The Lure of the Ironman

The IRONMAN. For most, it’s an incomprehensible feat — one that is not appealing in any way, shape, or form. For these people, the thought of spending most of the day physically exerting oneself sounds like a medieval form of torture. It’s utterly insane and completely unfathomable. When witnessing exhausted athletes crawl to the finish line during the telecast of the Hawaii Ironman on TV, these people respond with comments like, “why would anyone EVER do that?”

Then there are the rest of us. The small percentage of us who actually enjoy exercise and would view a day spent physically exerting oneself quite pleasant. On TV, we see those athletes willing themselves to the finish line in a state of complete physical exhaustion and think to ourselves, “hmmm… maybe I could do that someday. ” Once that thought enters your mind, there is no going back. It’s like a seed has been planted. Once that seed starts to germinate, your fate has been determined. There is no escape. I’ve heard it referred to as a calling. The IRONMAN. It beckons you. It calls your name. You may try to ignore it, but you can’t. You are hooked. Determined to join the club. Anytime you see someone wearing ironman gear, your gaze becomes fixated. You feel a twinge of jealousy. You want to earn the right to wear that IM finisher gear too. You want to be an ironman.

I completed my first ironman back in 2006 in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The first 2/3 of race day were great – picture perfect. I was feeling good and meeting my targets for the day. The last 1/3 of the day, however, didn’t go quite according to plan. My thoughts during the run portion of the event consisted of “never again, never again, never again.” It was hot – 95 degrees at the start of the run. I was dehydrated. I was sick to my stomach. My nutrition “plan” had failed me. I just wanted the misery to end. At the conclusion of the race, rather than an immense feeling of accomplishment, I felt relief. Relief to be done. Relief to get some fluid. And to get some medical help. I did not enjoy the experience to say the least.

The weeks passed, and I stuck to my “never again mantra.” The experience was too fresh in my mind. I had not enjoyed it. I didn’t feel accomplished. I just felt defeated. Eventually as the weeks turned to months, I revisited my experience. From there my thoughts turned to, “well, if I did another one and it wasn’t so hot, I would probably do better.” Or “if I could dial in my nutrition plan a bit better, I would have a MUCH better race.” Then life got in the way, and my priorities focused on building my family. The triathlon scene took a backseat in my life.

We completed our family in the summer of 2014 with the birth of our third child. Shortly thereafter, I decided to get into triathlon coaching. I was back on the scene and doing my thing, completely engrossed in the sport that I love. My team is full of long course athletes, so ironman athletes and constant banter about ironman races surround me. The seed that sat dormant for many years while other priorities took center stage in my life had started to germinate yet again. “If only I could dial in my nutrition, I know I could have a great day out there…” The IRONMAN. It started to beckon, yet again.

As soon as I admitted to myself “well maybe I’ll sign up for an IM in 2016,” I knew that the decision had been made. There was no maybe. I was in. I talked it over with my husband, and he said, “well, you know you are going to do it sometime, so just sign up and get it over with…” He supports me in whatever I choose to do, so I knew that he would be behind me! Ironman is a lifestyle like no other. In order to effectively coach IM athletes, I knew that I needed to live the experience right alongside of them. The highs and the lows. The daily training. The lifestyle. The anticipation of the big day.

So I did it. I registered for 2016 Ironman Lake Placid. The moment I hit that register button, a jolt of excitement raced through my body. I was giddy. Excited beyond belief. The anticipation of what was to come was thrilling. Exciting. I was ecstatic to embark upon the journey that awaited me.

Shortly after registering, I emailed my parents and sister to tell them that I had signed up for another ironman. My sister responded with one word: “wow.” My excitement quickly turned to trepidation. What did she mean by “wow”? Did she mean “wow”, as if SHE couldn’t fathom doing an ironman, or did she mean “wow,” as if she couldn’t fathom why I would do an ironman? I was hoping for support and encouragement in this endeavor and instead, I got “wow.”…

I immediately thought “uh oh, what have I done?” Is this really what I want to do? Will I regret making this decision? Do I really want to devote so much of my spare time to training for this one race? What do I have to prove? Is this an incredibly selfish decision that I have just committed to? Did I make a mistake in committing to this endeavor?

After grounding myself back in the moment, I began to ponder the situation more carefully. The focal point of my life is undoubtedly my family. My three boys and husband take priority over anything else in my life. By committing to this endeavor, will I be taking too much treasured time away from my family? Time that I will never be able to get back? When I’m out on a 6-hour training ride, am I going to wish I were with my kids rather than being out on my bike? My sister’s response spurred me to consider these questions.

I spend a lot of time at home with my kids, and I have come to realize that my world cannot completely revolve around them.  Young children live a roller coaster ride of emotions. If my life is completely devoted to them, I ride that rocky, unstable roller coaster right along with them — when they are happy, I’m happy, but when they melt down, I melt down too. I know that I need an outlet — something that can provide stability in my life to combat the highs and lows that take place at home on a daily basis.

I am convinced that I don’t need to spend all of my free time with my children. It’s not a healthy situation for them or for me. In my mind, it’s much more valuable to spend two fully engaged, quality hours with my kids rather than four hours where I’m scattered, pre-occupied or disgruntled. I think that the training will help me make the most of my time with my family. It will make my time with my family more treasured. And that is what really matters. I will have to be scheduled, but I like being scheduled. I know that I will have to get up early, but I love the pre-dawn hours, where stillness exists all around me. I enjoy trying to make the most out of every day with my family and within myself. Live every day to the fullest – that has always been my mantra.

I know that the ironman journey will be an experience that I will learn from, for better or for worse. I won’t regret this decision. Life is about creating experiences. I know that I will learn from the training. I know that I will learn from the experience of the race. And I know that I will learn more about what I want out of life. Learning from your decisions and your experiences is what life is all about. I look forward to the journey that awaits me! Ironman Lake Placid 2016 – here I come!

5 thoughts on “The Lure of the Ironman

  1. K-I-I-I-I-I-M-M-M-M-M-M-M-M!!!!! Can you hear me hooting and hollering and jumping up and down?! Yay you! I cried when I read you signed up. And I cried when I read, “wow.” I get that so much. I do. I understand the excitement and butterflies — the elation — after you sign up. And then the moments of buyers remorse. And you know what? You will miss your kids when you’re out on a 6 hour training ride. You will. But you don’t need me to tell you that missing them is also a good thing. I am learning that one of the biggest gifts I can give my children is being a whole-person. Being a woman who models self-care and self-love. Ironman training is a gift to myself and in turn, it is a gift that keep giving. I am a better person for following my heart and because of this I am a better mother and partner. I’m excited for you! I’m so proud of you! You’re going to be fabulous. Much love to you!

    Like

  2. This is so wonderful. I want to share this with every mom who struggles with this whether they race Ironman, have a demanding job or take a yoga class and feel guilty about it. Thank you for your honesty and courage!! I am so excited that you are racing IMLP 2016 – it will be great having you on the course with us!!! I signed up as well and while this will be my 4th, I am nearly as excited about the upcoming training as I was Year 1. Here we come!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kathleen Sigrist

    Such a great piece Kim – thanks so much for sharing!

    Like

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