Monday, April 9, 2012

Why Do The Ironman? (Part 3)

Julie Moss's epic crawl towards the finish-line stopped hearts and started a revolution.
Holes in our heads: That’s what it is. Perhaps, finishers of the day-long triathlon are attempting to patch a gapping hole in their heads. Or, are they merely filling a need for personal accomplishment and achievement?

Let’s be clear: we can do a lot more with the time these long-distance athletes invest into their training. Who would rather spend their time sleeping than push off on their bikes for a 60-100K ride? If you ask these dedicated athletes, I am sure that they would rather elect sleep than spinning. The roads are none too safe these days for the knights on iron-steads. I was hit by cab while riding in 2010 (one month before Ironman New Zealand, and I ran into the back of a parked van two months ago. Both were costly exercises in training, yet I learnt to be resilient and re-focus my mind and recovering body on my goals.

Having completed my first Ironman triathlon in 2006 (and a few more along the way), I can vouch for the intense and immense joy and exhilaration of completing the event. You experience another burst of adrenaline which mask your pain as you dash across the line, to receive your medal, beach-towel (wrapped around you like a king’s cape) and the announcement ‘You’re an Ironman!’ (and that applies to both genders). Then, reality sinks in and your flood of emotions get mired with the cramping, and decidedly convenient time for your body to go limp with exhaustion.

The ultra-marathoners know no differently. Anything upwards of a full marathon adds to the challenge factor. I interviewed Singapore’s Kua Jarn Wei and American, Wayne Kurtz – these amazing Deca-Ironman finishers are tough as nails, and just as nuts as the rest of us. However, they are also great guys to hang out with. Every post-race conversation describes, invariably, the toughest parts of the course, but scarcely any reference to how tough these competitors were. Also, the on-course civility and rendering of assistance to your struggling fellow competitors reveals much about such a 'crazy sport'; also, the legion of volunteers who make these races all possible and purposeful. Such is the humility and humanity we get to observe at these obscure and seemingly unimportant events.

I applaud my fellow competitors for attempting and completing. Sometimes, you make the cut-off times, sometimes you don’t (due to a variety of reasons; mainly illness, infection and crippling fatigue). It is the journey that matters and which may have taken 6-12 months to lead you to your destination. The real drama of athletic competition expresses itself through the courageous exploits of the Everydayman doing their first Ironman. I am also inspired by the physically-challenged athletes who pedal their way purely by their hands and arms to complete their races; others who hop and run on carbon-blades (and who I hope do not catch up with, and they have) during the marathon. These episodes in life’s soap-opera are unmatched for their spontaneity, spirit and seriousness. It was also Julie Moss’s crawl to complete her near-win race that captured the hearts of thousands around the world. Perhaps, it is this spirit of wanting to do something, regardless of the implications and consequences, or getting to the finish-line is all that matters!

As Fox would reiterate before each race: ‘The pain is temporary, but the memories are endless!’ And in Ironman, there are numerous stories and an abundance of memories to rely on. 
(Continued tomorrow: Part 4)

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