As some of you may or may not know, I’ve decided to do an Ironman triathlon this year. When I started sharing this news with others, I got mixed reactions. Some were excited for me. Others, a bit confused. Then there were those who just looked at me, nodded their head and started praying. Out loud.
So, I decided to write a few articles about my experience. As the race day looms, I may also come back to these articles to remind myself why I’m doing this.
My first triathlon season
On March 14, 2010, a day before my 45 birthday, I completed my first triathlon. It was the St. Patty’s Day Sprint Triathlon in Keller, Texas.
If you’re not familiar with triathlon distances, a sprint race is the shortest distance in triathlons. This particular race started with a 300 meter pool swim, followed by a 12 mile bike ride and the finishing with a 3 mile run. It took me 1 hour and 38 minutes to finish the race.
Quite unimpressive, but it was the start of an amazing season. I would go on that year to race in four more sprints, two olympics and then wrap up the season by crossing the finish line at the Austin 70.3 Half Ironman race. It was only 7 months after my first experience with triathlons. What an incredible experience! Two years later, in 2012, I finished a second Austin Half Ironman, this time with my wife.
After quickly realizing that two halves don’t make a full, I started to think about an Ironman. The 140.6 mile Ironman race starts with a 2.4 mile open-water swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride and then finishes with a full marathon (26.2 miles). And, I have to finish within 17 hours (7am to midnight) to hear those words, “Russ Pond. You are an Ironman!”
So, I set a goal to do a full, Ironman race before I turned 50.
The quest begins
I asked my coach what was the easiest Ironman venue, if there was such a thing. He suggested either Ironman Florida or Ironman Arizona. Each had their challenges, but the courses were good and well supported. But, because of the popularity of these two races, they sell out fast. Arizona typically sales out in less than an hour. And you have to register a year in advance.
In 2013, I had to register for a 2014 race to meet my bucket list goal of doing an Ironman before I turned 50. Why 50? I figured what a great way to kick off the second half of your life, doing something crazy like an Ironman.
Even then, I knew there was a deeper reason.
But why, really?
I’ve been asking myself quite a bit lately, Why am I doing this? What is my motivation to do something that seems impossible, especially for non-athletes like me? (When you spend hours alone on a bike ride, run or swim, you tend to have lots of time to ask yourself these scary questions.)
I do enjoy swimming, biking and running. They were never much fun before, but as you get more accustomed and stronger, it becomes easier and more enjoyable. There’s also the obvious benefits like better health and weight loss. Plus, my wife loves to be active. We train together quite a bit. For us, date nights are not the typical dinner and a movie. Our dates often consist of races and long training sessions together. It’s wonderful to live with a full-time encourager, trainer and helpmate!
But still the nagging why. Why do an Ironman?
I think it comes down to fear.
I used to battle crippling fear much of my early life. Decades of panic attacks and anti-anxiety medications. The key to freedom for me was not to avoid the fear or numb the fear–it was to face the fear. That’s when I started to experience freedom and peace.
And to be honest, Ironman scares me. But, that’s why I have to do it. If it didn’t scare me, then why bother.
Fear has no hold on me, because I do those things that I’m afraid to do.
On Sunday afternoon in November of 2013, I sat nervously at the computer waiting to hit “Register.” My heart was racing. Do I really want to do this? Will I even get in? Why am I so nervous?
In a matter of minutes, my registration went through and the confirmation email popped up and said, “You have successfully registered for the 2014 Arizona Ironman.”
Training and preparation
I immediately started training. Nothing specific at this point (plus I hate training in the winter) but I started being more active, playing lots of racquetball and swimming. It was going to take a year of work to get this 49-year old body ready for the grueling race.
In March, my wife and I signed up for the DFW Tri Club. They provide tons of workouts during the week to help with your swim, bike and run. Every Saturday morning, they have an open water swim clinic at a lake nearby. Excellent drills and skills!
As the summer rolled in, I knew I needed a more-focused, disciplined training regime if I was going to be ready for Ironman. So, in June, about 6 months prior to race day, I hired Trevor at Kingdom MultiSport to train me. And, my weekly schedule is packed!
I’m enjoying the intensity of the training more than I thought I would. I’m not a fast swimmer, biker or runner. Especially a runner. So, I’ve never really pushed myself hard. But, this first month of training has been challenging. I’ve had to push myself so much harder than ever before. Sure, it’s exhausting, but I can start to feel how it is really helping me get stronger.
That voice of fear is starting to fade.
Why write about this?
I wanted to write this article for two reasons: accountability and encouragement.
The more people who know about this goal of mine, the harder it will be to back out. (Yes, I still have those thoughts.) I share this with you so that you will know what I’m planning to do. And, if by chance we talk or chat, ask me how it’s going. I’m sure you’ll get an ear full.
Secondly, I want to encourage you that you can do anything you set your mind to. I was not athletic growing up. Tennis and bowling were the extent of my physical abilities. When it came to endurance sports, I made fun of those people because deep down, I wanted to be one of those people. Today, I’m confident that with persistence, a good mindset and some dedication, you can do whatever you want.
You can do anything you set your mind to do.
Ironman motivational videos
Cool, I found this playlist of Ironman motivational videos!
P.S. These videos are for me, not you. :)