Why Race Ironman?

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Why Race Ironman?

written by: USAT Certified Coach Curt Chesney

I’ve raced about 18 Ironmans, not really sure. I’m trying not to count them. If my memory were better I’d probably only have raced my first. I think this lack of a good memory is why people are able to sign up for more Ironmans. This year at about mile 16 during IMLP I decided to never race another Ironman. It just hurt that bad. By mile 18 I had decided I was done with triathlons and needed to find a new hobby. After I finished I told my wife Lisa “that’s it I’m not doing another one of those”. A couple minutes after I crossed the line Greg Welch asked me if I was going to race Kona and go for the 40-44 age group record there. I said “hell no!” That evening my “hell no” was becoming “maybe” and the next day I was signing up for Kona. What is wrong with me? In the weeks that followed I found myself day dreaming about that 40-44 win at Kona.

Ironman isn’t even my best distance. My training indicates I should be a fair bit faster over the 140.6 miles. I’ve had some good Ironmans but never nailed one. I feel I am better at the 70.3 distance, but continue to focus on the Ironman distance. After a lot of reflection in the days after Ironman Lake Placid I really wanted to find out why I do these races. I recalled in a conversation with my first coach he asked, “why do you race IM?” Of course I couldn’t give a good answer and sort of brushed it off. I hadn’t thought about it since. I think this is a question every Ironman athlete should take some time to answer. Racing or even completing an Ironman is a different experience for everyone. For me I race Ironman for three reasons. The challenge, the emotion, and most people can’t.

The number one reason is the challenge. I’ve done quite a few now and they were all extremely hard. I know the ones I do in the future will be just as hard. They don’t seem to get any easier. If something is easy I usually don’t like it.

The emotion you experience on race day is like nothing else. Race morning I am psyched up, not nervous, just ready to do battle. Standing in my wetsuit before I get in the water looking at 2000 competitors gets me pumped up. These are people that speak my language if you know what I mean. As the start draws near and I start to think about what I am actually about to do I sometimes cry. Without anyone seeing of course. In my head I’m thinking “I am about to go very hard for a long time and it is going to really hurt… man I may not even finish”. All the long training and sacrifices comes to a climax. The rest of the race is usually an up and down emotional roller coaster (mostly after mile 13 of the run) that I don’t get in other races. Every time I go by my eagerly cheering wife and daughter I cry again. What’s up with that? I must be a serious whimp. Maybe I do Ironmans to prove otherwise.

I’d say that most sane people in the world wouldn’t even consider doing an Ironman. It is still an elite club, kinda like marathon running used to be. When I think of people that can’t do one I have to include my friend Richard. He has done several Ironmans, even going sub 10. He was diagnosed with brain cancer this year and obviously can’t do an Ironman, at least for now. I thought about him a lot when I was suffering at Ironman Lake Placid. That helped a lot. When everything hurt and it didn’t seem worth the pain I’d realize that pain is all relative to your situation and my situation wasn’t that bad after all. At least I had the choice to pull over and end the pain. I wanted to think about him during my race at Hawaii, to help me through the hard parts. I wasn’t able to because my crazy work schedule made me miss Kona this year. Now I’m eager to race and in 2010 I’ll know why I’m racing. Maybe then I’ll nail that perfect Ironman race.

Curt Chesney
Curt Chesney
Curt Chesney combines five years of coaching experience with twenty years of racing experience to help his athletes reach their potential.
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