The cycle of sentimentality is as perennial as the seasons. When we turn away from June and into July, I always find myself recalling the days long since passed when I was putting down miles, miles, and more miles, en route towards the inevitable end of another Ironman summer. From 1998 through 2003, every year had a set cycle – a rhythm of slow ascent that crawled in January, February, March, picked up some tempo in April and May, and then went absolutely vertical from there until race day.
At the end of the build comes “The Taper.” This is the three-week long cut-down in mileage where you desperately try and allow the body to rest up, while at the same time you try and keep an overly-active imagination at rest while it suddenly has nothing to do but think about ALL the things that can go wrong with your race plan. It’s not pretty – it never is.
During one of those tapers, I was challenged by a friend, “I saw a list of 26.2 reasons to run a marathon. Think you can write one for Ironman?”
There are 140.6 miles in an Ironman race. Before it was cool to say so, I simply replied, “Challenge accepted.” By request from a few friends getting ready for their races later this summer, I was asked to re-post this. I’m not proud – here you go.
DISCLAIMER: This list was created in July of 2001. It’s rather dated, so below the entire list I’ll clear up some of the aged references – scroll down if you look at an entry and go, “Huh?”
140.6 reasons to do an Ironman Triathlon:
- Makes everything else seem so SHORT.
- The 3 week taper before the race.
- The 4 week recovery after the race.
- I’ve done one, so now I have to do it faster the next time.
- So that when the car runs out of gas, I can still get away from the Police under my own power.
- Beats watching the new Survivor, Big Brother, or anything else on TV.
- For all the times you heard someone say “I’d do one of those…I just can’t swim.”
- The Finishing Oval at Lake Placid
- Steve King’s accent at Ironman Canada
- Mike Reilly’s hoarse voice still bringing people home at 11:30pm
- The Massage Tent – anywhere.
- St. Lynda is waiting for me at the finish.
- So is my mom…
- …and so are Lynda’s parents.
- Chalk on the road.
- Easy rides and runs the week before.
- Finishing your last workout and smiling because you know “I’m SO ready.”
- For everyone who as ever asked you “Why?”
- For the teachers in school who told you you’d amount to nothing.
- To silence the one voice inside your head that still believes that bunk.
- You want to test the endurance limits of the music collection in your head.
- The “Bier Mile” at IM-Europe
- Spectators looking up your name and cheering as you plod past at sunset.
- Where else can someone ripping off your clothes in public be considered a benefit of a big race? (Wetsuit Strip)
- Want to see the world and eat the food in each country, guilt free
- Miles in the Run
- So you can answer “One.” When people ask “How many days does that take?”
- To wave at the scuba divers.
- To backstroke at the TV helicopter.
- Cards in your special needs bags.
- Cards in your T1 and T2 bags.
- CHICKEN SOUP!
- CHICKEN SOUP AGAIN! (Yes – it’s worth 2 by itself)
- The Adirondacks of Lake Placid.
- The view from Richter Pass.
- Alii’ Drive
- Main Street Penticton.
- Driving the bike course in a caravan of friends
- Valet Parking and Catering – All day long.
- You might get on TV
- I want to laugh at the former cool (now fat) kids at my 20th High School Reunion.
- The Marines at the race formerly known as Ironman California
- Takes as long as having a baby, nearly as satisfying, only without the morning sickness and the 21 years of bills that follow.
- Flying with a bike case makes business trips seem EASY.
- Sharing a smile with people wearing the finishers T-shirt the next day.
- Knowing that as you step in the water on race day – YOU MADE IT THIS FAR! Now just get home.
- How many people can say they did anything for 12,13, 14, 15, 16…hours?
- The “Hot Corner” at IM-USA
- The wristband that somehow becomes your favorite fashion accessory.
- So that when you tell your grandchildren stories about what you did when you were young…yours will be true.
- Main Street Lake Placid
- High fives from people you don’t know.
- The Sponge as a fashion statement
- Coke and Chicken soup – the ultimate power cocktail
- Knowing that after the gun goes off, you don’t have to worry anymore.
- First Place and Last Place get the same amount of cheers.
- Walking to the start with Heather, Lothar, Thomas, Jurgen…
- Getting lapped by Heater, Lothar, Thomas, Jurgen…
- Getting lapped again on the run by Heather, Lothar, Thomas, Jurgen…
- Making the turn for home.
- Because MolybdenumMan doesn’t trip off the tongue in quite the same way
- If Judy Molnar can, dammit, so can you.
- You might get to run with Alexandra Paul!
- High fiving Daryl Haley, and going backwards 5 feet.
- Sunset over Skaha Lake on the run.
- If Randy Caddell can do it with just his arms, you can certainly do it with your legs.
- Easier than Eco-Challenge.
- Got rejected from the astronaut corps.
- Got rejected by the Marines.
- Crashed out of the Blue Angels.
- Makes US Navy SEAL training seem like a good idea.
- You enjoy the smell of chlorine in the morning.
- You’ve had enough with your current social life.
- For the love of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream!
- Your friends are watching on the web.
- You need to prove to your mom that even if you get on the bike right after you swim…you won’t catch a cold.
- Helicopters over Kailua Bay.
- Roadies think you’re nuts.
- Masters swimmers think you’re nuts.
- Your running club KNOWS you’re nuts.
- So that you can master the left-handed bottle grab (IMAus, IM-NZ).
- Morning swims
- Three hour breakfasts after the morning swims
- The Underpants Run
- Laughing at people in the Underpants Run.
