Editorial by Tom Demerly.
It's Ironman season.
More people are doing Ironman now than ever before and
there are no signs of it slowing down.
I love Ironman, I've done
three: Hawaii '86, Canada '97 and Canada '99. I've never
had the Ironman experience I wanted. This year I was
entered in Wisconsin but a rotten economy, the death
of a close friend and a broken relationship have turned
my personal life into a temporary trainwreck so my focus
isn't on training for Ironman right now, it's on damage
Oh well, sometimes you have those years. I'll be back,
looking for that ultimate Ironman day at the end of
that ultimate Ironman training season when everything
comes together. Maybe next year, maybe the year after
With the rise in popularity of Ironman comes an influx
of people with a new mindset. It's the "It's not
that hard" mindset. Not to be a wet blanket, but
this is a reality check.
Boys and girls, Ironman is big and bad. It will
hand your ass to you on a silver platter and not think twice.
No matter how many people do it, Ironman will always be hard.
This new group that comes into Ironman is better
equipped and with better training resources than any previous
generation. They should have good races, and many do. But there
is that contingent that thinks they can "just wing it".
There is no where to hide at Ironman. The 140.6 miles will exploit
every weakness, find every hole in your training. You will pay
with interest out there on the course if you cut corners in
Now, I want to make it clear: I respect every
single finisher out there. Any way you make it, if you cover
those tough 140.6 miles that is quite an accomplishment. Good
There is a "deflation" of Ironman though.
Remember when running marathons was a big deal? About 20 years
ago if you were at a wedding with 300 people there might be
one person who did a marathon. Now, depending on the crowd you
run with, 10 people at that same wedding have done a marathon.
Your aunt has done one. Your little sister's sorority did one
to raise awareness for people with chronic bunions. Pretty soon
doing a marathon is not a whole lot more unique that getting
It was mundane.
I'm afraid that, even though Ironman will always
be tough, it is headed that way. What makes me think that is
people who have a cavalier attitude about it. Like it is one
more thing to notch in their top tube, one more medal to hang
on the wall. I don't see Ironman that way, and you're right,
that's my problem. But consider this: Ironman as a graduation
You put in your time, you do the races, you learn
about the sport, you do your own "coaching" and you
design your own program. You go to the line with the preparation
you were able to muster on your own and when the cannon goes
off you do your best. You and the clock decide the quality of
your effort. Is every effort equal? No, they aren't. I recently
heard of a celebrity who was granted an invitation to Ironman
Hawaii based on his celebrity. He had four months to prepare
for the event.
In fairness, when the gun goes of it is all him.
But, let me ask you, does any part of this rub you the wrong
way? Does that mean Madonna can get a spot in Ironman? Or Oprah?
Don't kid yourself. It sure as hell does. In a hot minute. Ironman
is a business and business is good. There is a lot good about
that, and there is no denying that much has been gained but
something has been lost.
If you hate reading "When I was
dialogue stop right here, because I am returning to my own personal
age of imagined grandeur here for a moment.
When I did Ironman Hawaii in 1986 it was a big
event to be sure, but it wasn't really what it is today. I think
there were about 6 books in print then about triathlon training.
There were no aero bars. Powerbars had not yet been invented.
Sports nutrition was Famous Amos cookies, orange slices and
Coke and water. We had a sports drink called "Gookinaid
ERG". There were TV cameras but the athletes were the TV
stars. It was before Baywatch people did the race. It still
had this "realness" to it.
Is that gone? No, it isn't. Not really. But a
little. At least for me.
People will call me stuck up and snobbish, but
I did a race a few years ago I fell in love with. I read a magazine
article in Outside magazine called "Where have all the
Wise Men Gone?" It was about the Marathon Des Sables in
Morocco. Based on the images of the race and the article I entered
it. I can't put my finger on what it is, but that race has whatever
it is Ironman has lost. It was weird and quirky. It was f*%#ing
hard. It was above my ability level and I finished about middle
of the pack. Very few people have heard of it. When you tell
people about it they have the same reaction that people used
to have about Ironman: "You don't do that all in one day,
do you?" People say, "You can't run 155 miles in the
Sahara with a pack on your back can you? People don't really
do that, do they?" Yes, they do. A few of them do. About
600 people from all over the world a year do. And it is awesome.
I don't mean to come off as a snob. I am doing
Ironman again and again because I think its cool. But it has
changed. Everybody is doing it. That's good for business, but
it sort of dilutes the event a little. Does that make me a bad
I remember when there were fewer people there.
You didn't have to stress about running into ex-girlfriends,
unruly customers, suppliers and others. You just went, did your
race, got your medal and came home with a good feeling about
it. Now the feeling is both better and worse. Better because
there are a lot of people you can share the experience with.
Worse because there are more people to share the experience
Does that make any sense to you?