- It’s the only race I can think of where you don’t just do something, you become something.
As you cross the finish line, you’ll be told “you are an Ironman”, and even if you never touch triathlon again, you haven’t just done some race, you’ll be an Ironman for as long as you live. You don’t put ‘did an Ironman’ on your Twitter profile, you just put ‘Ironman’. ‘Nuff said!
- Training for three events at once will challenge and reward you like nothing else.
I could not have imagined how difficult it would be trying to juggle the training needs of three different sports. It really requires at least ten training sessions a week, which means training twice most days (especially if you factor in a rest day), which is bloody hard to fit in around a fairly busy job and a sane amount of sleep. It’s doable though, and managing to fit in that amount of training is incredible: it makes the Ironman dominate your life for a few months before the event in a way few other races will, it’ll be far more varied and interesting than just running every day, and it’ll give you an exciting glimpse of what life might be like as a professional athlete, as you give your entire focus to nutrition, sleep, and training.
- You’ll discover a lot about yourself.
There’s nothing like being stuck with your own company, in a fair amount of pain, for upward of nine hours and potentially as much as seventeen hours (if you’re slow like me) to make you find out things about yourself. You’ll find out how you motivate yourself, how you cope with pain, how you deal with triumph and disaster, and mostly you’ll just get a lot of time to think your own thoughts and be alone with yourself. That’s got to be valuable.
- That swim start…
You know your first big marathon start line? All those people, the nerves, the excitement, the cheering, the music? Terrifying yet exhilarating and completely unforgettable. Well, an Ironman swim start is that times ten.
It’s just before dawn, you’re treading water in a cold lake too deep to stand in, far from the nearest bank, goggles misted, wetsuit constricting your neck, trying to catch glimpses of the first buoy in the far distance, obscured by waves and four thousand bobbing heads. Sure, there might be a few fewer people than at a marathon, but they won’t be going off in neat timed waves and if you’re in their way they’ll be swimming right over you. It’s scary, but you also know you’re at the start of something amazing, something a tiny percentage of people will ever do. The first rays of sun appear, the national anthem plays, and you’re off. There’s nothing quite like it in any other event.
- You can wear your Ironman finisher shirt to a Tough Mudder and then when the excitable warm-up guy tells you you’re about to do ‘the toughest event of your life’ you can smile smugly and say nothing.
And, if you’re lucky, later on in the event you’ll be nailing a set of inclined monkey bars that everyone else is falling off, and overhear some guys behind you saying “that bloke’s doing well”, “ah yeah, well, he’s an Ironman” (see point 1).
But maybe that’s just me 🙂