You train all year for Ironman. That increases your chance of a better race.
Does it guarantee it? Absolutely not. There are no guarantees.
The event is indiscriminately ruthless. Look at Mark Allen
and Paula Newby-Fraser. Awesome athletes. They were both champions
and victims of Ironman. That is what I mean. It is indiscriminate.
Your preparation substantially improves your capability commensurate
with the time you put in, but it doesn't guarantee it.
You could have a flat tire (checking your equipment moderates
this risk), you could crash, the weather could conspire against
you. It is the same for everyone. It is ruthless and indiscriminate.
That is what you can count on. And you can count on it to
death. It will never change. What else can you count on? Not
At the 1999 Marathon Des Sables I had a religious experience.
For those of you not familiar with it, the Marathon Des Sables
is a 152 mile ultra distance running race across the Sahara
Desert in Morocco. You do it over 6 days in stages ranging
from 8 miles to 50 miles. It is self-sufficient. You carry
your equipment on your back and navigate to checkpoints in
the desert where you collect your water ration, usually 1.5
liters, or just enough to make it to the next checkpoint.
Errors in navigation can result in dire consequences. No aid
stations every mile, no sag wagons.
I can remember so vividly lying on a Bedouin rug in the desert,
exhausted from the day's exertions, and feeling the heat rise
from the desert sand as the night began to cool. The heat
radiated through the rug and warmed my body, I took a handful
of sand and let it run between my fingers and looked out across
the vast, 4,500 mile Sahara. What a beautiful reality it was,
utterly without compromise. And there was purity to that.
Beautiful, reliable, perfect purity. Tomorrow in the Sahara
it will be hot. The going will be tough. I will be challenged.
Of that I am absolutely certain. But nothing else in this
life is certain.
Our existence in human society is full of bizarre turns.
People shoot each other for seemingly no reason in parking
lots, you come home to find your wife in the hot tub with
the guy next door, people break their promises, people who
say they love you seem to only hurt you and people who say
they hate you only make you more successful. Nothing surprises
me anymore. As I sit here at 6:28 a.m. I can no more predict
the outcome of today than I can fly to the moon.
But I can tell you this, when the flaming orb that is the
sun rotates above the horizon in the Sahara tomorrow morning
it will be hot. The sand will warm and at night it will
give up its heat once again. I can tell you with certainty
that at the 20-mile mark of an Ironman my legs will hurt
with incredible purity.
You can't count on much. But you can count on that.