September 3rd, 2010 at 17:36 by toby
“That’s amazing! I could never do anything like that.”
That’s by far the most common reaction I get when people hear about my finishing the Louisville Ironman Triathlon. Although swimming 2.4 miles, then biking 112 miles, then running a full 26.2-mile marathon all in one day may seem like a daunting task, it really is something that anyone can do if they really commit to it.
In their book Going Long: Training for Triathlon’s Ultimate Challenge, elite triathlon coaches Joe Friel and Gordon Byrn say: “the truth is, anyone can do the distance if they want it badly enough”, and I have to agree. If you think that you’re too old, too young, too out of shape, too busy, or too nonathletic to go that distance, then there is someone who finished the race with me who will prove you wrong.
73-year-old Kurt Kahl started competing in triathlons when he was 50.
19-year-old Cassie Scull got into multisport since she enjoyed swimming and running in high school.
43-year old Ken Fetters battled constant health issues and numbness before being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
Single mom Heather Wajer, 37, weighed 315 pounds. She made a bet with a coworker to see who could lose 40 pounds first, but didn’t stop there and lost 141 pounds during her training. (When asked what made her set her sights on the Ironman, she replied: “You don’t get to 315 pounds by doing things in moderation.”)
Alex Kuhn looked in the mirror one day at 300 pounds and realized something had to change. He started walking, then running, and before long “marathons just weren’t enough.”
All of them finished the 2010 Louisville Ironman with me, and you can do it too.
I met lots of other great soon-to-be Ironmen during my training (note: “Ironman” is the accepted gender-neutral term; many of them were women!), and most of them aren’t what you’d expect from a “typical triathlete”. They, like me, are normal people with normal jobs and normal lives who decide that they want to push their limits and see what they can accomplish.
Don’t get me wrong… it took many of these people many years to get there. But they did get there. And competing in an Ironman isn’t cheap. The entry fee for 2010 was $550 and it has gone up to $575 for 2011. I spent more on my bike than I did on my first car, but hopefully I’ll get many years of use out of it.
Not convinced that you’re ready to take on an Ironman? That’s fine! There are plenty of shorter-distance triathlons you can start with. A “sprint triathlon” is typically a swim of 400-1000 meters, 10-15 miles on the bike then a run of a few miles. There are also intermediate “olympic distance” triathlons and half-Ironman triathlons. There’s probably one near you; use a site like TriFind.com to find one (entry fees for these shorter races are much more manageable than the Ironman).
Not sure you’re ready to swim, bike, and run? No problem! Find a duathlon (usually run, bike, then run again) or aqua-bike (swim then bike) instead. Or sign up for a regular running race. And don’t worry about how well you can compete against others. The vast majority of participants are racing only against themselves. And crossing that finish line is an incredibly rewarding experience that you’ll never forget! Even those who come in dead last celebrate their triumph because it’s still something that too few people ever experience.
Competing in an Ironman triathlon is a huge undertaking and involves a truly dedicated commitment of your time, sweat, and money. Only you can decide whether you want to take it on, but don’t let “I could never do something like that” keep you from considering it. You can do it if you want it badly enough.
Now that my race is over and I have a bit of downtime, hopefully I’ll be able to blog a bit more about my experiences leading up to the race, and I’ll go into more detail about what it takes to get there. Feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments!