February 20, 2008

Ironman Expert

Are you training for your first Ironman? If so, you should ask me any of your questions because I know all the answers. I am an Ironman expert.

I know the ins and outs, the dos and dont's - I even know the ifs, whys and buts. If you really want to push me, I may reveal to you the heretofores and therewiths.

I can tell you exactly how to train, precisely how to race and unquestionably how to focus. I will tell you what you did wrong, what you're about to do wrong and what you should've done wrong. I'll applaud you when you've done something right, but will show you how it created something wrong. Cause that's what we do, us Ironman experts. If there's anything done well, it must create something done poorly. After all, every rose has it's thorn, just like every cowboy sings his sad sad song.

What are my credentials, you ask? Why am I an Ironman expert? Simple question, because I've trained for and finished one. Ironman Lake Placid, thank you very much. One of the hardest Ironman courses out there.

What's that? Repeat the question again please...?

Yes, that's the only one I've done.

Say again?

No, I haven't done any others. Just the one. But, really, that's all it takes.

If you have actually bothered to talk to people about Ironman racing, you may have noticed this crazy and somewhat silly phenomena: people who have raced in only one Ironman have a tendency to consider themselves an expert in the distance.

I've done one, hence, expert.

Frankly, it's a tad bit annoying, the arrogance. I sometimes annoy myself just listening to me talk in my Ironman know-it-all jack-ass-iveness.

One thing I've noticed is that the comments from us so-called Ironman experts rarely come across as a "take it or leave it" type of attitude. It's not presented as some friendly advice that you can do with what you may. Instead, the advice is usually spewed forth with a tone of staggering omniscience - as if God Herself were channeling Her supreme knowledge through all first time IM finishers and blessing them with the power and grace to spread the true Ironman Way (capital I, capital W).

Listen to me, all ye IM neophytes, we might as well say. For I, the all-knowing, have come to enlighten your soulless minds about the Holy Truth of the Holy TRInity. If thou doth truly desire the ultimate attainment, to swimeth, biketh and runneth until thou cuppeth have toppled over, then follow my footsteps, do as I doth do. For in my tread though shall achieve serenity and tri-sanctity. Hear me, my feeble abecedarian, for without my Words ye shall be doomed to enter the valley of the shadow of death somewhere around mile 16... and then you're really gonna be screwed.

It's all a bunch of bull-hockey if you ask me. Seriously, what right do I have to tell people what to do. What right do ANY of us first timers have to lecture the newbies? Sure we can give advice, sure we can share our experiences - but why do we have this need to have it be the end-all be-all? Is it our controlling attitude? Cause Lord knows this triathlon crap sure brings out in us our most hyper-controlling, obsessively nauseating personality traits.

Here's the funny part (well, maybe not ha-ha funny, but a little peculiar funny), the more Ironman races one completes, the less likely they are to give advice. Seriously, pay attention to this one.

After somebody completes two Ironman races, their comments usually make a turn from lecturing to mere suggesting. It's no longer "you need to do this" but more along the lines of "this seems to have worked a few times in the past."

By the time somebody completes three Ironman races, they'll probably only answer questions when asked. After three Ironman finishes, racers don't seem to even bother giving advice. In some cases they barely even acknowledge having done the races in the first place.

I suppose that it's like golf or wine - the more you experience, the less you realize you actually know. When I first started playing golf, I was superb. My stroke felt great, I'd hit some pretty impressive shots, and always had a wonderful time out there. After playing a bunch of times, all of the sudden I tried to improve. I began to focus on my swing, my stance, my tempo. Suddenly everything went to hell. The more I engaged and focused, the more confusing it became. Perhaps after many an Ironman, one realizes that it is the one part of the sport over which you can't maintain complete control. The more you try, the less it works.

I am training for my second Ironman right now. I'll be racing Ironman Arizona this April. I had such an amazing time during the Lake Placid race in '06 that I'm actually looking forward to Arizona. Of course, that's probably my biggest mistake right there. But I've only done one Ironman so far, so there are no mistakes I can make. I am perfect. I know everything. I'm an Ironman expert.

Any other questions?