Monday, November 24, 2008

Ironman: Why?

So the history of Ironman involves three very drunk men arguing over who made the best athletes: swimmers, cyclists, or runners. Their answer to this question would involve taxing athletes to their limits in each of those categories, and the winner would be the Ironman. The first Ironman took place in Hawaii in the '70s. It has since grown in huge popularity causing the Ironman franchise to branch out into other states such as Arizona, Idaho, and Florida, as well as other countries. The Ironman Championships, the mother of all triathlon races, still takes place in Hawaii, but to get a ticket to that event requires a lottery drawing or placing at another sanctioned Ironman event. In other words, a lot of people want to go to the Hawaii Ironman but only a few ever get that chance.

The Ironman distance consists of a 2.6 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile (marathon) run. The reason I provide this brief history is because you would not believe the amount of people who don't know this stuff. A common question from those unfamiliar with triathlon is "Did you do a full triathlon?" The term "full" triathlon means nothing. Each triathlon is "full" in its given distance. What those people usually mean is, "Have you done a full Ironman distance?" Even a sprint distance (400 meter swim, 12 mile bike, 3.1 mile run) can be pretty taxing. I admire anyone who does any distance triathlon. But people who have no clue about triathlon get this glossed look over their eyes when you tell them you've "only" done a sprint or Olympic or even a Half-Ironman. The look says, "Oh, so you haven't done an Ironman ... pansy!" Kulani no longer has to endure that look. Because from here on out when someone asks him whether he's done a "full" triathlon, the answer will be "yes" no matter what they mean by that question.

Kulani really has to answer why he did the Ironman for himself. But I don't regret encouraging him to go for it. It was great fun being there together as a family cheering him on. Watching the athletes come out of the water, off the bike, and into the finish line was so inspiring. The look on the athletes' faces made it so worth it. The great thing about triathlon is that the very serious athletes are in the same race as the 76-year-old man recovering from open-heart surgery. It's like being in a basketball game with Michael Jordan. The big-wigs are still approachable and encouraging fellow competitors to the finish line.

I watched one 50-year-old lady cross the finish line with a smile so big I thought it was going to stretch to her ears. After she crossed the line she brought her hands to her face and wept with joy. Another old guy crossed the finish line with his granddaughter. His shirt read "Irongeezer." Bleachers line the finishing stretch and even 16 hours after the race has started, spectators are cheering their loved ones on to the finish line: giving high fives and cheering loudly. Ironman even sets up a big jumbotron to watch the finishers. You don't really care how or when your loved one finishes, you're just so proud to see them finish at all. I honestly don't think I could finish in the designated time. (You have to finish within 17 hours or you aren't officially a finisher.) I was just in awe of everyone, especially Kulani.

You see, I nudged Kulani away from his precious cycling into the pain world of triathlon. After watching me train and compete, he decided he'd join me. I watched him on his first day of swimming in the gym as he flopped his arms in a somewhat circular motion that propelled his body slowly and awkwardly down the swimming pool lane. He was done after about two laps. He improved rather swiftly, actually teaching himself how to swim better by reading books on the subject. And now he regularly laps me in the pool. He had his fastest swim finish ever at Ironman Arizona. He also hates running. Running isn't very easy on the heftier guys. But the Perseverating Pineapple persevered to this finish:

video

It was awesome to behold.

4 comments:

Mr. Flynn said...

I never want to do that...
I never want to do that...
I never want to do that...
I never want to do that...

Sure that last 50 yards looks cool, but the price is way to spendy to get there. I am not talking in terms of money. Training for the 70.3 maxed me. I am just not willing to go beyond that point. In fact were it not for Fish I would probably be done with that distance. Any more than that--forget about it. I admire Fish though. I respect the time and committment he had to do it. Awesome stuff. Congratulations! I will down a Five Guys Burger in your honor.

Leo and Jill said...

That is completely admirable. Tell Kulani that we are proud of him.

MarySquare said...

Cin, I bet you were crying when you saw him coming and when he crossed the finish line. I even teared up when I watched the video. Congrats Kulani!

Bud Greenwood said...

Kulani,

You sir, are the MAN!!!