Why 140.6 … Why Ironman Triathlon … I’m definitely not nuts.

by Amy  - January 15, 2013

How do you define triathletes?

I follow a blog where the author wrote a post about the breeds of triathletes. It’s here.

It’s an entertaining article but I didn’t feel like her description of the long course athlete included me. Why? Well, because I’m not nuts, I haven’t checked my sanity or my common sense at the door and I do love Ironman training and racing, for the most part.

I don’t think she really thinks long course triathletes are nuts either to be honest because Meredith – the author has done a few Ironman events herself.

I will admit, I used to think that the long course races 70.3 or 140.6 were extreme because they are such long events and they do take such a high level of committment to complete them. But I’ve gone through what I’ll call the long course “evolution.”

Do you “need” to do a long course event to be a triathlete? Nope.

Now, not everybody likes long course events – so it’s not for everybody. In my opinion a triathlete is somebody who does triathlons of any distance at any pace – which is to say there’s nothing special to me about those of us who choose to go the longer distance. Really – it’s just a choice. In fact I’ll readily admit that it takes more training and more effort to win a sprint tri than to complete a long course event.

In fact,not too long ago a friend of mine was upset because a coworker told her that she wasn’t a real triathlete if she didn’t do an Ironman. She called me to confirm her decision to immediately sign up for an Ironman. I told her I’m always there to encourage people to sign up for an Ironman but doing an Ironman didn’t make her a real triathlete. She already was that. I mean to be a triathlete is simple … complete a triathlon. There’s no fine print. That’s it.

For me – triathlon has to be fun.

I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t fun. For me it is fun. I enjoy it. I train and race with a smile on my face.

I train with some younger folks and one of them recently completed his first Ironman. He really felt like he was missing out on his life towards the end. He gave up drinking and socializing to complete his race. He’s very happy with his achievement but he did feel like he made sacrifices.

I also train with an older triathlete. He does 1-2 Ironman races a year. He’ll go out with his wife to a party the night before a bike ride and still get up and ride. He’s at the office everyday by some insane hour of 5 or 6 so he trains in the afternoons and evenings. He’s a jokester. But he loves it and he always says – it’s got to be fun. If it’s not fun don’t do it. That’s what I think too. For me it’s fun.

Why – triathlon and why 140.6 Ironman?

I don’t mind getting up at 4 am on a Saturday to run because I get to run with the sunrise and my day is always better after that.

I don’t feel like I’m missing out on happy hours or Friday nights because honestly I’d rather go to bed and see my friends in the morning. If something special is happening on a Friday – fine. I go and I have fun. But I went to plenty of happy hours in my 20s – I loved them but I don’t miss them.

I have made some of my best friends training for marathons and triathlons. I had a running partner who called them Kindergarten friends. By the end of training for a long race together you know “everything” about that person.

For me, I find that during a solo run or a solo bike ride there is usually a moment of “zen” or being totally in the “moment” that minute where your breathing is all there is. It’s as if you can feel and hear your heartbeat through your whole body. Sometimes I feel like my heartbeat and my footstrike are synchronized.  Sometimes on the bike I feel like I’m almost flying without leaving the ground.  With that comes a sense of calm that is truly special. I’ll admit it’s my way of meditating. I’ll also admit it is intoxicating because it’s chasing that “moment” that pulls me back to the road. I will also clarify that this “zen” moment has never happened to me indoors on a trainer or treadmill.

Swimming is my least favorite of the disciplines in triathlon. But I have finally made peace with the swim. I find swimming to be a little bit lonely and quite honestly I’m not very good at it. I’ve come to terms with that and whadda ya know I occasionally look forward to a workout. I used to have a lot of issues with tension in my shoulders. As it turns out swimming helps with that. It stretches out my muscles and it’s good for me. Also my arms look awesome for an old lady which is pretty great.

Triathlon is a challenge where there are so many moving parts that there is always something that at least looks like low hanging fruit for improvement. Can I transition faster? If I didn’t drop my helmet would I have gone faster. If I swim more will I race better. If  I lose 5 pounds or buy a new bike will I go faster? It’s fun to dream of constant improvement. The races are fun because there is always something new around the corner.

These are the basics -next up why 140.6?

I have to think about that for a little while because sometimes I’m not totally sure myself. I think it’s changed over time. I originally wrote this post when I was training for my first Ironman. Now I’m updating it after finishing my 7th Ironman and trying to muster up the motivation to train for number 8.

I love the race day. I love the long training. I love the feeling of having pushed my body as far as it can go. I love that it’s an honest fatigue. There’s something very enjoyable about that. As a kid you end almost every day with that wonderful honest worn out feeling from running, jumping, exploring DOING. As an adult we are tired from driving, thinking, sitting at a desk and that’s not nearly as much fun.

Before I did my first Ironman the push was to see IF I could do it. It’s a big enough event that you really don’t know until you try it. But what make you do it again? What’s the continued push? Some of it is can you do it again? Some might be can you do it faster? Crazy as it seems some might be because it’s fun.

Ironman is fun. The race expo is a place filled with like-minded people who are all there for the same thing. That’s one of the few places on earth where I’m surrounded by people who don’t think I’m totally nuts to have this as a hobby.

The energy on race morning is palpable. You can “feel” it. It’s an electricity in the air and I’ve never felt anything like it anywhere else. I’m sure that there are other places where you can feel it but this is the only place I’ve felt it.

It’s me versus me. For the amateur triathlete Ironman is about personal accomplishment and achievement and not usually competition directly against another person. This drives some people absolutely crazy but for most of us in these races during the race we have no idea where or who our direct competitors are. You may see somebody with your age group on their calf but they may have started 10 minutes in front or behind you. You can only give your best or less than your best and nobody but you will ever know if you’ve done that.

It’s a challenge that speaks to a very individual personality. Like me.

You can see all of my Ironman Race Reports here.

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Amy Stone (she/her/hers) is a life coach who helps adults in blended families. She is a mom, step-mom and a step-grandma. Other random fun facts include that She is a 7-time Ironman triathlon finisher and many many marathons and shorter races. She created amysaysso.com.

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