The only remnant they will have is the skew, off-centre, badly inked Ironman M-dot tattoo on their calves, which they, and especially they, will not nót get. And they will tell everybody that they just wanted to tíck off Ironman. Actually, Ironman ticked them off!

The point is, it is a race that you can finish. To tell you how to go about it in a good way is a story long and varied. For now the principle is not to let your emotions run away with you once you get involved. Stick to a sensible program with as little emotional indulgence as possible. Rather try to allow it less space in your life, because it will make a big demand on you in any case. If possible, take advice from those who have done Ironman more than once! And carry on with life as usual.

Next time…Part 2: The Training Over-Indulgerers.

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