- The Hog’s Breath Cafe Breakfast Special at Ironman Canada
- Cowman A-Moo-HA!
- Because Winston Churchill said I can’t ever give up.
- The 12-step program to make me stop hasn’t been invented yet.
- Any National Anthem, before the start, anywhere.
- Knowing that when you wake up at 4:00am, the next time you go to bed you will be VERY different person.
- 6 miles, 10 minutes – straight down to Keene.
- Yellow Lake done – 12 miles downhill to go.
- Because you’ve always wanted to see how many CD’s and towels it would take to ride the whole Ironman Canada course on the CompuTrainer
- Makes your next marathon just a nice morning run.
- To make your Boss jealous because YOU have a life that doesn’t involve the office.
- Because the longer you’re out there, the less per hour it really costs!
- Being there is way better than watching on Pay-Per-View
- Finding yourself in the middle of your doubts…finding a new meaning of being scared.
- Finding out that you’re far stronger than those doubts a few miles later.
- Falling in step on the run and making a friend to the end, without having to say a word.
- Watching people headed home while you’re headed out, thinking “I’ll be there soon…” and they cheer for you.
- Understanding why that is as your cheering for people headed out when you’re finally headed home.
- That feeling of ice cubes in your hat on a hot run never getting too cold.
- Telling folks with flat tires “It’s a long day – hang in there!” and seeing them breathe and smile for a moment.
- Hearing people cheer you up while your changing a damn flat tire.
- Rolling into T2 knowing that no matter what – you can’t have a flat sneaker from here on in.
- Having someone catch you, and hold you up when you can’t do it anymore.
- To see if it really feels as good to do as it does to dream.
- The IV’s make you feel SO good the next day.
- Miles in the Bike
- To see if it really feels as good the second time.
- And a third…
- And a fourth…
- To try and finish in daylight.
- To try and finish before midnight.
- To try and NOT get stung by that (#*@! bee this time.
- Your kids already think you’re a hero – prove them right.
- Your wife doesn’t…but you might prove it to her, too.
- An M-Dot Tattoo would look swanky on your ankle.
- 5000 Volunteers – all for you.
- Hearing them say “You’re almost there!” all day long.
- Being nearly almost there – for real.
- CHICKEN SOUP! (It’s been awhile)
- Quiet hugs before the start.
- Kissing her goodbye, and promising “I’ll be back later…”
- The first time you think “Holy crap – I’m doing an Ironman!”
- Beating back the voices that say “Holy crap – you can’t do an Ironman!”
- Mile 26.
- That moment when you KNOW you’re going to make it for the first time all day.
- Entering the oval.
- Running down Lakeshore Drive.
- Running down Alli Drive.
- Leaving all of your doubts behind you.
- The Finish Line
- The first step after you cross the line and think “Oh, My…God….!”
- The Medal around your neck.
- Walking away on the arm of a volunteer, knowing you will never be the same person who started the race.
139.6 Because they said I can’t.
- 6 Because I say I can.
OLD REFERENCES EXPLAINED
9 – Steve King was THE Race Announcer at Ironman Canada. One year when he was replaced by the Ironman North America race staff, he set himself up on Skaha Lake Road on the marathon course with his own mic, two speakers, and the complete list of everyone in the race. He called you out just the same as he used to at the Finish. #Legend
35 – Richter Pass is one of two major climbs at Ironman Canada. At the time this was written (2001), there were only THREE IM races in North America. Prior to IM USA (Lake Placid) in 1999, Canada was the only one.
57 – Heather Fuhr, Lothar Leder, Jurgen Zack, Thomas Hellreigel – In the mid-to-late 90’s, they dominated the Pro scene.
62 – Judy Molnar was an NBC special interest story in 1997. DNF’ed, came back to finish in 1998. Source of borderline infinite internet debate on the rec.sport.triathlon newsgroup (which was essentially text-based Facebook/Twitter in its day). She was an overweight triathlete, not handicapped, or coming back from any major life drama, hence the debate. She later was a big part of the “Irongirl” clothing line, and the debate…oof-da.
64 – Former New England Patriot turned NBC special interest story in 1995. At 6′ 9″ and 350+ pounds, he had to have a bike custom-made to fit his incredible frame. He fought the cutoffs on every leg, and finished Hawaii 1995 with 2 minutes to go until midnight. He raced through 1998 all over the US, and when I crossed paths with him at the 1996 Fairmount Park Classic (my first Half-IM), I high-fived him on Falls Bridge. His hand was the size of a pizza box, and really did send me backwards about 10 feet. Dude was fun.
66 – Randy Caddell – One of the first paraplegic triathletes to attempt (and finish) the distance. He was killed on his hand-powered cycle while training in 2005 by a car that turned across his path.
86 – The Hog’s Breath Cafe was a staple of Ironman Canada race week. Closed in 2005. Now a Starbucks. A mural on the wall for the race is still there, however.
88 – Cowman was Ken Shirk, another Ironman racing legend from Hawaii. Always raced in a large hat with horns. So chill that when sheep can’t sleep, they probably count him. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Shirk
93 – The long descent of Ironman Lake Placid is unlike anything else out there.
94 – Yellow Lake is the final summit at Ironman Canada, and is followed by a 12-mile long descent to T2.
118 – At Ironman Lake Placid in 2000, I was stung by a bee on my lip at mile 8 of the bike. Couldn’t drink due to numb face for the entire first lap of the bike. Finished around 13 hours.
139.6 – Any negative energy from someone else is only worth 0.6. So there.