I wrote the following piece a few months ago but held off on posting it for some reason. Probably because it seems a bit harsh, or maybe because I wanted to complete my second Ironman to have a better perspective.
The topic was “less time than normal” to finish the race, but now there is yet another beef crawling around in the Ironman Chattanooga Facebook group: 4 extra miles on the bike.
I honestly get why people would be upset about this one. For me it’s not the extra distance from a physical standpoint, but the integrity of 140.6. It’s the same reason I was so bummed about the rumblings that Louisville would be shortened because of the heat. I wanted the Ironman distance race so it could be compared and contrasted with the others.
But, my perspective was wrong. Ironman shouldn’t be treated like a “bucket list” item, it should be a well-rounded path to a better and stronger you.
Completing an Ironman in 17, or 16.5 hours isn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be. I am 50 years old and basically started running and biking just over two years ago. I had minor experience as a cyclist from a collection of mountain bike races, but none were over 40 miles. I started my training and worked my ass off to finish my first race on a difficult Wisconsin course in under 12 hours.
I got the medal and started thinking of myself as an Ironman, and while I’m not sure of what that definition is, I still wasn’t even close to being one. It’s not about the medal, it’s about the process that gets you there, and where that process takes you next.
The Ironman Chattanooga Race Director has undergone a shit-storm of backlash that needs to go away. Ironman is a challenge that “Ironmen” should rise to and conquer. The continual anxiety gets you nowhere and this whole situation is akin to bitching at the Park Ranger because Mount Everest is too high. Buckle up, and climb it.
Ironman Chattanooga 16.5 Hour Time Limit – Crushing Iron
There’s been a lot of rumbles about the fact that, instead of the traditional seventeen hours, athletes will only have 16.5 hours to complete Ironman Chattanooga. For most it shouldn’t be much of an issue, but the vocal have been eyeballing that 17 hour time limit from day one. While I can understand their frustration, I feel like it’s more of an opportunity than a negative. The best way to handle change is to include what you’ve learned from the past and transcend it in the future.
I am 50 years old.
Remember 50 year olds when you were a child? They were OLD. They were my grandpa. He could barely walk across the kitchen. To think about him doing an Ironman is laughable.
Our Potential Has Evolved
When I was a kid, Ironman was impossible. In fact, it wasn’t even invented.
When they did the first race in Hawaii, there was no map. It was like traveling across America in a covered wagon.
Now, we have GPS, paved roads, convenience stores, rest stops with food and drink. What used to take four months now takes about 6 days. Times have changed.
Have you seen some of the bikes they used in early Ironman?
We have trainers, videos, aero helmets, race wheels, space-aged nutrition, an endless source of people who have traveled the Ironman roads who can tell you what to expect at every turn. Frankly, it’s easier now than it was in the 80’s.
We Grow to the Size of Our Cage
If I’m an unhappy person making $30,000 a year, the odds of me being the same unhappy person making a million a year are pretty good. I’ll just spend more money and create the same kinds of problems.
I used to work in television and it’s a fast paced business. Sometimes I’d have a month to write a promo. Sometimes I’d have ten minutes. Often the longer I had made it worse.
The more time we have, the more time we have to waste. What really matters is how much time you’re putting into the pool, on the bike, and in your running shoes. Worrying about having an extra 30 minutes is an excuse. Put the pen to paper and write.
Time to Change
There’s definitely something cool about the midnight cut off. The stories of dramatic finishes are a major point of intrigue about these races. But we are adaptable creatures that would easily adjust and produce the same memorable moment with a shorter time.
Maybe it’s time to move the start to 7:30 across the board. Our friends and family would get more sleep and you’d have a little extra time to warm up and do visualize yourself crossing the line an hour before the cut off.
History is laced with examples of amazing feats that shatter the belief system of athletes. Once an “impossible” record goes down, there is always a pattern of multiple people eclipsing the same, “unattainable” feat shortly after the barrier has been broken. It’s mental, and now thousands and thousands of people have completed Ironman in less than 16.5 hours.
Plan to Get There Sooner
I really believe odds of something going wrong increase proportionately to the amount of time you spend worrying about them. If you prepare, practice your plan, and stay under control, your race will go a lot smoother.
Reality is reality and now it’s 16.5 hours or a tad less for those going to Chattanooga. Roughly, that’s 1:50 in the water (downstream and likely in a wetsuit), 7:50 on the bike, and about 6:30 to walk a marathon. And, this may sound harsh, but other than genuine injury, it’s kinda weak if you enter Ironman with a plan to straight-out-walk the entire marathon.
Remember Julie Moss? She’s the iconic woman in the annals of Ironman lore for her dramatic finish in 1982. She competed in Hawaii as part of her research for an exercise physiology thesis and admits she didn’t take the race seriously, nor did she do any special training. Julie literally crawled across the finish line in 11:56:18.
She had no clue what she was getting into, but we do. We train in groups with people who’ve been there. We do bricks. We watch “normal” men and women finish Ironman all the time.
Don’t get me wrong, Ironman is very, very hard. But 17 hours is a random number that lives in your head. Aim higher and don’t let 30 minutes put so much pressure on you that it ruins your race. Train with a goal to finish in 15 hours and see how that works out for you.