The Ironman brings out the best in people. The aura of becoming one is still steeped in mystery to those who don’t much about the sport of triathlon. But to those in the know it is taken for granted that the Ironman is something that is a right of passage and easily achievable. A coach recently told us he thought he could get anyone to the finish of an Ironman which prompted us to think about the nature of Ironman racing and its’ participants. We will be speaking in fairly general terms in this article though as the variables in this area are huge.
Now there are two types of Ironman athlete. There are those who go to Ironman to race it and there are those who go to finish. The percentage of ‘racers’ is small and often shrinks during the day if things go wrong. The professionals are the obvious top dogs in this line of thinking and those who go under or around the 11 hour mark are the ones who really race it. (All of this is speculation of course and for every race there are a myriad of stories and people can be racing longer than that. But we are being general for the purpose of this article.)
The percentage of people who race the Ironman shrinks during the day as they realise they are not having the day they thought. Plan A sounds good whilst you sit in a cafe or are talking the magical numbers that will take you to your goal time. But when it goes south on the course you can forget any of that and you become part of the finisher group. And in the words of Jerry Seinfeld "not that there’s anything wrong with that." We here at firstoffthebike.com think that anyone that saddles up for this event is great. But for those with Kona dreams and real speed the Ironman is all about time, wattage and splits.
Opposing the ‘racing’ set are the ones who go to Ironman to finish. They are usually the ones who we see coming in after dark and many believe are the most courageous as they know at the start line that they are in for a long day. It takes a certain breed a person to stand at the start of an event the size of an Ironman and not feel overwhelmed or intimidated if they are not one of the small few equipped to hammer through the distances. Still, the Ironman was set up as an adventure and a challenge to the human spirit so this group may well be considered in step with the original idea behind Ironman.
And then there are many reasons why people go out to complete the Ironman. To try to list the many reasons why would take all day, but needless to say from tributes to a cause to health the reaseon people decide to turn their life around and enter an Ironman are endless. Who knows where they summon this idea from but there is a large supply of athletes ready to take this on.
So can anyone complete this? We finally get to the answer. We twittered this earlier and got a number of interesting responses. There were people who came from all walks of life drawn by the lure of the finish. One reader wrote into us "…anyone can do it.. from my teenage years I used to smoke a packet of cigarettes a day, eat blocks of chocolate in bed and not even be able to run to the bus stop!! I think making the decision is the hardest part for sure. Thats the same with anything in life.. Then with some coaching + the right attitude + listening to your body + a lot of dedication to the goal ANYTHING is possible.. I’ve now done 8 of these bad boys and love the challenge that is IRONMAN.. Give it a go!"
Of course this is just one opinion but it seems that the Ironman is an achievable goal for most people. The number of stories you hear about Joe Average climbing off the deck to race an Ironman is amazing. In the same breath talk to someone in your ofice about your Ironman day and the resemblence to guppy fish is quite astounding.
Without wanting to belittle the achievements of those who have managed to get themselves across the line the Ironman is still one of the best athletic challenges in the world today. But. The fact that most Ironman races are available to the majority of the world’s sporting population gives it an accessibility that is both local and obtainable. Can anyone do it? Could anyone? The answer to that is in those you see at the finish line.