Nov 26, 2008

Three Ironman Events in 2008

Well I finally accomplished my goal and completed the FULL Ironman Triathlon. Please see the Full Race Report entry below, but for a quick summary, my goal was to treat this event like a long workout, nothing more. I had way too much time and emotion invested in this endeavor to engage in a high-risk strategy of racing for the best possible time; essentially, the plan was to be disciplined and frankly, just "cruise" the 140.6 miles.

It's a very long day to cover 140.6 miles, and if one rejects their race plan, loses focus and discipline, it can spell disaster. I was now experienced enough from two prior Ironman events this year to know that I must stick to my race plan, and I am glad that I did, because disaster struck on the swim, the bike AND the run!

Despite the problems, I still had a terrific event (again, finishing was my goal, not racing!), and finished within 2 minutes of my projected time, breaking 14 hours with a total race time of 13 hours, 58 minutes.

It's just so interesting how this race works though. In the swim, I finished in the bottom 40% of my age group; in the bike I was WAY back, finishing in the bottom 10% of my age group, and in the run, I finished in the bottom 40%. Overall, I finished in the bottom 25%; essentially 75% of all participants finished in front of me. I crossed the line in front of 600 other entrants, but behind 1,585 Ironmen.

And for the entire year, I completed three Ironman events in 2008. Two of these events were the Half Ironman, which is known as the "Ironman 70.3"

While the 70.3 is exactly half the distance in each of the segments, it is still fully-sanctioned by the Ironman organization. However, there's lots of controversy as to whether or not one is a "REAL" Ironman if they complete an Ironman-sanctioned 70.3. Those of us who have finished the "half" would certainly like the Ironman distinction, but most athletes agree that you have to complete the real deal, the FULL Ironman, to earn that coveted distinction.

As I have written about in prior entries, I have always believed that one is really not worthy of the Ironman distinction until they have completed the full 140.6 mile event; I know that many people would disagree with me.

But my final word on all of this is that when you cross the finish line in the 70.3 event, they announce your name, but they do NOT say, "You are an Ironman." They only way you'll hear that is if you cross the finish line at the fully sanctioned 140.6 mile Ironman event.

So while my wife, my business partner Kevin, and many others have urged me to stop at the half Ironman, I would not have ever felt worthy of the title until I had completed the full event as it was originally run the very first time on the island of Oahu in 1978.

The FULL IRONMAN has always been a 2.4 mile swim (which is the exact length of the Honolulu rough water swim and how they arrived at that distance for the event), a 112 mile bike segment (which is the exact length of a full loop around the island of Oahu) and a full 26.2 mile marathon.

Anything less than that, and you are not an Ironman.

And no, if you complete a half-Ironman, I really don't think you qualify for half of an Ironman tattoo. Sound silly? Well this is a big issue with a lot of people who complete a 70.3!

Training for the full Ironman is exponentially more work than just training for the 70.3. It is 3 - 4 times more complicated and difficult and time consuming. Those who have trained for and completed the full Ironman know the difference. You cannot just read about it in a book to understand it; you really need to live it. You need to understand the discipline, the sacrifice, the struggle, the enormous number of training hours this endeavor takes.

Completing the 70.3 does not make one an Ironman. And as a finisher of two half-Ironman evetnt as well as a full Ironman, I now understand the difference.

I now understand why my completion of the Hono/Kona 70.3 in May and the Vineman/Sonoma 70.3 in July were great achievements, but certainly not Full Ironman efforts. To understand the difference, one needs to complete the full 140.6 event.