From The Inside
"Ironman shows how fierce and complex is our inner fight. Achievement and feelings will be unique and personal, they will give us different, deep experiences. Those will be much intense depending from every athlete, his motivation, determination and courage.Ironman means a voyage to our limits. The inner strength that everyone gains finishing one has no price and it's unique. Every distance athlete should make that voyage at least once in his lifetime."
- Commander John Collins
Above are my times from my first Ironman race. It was 2001, back when the event was held in Forster. It was my second season of triathlon, and is still my best time to date. Due to inexperience in this race, I rode way too hard from the word go. I remember passing the 90km mark and thinking "I hope I have improved that much." Well I hadn't improved that much and from about 120km my legs started falling apart. What was originally a race in my head, was now an exercise in survival.
It was one of the best feelings ever to see the end of the bike leg. Now it was time to start onto my strength, the run. The television footage shows my attempts at movement into the transition tent. My legs still had to awaken, but awaken they did and I was soon enjoying the run. Yes everything hurt, but it was enjoyable. I had a nice flowing rhythm, I was passing plenty of people and had plenty of energy to encourage my friends during the race. I was on a high. This Ironman thing was tough, but not as tough as I had originally thought it might be.
Obviously they were the thoughts of the inexperienced. Things changed. My 3:15 marathon gradually blew out to 3:30, 3:40 and soon enough time didn't matter. I reached a stage where I thought I couldn't finish. The cut off times weren't an issue, but I was seriously questioning if I could actually make to the finish line. Already I gone further than anything I had done in the past. I had dug deeper and gotten more out of myself than I had ever had to. Yet the finish line was still a long way off and the pain was a completely new experience.
Pain in racing wasn't new to me. I prided myself on being able to handle large doses while smiling at my competitors. It was a tactic I used often in shorter races to get that mental edge. It often worked. But, the pain was always only physical. Now part way through the run on the Ironman and I was in unfamiliar territory. This pain was deeper, more intense and affected every part of me. It was way beyond aching or burning muscles. It was emotional. It now affected what I thought about myself. Was I really good enough to complete this race?
"Whatever you do in the Ironman, you do alone."
- 1998 Ironman Hawaii Commentary
Way beyond where running should be possible, walking was even questionable. I now had a choice to make.
"You can convince everyone except that little back part of your brain, that you had a good reason to stop. If you stop you lose. If you go on you win."
- Commander John Collins
There was only one thing to do.
Finally I crested that final hill and headed down into the finishing chute. This is an experience that cannot be described in words. It is something that you cannot explain to those who have not experienced it. The best I can do is that as you run over the blue carpet, between the hundreds of supporters, under the timing clock, all of the emotions, the doubts, fears, failures, successes, good days and every other experience from the months of training and the day's race suddenly are experienced all at once. This is an awesome experience and you know it has all been worth it.