The case for Ironman

Back in 2007, I found myself hanging out with friends at Zorbaz in Detroit Lakes following the Dick Beardsley Half Marathon. It marked the end of my first summer of training for a sport I had just taken up that year, and the completion of my longest race.

A couple athletes talked about their fascination with the triathlon, explaining that there were shorter events all over the region. Their love for the sport was intriguing. So, being a journalist by nature, I started asking them questions. How does the bike portion work? Do I need a special bike? Is the swim difficult? What about a wet suit?

They made it sound so easy. And fun.

My mind started turning the idea over and over. I like swimming. And I could get through the biking. Running was becoming more than a habit, and teetering on an addiction. I left Zorbaz convinced that I’d complete a triathlon the following summer.

Once winter set in, though, I found myself fascinated by the marathon. In need of a goal, I signed up for the 2008 Grandma’s Marathon. As I completed longer and longer runs, I realized how much I loved the training. So I finished marathon after marathon – now having 15 to my credit.

For the past year, though, I had thought about my original goal of completing a triathlon. Spring rolled around and I purchased a road bike, figuring the exercise would be a complement to my running and just possibly I would attempt a triathlon or two. Fast forward to July, and I decided to make the plunge at a sprint tri in Walker. The following month, I began contemplating doing more in 2013, sharing the idea with my Ragnar Relay teammates that I’d be completing a half Ironman distance. I figured the 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and 13.1-mile run would be a sufficient challenge.

Then the text messages began. A group of them were considering signing up for Ironman Wisconsin. Was I going to join them?

It set off a daily debate in my head. Could I do a full Ironman? Would there be time to train and develop my swimming and cycling enough to complete it? Weighing the percentages of commitment, each day I felt 5 percent more convinced to sign up. By the second weekend in September, I was ready to commit.

On signup day, I remember driving the short drive from work to home, feeling a nervous excitement deep inside. It had been a long time since I felt that way – like the way you feel when you’re both excited and anxious for a big date. I’d set a calendar reminder, and planned to log into the site a few minutes in advance. I’d have all my information ready to go when registration opened.

The signup process took longer than I expected, and I was worried that it was taking too long. Would I miss out on one of the limited spots left after on-site registration from the weekend? When I reached the confirmation page, and an email popped into my email, all I could do was smile. A weight had been lifted off my shoulder, my mind was freed and the adrenaline coursed my body – and I hadn’t even started training yet. But I was in.

With the Twin Cities Marathon completed, I’ve taken some time off of running after a couple years of overtraining and pushing through workouts anyway. I’m letting my legs and body heal, but slowly working into my swimming and cycling workouts to build endurance for all 3 sports.

There are so many reasons for signing up for Ironman. Each of them could be a lengthy blog post in itself. But I keep thinking back to that pledge after finishing my first half marathon. Not long after, I set another goal to be as fit as possible in my early 40s.

Earlier this month, I reached the big number. So when I considered whether to do Ironman, I thought about turning 40 and what it meant to me. While age means little to me, it is just a number after all, I wanted to do something extraordinary. Nearly every year of my 30s were terrific, but I wanted a challenge at 40 – something that would push my limits and help erase 39, which was my least favorite year of my 30s.

So now it’s time for a new challenge: running, cycling and swimming long distances in my experiment and quest to do something extraordinary. My pursuit is being Ironfit – and the best is yet to come.

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