October 30, 2007

The Grey Lines of Ironman

So apparently my previous post created a fair bit of discussion. Nice to see. As the great Axl Rose once said, love me or hate me, at least there's a reaction.

One interesting topic that came up in the comments of the Wishy-Washing of Ironman was the definition of an Ironman. What makes an Ironman?

On the surface it seems like a pretty easy question, but I think there's more to it. Let's take my friend, Kouy, as a for instance. Kouy trained eight long months for Ironman Coeur D'Alene. She pounded the pavement just like the rest of us and splish-splashed in the pool as much as the next person. She pushed her body, stretched her schedule and sacrificed her weekends.

She showed up to Ironman Coeur d'Alene and toed the starting line. The waters were rough that day and she had a tough time getting through. Seasick, hypothermia, dizzyness... somehow she made it through the swim right before the cut-off. She sat in the medical tent until the last minute before she would be disqualified, then got on her bike and rode.

Kouy finished the bike course with only 2 minutes left before the cut-off. It was already a long day but she was determined to finish the race. She head out on the marathon and pushed forward. By the time the clock struck midnight and the official clock had stopped, Kouy still had more than a few miles to go. She kept going. She crossed an empty finish line at about 1am.

To me, she is an Ironman.

I've got another friend who plowed through the swim, trudged through the bike and pushed through the run. Battling fatigue and stomach ailments, she reached mile 14 and couldn't continue. Physically, her body wouldn't move forward. She backed out of the race rather than risk long term disability.

To me, she is an Ironman.

In fact, to me, anybody who has the courage to put in the training and get to the starting line, who pushes through the swim and does the best they can possibly do, that person is an Ironman. Are they an Ironman finisher? Maybe not. You've got to cross the finish line to do that. But an Ironman is so much more than just finishing. It's trying, believing, dreaming and doing. Ironman is starting.

So what's an Ironman to you?


pb said...

If you toe the start line, you're a triathlete. When you finish, you're an Ironman.

Bandersnatchi said...

There are rules that define the event.

They define the cut-off times, the drafting distance, the acceptable nutrition limits, and they define what an entrant must do to EARN the title of "Ironman Finisher" and to wear the medal and the shirt.

I have compassion for those who have misfortune on the day: flat tires, ruined wheels, crashes, broken bones, stomach flu, dehydration, etc. I'll even go down to the pool with your friend who missed the swim cut-off and coach her, but to be an Ironman Triathlon Finisher you have to finish the race within the rules, including the timing rules.

When you dilute the requirements you are guilty of diminishing the accomplishments of those who have met the challenge and are devaluing the concept of Ironman.

They don't pay off for just showing up.


Nancy Toby said...

I'm with the hardliners on this. It's an objective set of criteria, not a subjective sliding scale. You meet the criteria (finish each of the 3 legs by the cutoffs) or you don't. Period.

carmen said...

Thank you.
Doing IMFL on Saturday.
I teach college writing.
Everything is subjective.

carmen said...

Okay, so I thought more about this question as I spent over eight hours on the bike leg of this damned race.
Ironman is a brand. You can think of it as any game or sport that has rules, if you will, or as anything else that is sold. I picked Valentine's Day. V-Day is marketed as a day to buy candy, flowers, lingerie, and dinner at a nice restaurant. You could do all these things any other time, but you might not think to because nobody (like Hallmark, for example)told you to.
If there was no such thing as Ironman brand, I probably wouldn't have trained for those particular distances. In fact, I probably would have skipped the bike altogether, unless said bike had a basket and a bell and I tooled around the neighborhoods just, you know, looking around.
In fact, thank goodness I had an okay swim or I NEVER would have made the bike "cutoff."
I finished in 16:16 something and reserved my spot for next year.

No Wetsuit Girl said...

Ironman is a distance. If you finish that distance (in ANY period of time, when it's all said and done, 17 hours is pretty arbitrary). If you start a marathon and drop out at mile 22 you can't say you ran am marathon just because you were pooped just like everyone else. There will always be more chances to finish. However, the woman with MS who finished NY in 26 hours, FINISHED, she did a marathon. However, "Ironman" shouldn't be the only word for a long distance triathlete who's sacrificed and shown an amazing commitment to the sport. How about "hard core" "bad ass"? But not "Ironman"

Anonymous said...

Not an Ironman. Went to law school for 3 years...did not pass the Bar. I trained really hard. Put in the hours. Toed the line on test day. Am I an attorney? No.