An Ironman Soap Box…….

The definition of a soap box according to Webster is “an improvised platform used by a self-appointed, spontaneous, or informal orator; broadly : something that provides an outlet for delivering opinions.”  I’m about to give my opinion, well it is my blog I don’t know what else you would expect, just be prepared 🙂

Unless you have been living in a cave or under a rock these past 6 months in Southern Utah, you are pretty well aware that Ironman St. George (lovingly referred to as IMSG) came to town on May 7th.  So many of my friends and acquaintances have been preparing for this race for the last 9 months to a year.  It has been a wonderful journey to witness these fellow athletes working so hard and occasionally getting to take part in small moments of their training.  Ironman is big…….No……..Ironman is HUGE!  It is a sport in and of itself.  It combines the challenge of triathlon with the brutality of an ultra endurance race.  It is not something you just go out and do one day.

I learned about Ironman back in the late 90s as I watched one or the sweetest ladies I knew prepare to race.  She was well into her 60s and I loved hearing her chatter about riding and running distances I at that time could not even comprehend.  Lynn was an inspiration.  She was a spunky “old” lady with better abs than all my friends combined and was an IRONMAN!  I have no idea what her times were.  Back then it didn’t even cross my mind to ask her.  I was inspired to take part in my first triathlon and decided that before my 40th birthday I would have an Ironman finish on my resume.   That goal still lives on today.

As the years went by and I continued to learn and grow in the ways of triathlon, Lynn’s Ironman became more and more impressive.  She was one ROCKIN’ old lady.  She had completed 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking and 26.2 of running all in one day……ONE DAY!  I was just barely learning how to survive the marathon and wasn’t doing very well at that.  I knew that my Ironman finish was going to take years of practice and patience.

So where is this soap box that I was talking about……….Well here it is……..I’m pretty much fed up with people asking me if I have done IMSG and when my response is “Nope.” getting that look of “Oh……I thought you were a triathlete?”  ARE YOU KIDDING ME!  One does not need an Ironman finish to their name to be a triathlete, nor do they need it to be a GREAT triathlete.  There are MANY (many, many, many) triathletes who are the best in the world without an Ironman finish to their name.  Triathlon is NOT Ironman.  Ironman is NOT triathlon.  Ironman is IRONMAN.  It is its own amazingly brutal challenge.  I understand than many people asking me this question probably don’t realize what they are asking, but it is the look of disappointment that I can’t get over.  I appreciate the support that so many have for me in my athletic endeavors.  I have more support than I ever thought possible.  I LOVE YOU ALL!  But Ironman is a big deal.  It is something that takes preparation and time.  It is not something, that you just go out and decide to do one day…..which leads me to soap box Part 2 🙂

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with IMSG two-time women’s champion Heather Wurtele.  Heather and her husband, Trevor, are professional triathletes who hail from Canada.  They spend weeks and months in St. George training and preparing (as well as everywhere else in the country) and I have had such a great time watching her walk into the Washington City Community Center when she is in town to use our facility.  (Yes, Heather.  I have a triathlon-crush on you).  What I love about Heather (and Trevor for that fact) is what down-to-earth, graceful people they are.  Watching Heather finish IMSG in first place the past two years has been a lesson for me in hard work and preparation.  Heather and Trevor train tirelessly for their events.  Everything in their lives are geared toward their sport and doing their best.  When watching her win IMSG, I know that she has worked so to achieve her goal and I bubble over in respect and awe at her efforts.

What has been difficult for me is to hear are the stories of those who decide merely weeks away from race day that they will compete in the Ironman.  They jump in last minute and hope for a “Hail Mary”.  Okay, I have to say that I mean no disrespect in saying this, I just think some serious respect needs to be given to those athletes who have worked for hours, days and months preparing for this event.  The event doesn’t have a 17:00 hour limit to encourage ANYONE to take the challenge, but for those who are prepared and suffer the trials and struggles that come along with this type of event.  It just seems that even the media glorifies the fact that some people jump into a wetsuit and on the back of a borrowed bike one day and toe the line.  I almost feel that it is like sending an unknowing lamb to the slaughter.  Encouraging someone to take this challenge without the months and potentially years of training is complete insanity.  It take more than a desire to hear “You are an Ironman” to cross this finish line.

Believe me, I’m in the business of encouraging people to do hard things.  We should constantly be stretching ourselves and our abilities, but within reason.  If you’ve never done a triathlon before, do you really think you should sign up for an Ironman.  Don’t you think if you do decide to go for it that you should leave plenty of time to prepare.  There are many times in life that digging deep and pushing through can help you to accomplish tremendous tasks, but I don’t think you would ask your toddler to get up and run a mile the day after they take their first steps.

Again, it is not that I am unimpressed by the efforts of those who jump into Ironman feet first.  My hat is off to you.  I myself would be scared to death to do that.  I know I could “finish” and Ironman if I toed the line with my current fitness level, but I’ve had glimpses of what those many hours might feel like if I was unprepared.  Even under circumstances of the best training, the Ironman is going to be HARD…..more than hard.

So I guess the bottom line is that people need to respect the Ironman.  Spectators and athletes alike.  Ironman is not something you just decide to go out and do one day.  It is something that takes preparation and sacrifice for months and months.  It costs you precious time with your family and friends.  It takes a concerted effort day in and day out.  Some may be able to “finish” when they are underprepared, but the real winners are those who have worked so hard for so long.  We too easily overlook all the very well prepared (even professional triathletes) who DON’T finish.  It doesn’t mean that Joe Blow who decided the week before to sign up is better than the pros, Joe Blow just got incredibly lucky.   Everyone who completes an Ironman has my respect, prepared or not, but I have a far greater admiration for those who put their entire lives on hold to complete this goal.

To all you newly-crowned Ironmen in St. George and elsewhere……..YOU ARE INCREDIBLE!  You have completed something that is AMAZING!  You worked hard and suffered much.  You have inspired many.  I have so much respect for you and the race you just completed.   I will join you one day as a FINISHER, but for now I will continue my preparations and race my butt off every time I toe the line.  I WILL do an Ironman.  Mark my word.  But, please, neither myself, nor any other triathlete for that matter, are any less of a person for not have completing it yet.

Soap box complete 🙂 ……….Please chime in!  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  I think this is an interesting topic on many levels.  I want to listen to your point of view!


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