Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Ironman Triathlon : What They Don't Tell You

A few weeks ago I submitted an article to the Oklahoma Sports and Fitness magazine about my Ironman journey.  The purpose of the article was to capture the ups and downs of the entire process while adding in a sense of humor.   The article was published in the latest issue of the magazine so I thought I'd share it with you guys.  Here is the direct link:

It's on page 12.  I'll also post the body of the article here in case the link doesn't work.  I hope you enjoy!

Ironman – What They Don’t Tell You

Before I began my Ironman journey, I always thought of the Ironman distance as the ultimate test:  the perfect test of mind, body, heart, and soul.  It was the one race that I ultimately dreamed of doing when I got my start in endurance sports.  It was the race that would let me know I had officially made it in endurance sports.  On August 28, 2011, I officially made it.  On that sunny day in Louisville, Kentucky, I crossed the finish line of Ironman Louisville with a time of 12 hours, 45 minutes, and 53 seconds.  It was an experience I’ll never forget.  It was also an experience that taught me a lot about triathlon and myself.  Let me explain:

I’m a relative newbie to the triathlon world.  I’m not even two years old in triathlon years.  Before now, I wasn’t aware of all of its intricacies and odd behavior.  Training for sprint and Olympic distance triathlons only scratched the surface.  Runners are often labeled as crazy by the general population.   Triathletes are a whole different breed.   Leading up to my registration for Ironman Louisville I did a lot of research and asked a lot of questions.  I wanted to know what the experience was really going to be like.  I wanted the dirty details.   I wanted the nitty gritty of what it would ultimately take for me to become an Ironman.  No sugarcoating.  No romanticism.  Just lay it out in front of me. 

I received a lot of great feedback from my coach, on message boards, from fellow triathletes, even from Ironman broadcasts themselves.  I was a sponge.  I soaked in all of the knowledge I possibly could so I’d be prepared for the gauntlet ahead of me.  I prepared for the long hours.  I prepared for the physical and mental stress.  I prepared for the exhaustion.  I even prepared for the costs.  However, there are just some things you can’t prepare for because you never thought you should.  It’s now my goal to help you prepare for what’s ahead as you embark on your own journey.

You will become obsessed.   Everything you do, say, or think will be related to your Ironman or your training.  Suddenly nothing else exists.  You are the only person on this Earth and everything must revolve around your schedule.  Someone’s getting married?  Tough!  They should have scheduled around your race.  Someone’s moving?  Tough!  Hire a mover.  Someone needs to reschedule a meeting?  Yeah right, try again.  The family wants to celebrate birthdays? That’s dumb.  Haven’t they already had 39 of those?   You get my point.  You are the only person who could possibly be this busy and no one else understands it but you and those who are also training for an Ironman.  

Performing bodily functions on yourself, while moving, and in front of other people suddenly becomes acceptable and almost expected.   No longer is it necessary to stop to use the bathroom.  Why waste those precious seconds when you could just as easily go on yourself?  You are wearing moisture-wicking material after all.  Flatulation also becomes a form of propulsion in the Ironman race.   Don’t hold it in and rob yourself of that burst of speed you get for a split nanosecond.  Let it go.  Enjoy the free speed.   

Rashes, sores, sunburns, and other forms of bodily ailments become badges of honor.   No longer do you care that you have the brand of your tri jersey permanently sunburned to your back.  You show off road rash like it’s the most coveted piece of technology that everyone else wants.  You laugh at someone who talks about being sore from doing yard work.  How could they possibly be sorer than you?  You just biked 6 hours and followed it up with a 2 hour run.  They must be weak.  You would even go as far as showing off your saddle sore to your coworkers but you think there might be an HR violation wrapped up in that one.  Instead you decide to describe it in graphic detail so everyone knows how hardcore you really are now.  You will also decide that sandpaper to the groin area is the ultimate test of toughness.  Who needs body glide when your body provides the perfect lubricant of salty sweat?  Good luck with that one.   It burns.

You will cry.  You will cry a lot.  You will hit the submit button on your entry form and you will cry.  You will watch the Ironman World Championships on NBC and you will cry.  You will dream of yourself crossing the finish line and you will cry.  As the event gets closer, you become even more emotional.  You will become grouchy.  You will snap at people for the most random things.  You will start crying and not even know why you are crying.  You think I’m kidding, but it’s true.  Suddenly you are a hormonal teenager all over again.  No one understands you.  No one can comfort you.  All you want to do is talk about yourself, have someone listen, and then have them go away so you can focus on yourself some more.   Your friends will cringe when your phone number pops up on caller ID.  They know you don’t want to hear how they are doing.  You just want to talk about how far you have to ride your bike this weekend and how no one understands how you feel.  Don’t be surprised if you don’t talk to a few of your friends during your training.  Don’t worry though, you’ll realize you were a self-absorbed freak and apologize with meals, alcohol, and an abundant amount of favors after it’s over. 

In all honesty, there is really nothing that can prepare you for the Ironman journey.  You’ll learn things about yourself that you never knew.   You’ll dig deep to find that inner strength that only your parents and God knew existed.  You’ll surprise yourself week after week as you adapt to your new lifestyle.  But most importantly you will come out on the other side a different person.  You will never look at a situation and second guess your ability to perform.  Suddenly anything is possible.  The day after I finished Ironman Louisville I knew I wasn’t finished.  I knew it was only the beginning.  It was the chapter in my life that opened the door to endless possibilities.  Now I don’t think about “if”, I think about “when”.  My motto has always been the same: “Dream big.  Work hard.  Make it happen.”  Now that dream just got a lot bigger.  

Here are a few pics from the day that I bought online.  I haven't shared these yet on here.  I really still get goosebumps and smile when I think about that day. 

I hope you all are doing well.  Run happy friends.   


  1. Total awesomness! Congrats and thanks for sharing, Bryan! :)

  2. I just found your blog - great tips! I'm a runner who lost her mind & signed up for a HALF iron. What have I gotten myself in to? These tips are great! Can't wait to read more about your training!