Friday, September 23, 2005

Becoming an Ironman

Friday, September 23, 2005
"Becoming an Ironman" is a collection of personal stories of the first experience of many athletes attempting their first Ironman Triathlon. An Ironman Triathlon is a race consisting of a 2.4 mile swim followed by a 112 mile bike ride followed by a marathon (26.2 miles). Some runners may consider the marathon to be the ultimate endurance event and with good reason, the marathon is not to be taken lightly, but Ironman only lets you run a marathon after one has traveled 114.4 miles. Since "Ironman" is actually a trademark of the World Triathlon Corporation, the "Ironman" name can only be used for a race sponsored by the WTC. But any triathlon of 140.6 miles can be considered an "Iron" distance race and the finishers are no less an Ironman as those finishing a sponsored race. 140.6 miles is a long, long way to go, and typically there is a 17 hour time limit. In "Becoming an Ironman" many athletes will tell of their experience in their own words.

The stories contained in this book are broken into a variety of sections. There are stories from those who are middle of the pack athletes and who struggled with the Ironman but still found strength to complete it. There is a section featuring athletes who learned in their first attempt that they were quite good at this distance and turned in excellent times which put them among the leaders. Conversely the stories of those who finished Ironman with only a minute or an hour to spare are no less compelling. Then there are the Did Not Finish (DNF) stories of those who for one reason or another had to drop out of the race or just could not make it to the finish line in time (the one who finished some six minutes after 17 hours was tough to take).

Every one of these stories provides inspiration to push through my pain in a race and furthers my desire to one day attempt and complete an Ironman despite the pain I know it will cause. But these same stories collected in "Becoming an Ironman" suffers from the fact that while reading a handful of these stories is easy and inspiring, reading every story back to back becomes repetitive. Yes, everyone struggled and gutted it out and provides a reason to be inspired, but it is essentially the same story every time with minor variations. The different sections helps as the stories are grouped into similar kinds of experiences, but it is still a lot of take at one time.

My recommendation is that this is an excellent book about the Ironman experience from the perspective of the average (if "average" can describe anyone attempting Ironman) athlete, but the reader should only read a few stories a day. Each story is only a few pages long and this way there will be less of a sense of burnout by the time the end is reached. Inspiring stuff, here.


Shelley said...

I should get this book, i've heard about it, but never read it!! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, hopefully you'll get to experience your own Ironman story!!

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