There is an interesting drama that unfolds as people pursue their dreams of becoming an Ironman. We all have different reasons for chasing this rabbit, and we all have different fears and challenges as we get closer to race day. As I've become more familiar with those around the triblog community (TBC), one concern continues to crop up.
From my perspective, this is odd. The run is a full marathon, tacked on at the end of a VERY long day. A marathon starting at 7 a.m. is tough, and I can only begin to imagine a marathon after the swim and bike. And the bike is a good bit longer than a century. Having completed a century ride many moons back, that is no easy feat. It also comes after a good bit of exercise.
The swim. It's "only" (used in the loosest of terms) 2.4 miles, and is the first task of the day. It comes right after a hopefully good night's sleep, a good pre-race breakfast, and before any other activity. And as many an expert will point out, it is the least physically demanding of the three disciplines. Finally, it occurs in water, which helps prevent overheating.
Oh, wait, there it is. It. Takes. Place. In. Water. That's the big hitch.
Despite all the mental gymnastics to detail why the swim should be the least of our concerns, the swim in any race is the most daunting task, for me. A quick review of many triblogs will confirm that many of us are gravely concerned about the swim portion of our events.
When training for a marathon, 20 miles is the absolute longest training run I complete. I have quickly ratcheted my bike distance up to 70 miles, and have few concerns about completing a century, despite not having done so in ages. And a century is likely the furthest I would ever consider biking in preparation for an Ironman race. Why, then, am I so insistent upon putting in huge yardage in the pool? My next race has a 3/4 mile swim. I have been training with 1, 1.2, and 1.5 mile swims. And I saw nothing odd with Iron Wil completing a 4000 yard swim to train for Ironman Wisconsin.
When this crazy journey started, I felt like a flounder in the water. A co-worker aptly defined it as "swimming like a barge." After several months, I am less awkward and far less concerned with my ability. Still, my pace averages right around 2:30/100 yards, and I have a lot of work to do on breathing. The ultimate goal? To be more like Flipper than a flounder. At some point, I want swimming to be like biking and running. "You want to go how far? I'm in." Instead of, "Are you off your rocker. Drowning isn't on the agenda for the weekend."
Swimming is unnatural for people. We don't have gills, flippers, or a strong desire to chase that worm hanging from that shiny metal object. We like air, solid surfaces, and spaghetti hanging from that shiny metal object. Ironman demands that we manage to overcome our fears, learn to trust in ourselves, and complete a task that most consider insane.
All we have to do is meet Ironman's demands.