I really don't know anyone who has a good answer for this; I sure don't.
I suppose the appeal is that many claim this to be the most challenging one-day endurance event on the planet;very few people have ever attempted this event, even fewer have completed it. Bragging rights might be part of the reason we all do it.
Sometimes, even just yesterday (4/13/08) I tell myself that it is not even worth it, and that there is no way possible that I can complete an Ironman.
These thoughts creep into my head when I am hot, tired, in pain, fighting stomach problems, sunburn, completely spent and exhausted and my knees and legs are aching. This happens a lot during long workouts, typically on the bike or on a run.
For example, yesterday I rode through Laguna Canyon on a 65 mile ride. I had been up most of the night before with a stomach ailment and was really dehydrated. I did the ride anyway. No excuses. But that ride really took a toll. When I got home I tried to do a brick (bike-run combination workout) and run off the bike to simulate what I will have to do in the Ironman.
No way. Not gonna happen today!
I barely got across the street over to the golf course and I literally collapsed under the shade of a tree and just laid down for 3 minutes...right there in plain view of all the passing cars on PCH! I couldn't help it. I was totally spent.
I was absolutely exhausted and had nothing left in the tank. I slowly got up, and walked home, surely with my head held low in defeat and disgust. How was I ever going to do a full Ironman? I couldn't even do half the bike distance and jog three blocks! In November, I will have to ride 112 miles and immediately follow that with a 26.2 mile marathon. There's just no way!
I took a shower and went to bed at 11:30am and did not wake up until about 4:00pm. It took about 24 hours to get back to feeling OK again. I chalk this up to some food poisoning. The amount of dehydration must have been severe because I had horrible headaches, the chills and did not use the bathroom for nearly 15 hours, despite drinking a massive amount of fluids.
The point here is that had this been on Ironman race day, would I have been able to finish, and if so, at what cost? I cannot conceive of how I would have possibly finished in that condition. Even when I am in peak condition, I cannot imagine doing this entire distance.
Is it worth the time, expense, physical toll, pain and struggle?
Somehow, somewhere deep inside, there is a compelling drive to complete this endeavor. To see it through.
Perhaps just one time.
But certainly at least once.