Thanks to our very own Mike Simpson we got this great recap on ‘Why Ironman?’ which so many triathletes get from someone who could not comprehend how or why you would want to do all that in one day, a 3.8km swim, straight into a 180km cycle and then a marathon of 42km… His recent Ironman South Africa 10th Edition journey and finish below…
The question most often asked by an audience when exposed to the phrase, “I’ve entered the Ironman.” What people don’t realize is that they answer that question in the ensuing cascade of negatives which erupt from their mouths in disbelief; “it’s too hard, it’s so long, I could never do that, that’s insane, you’re crazy!” That my friends, is the point.
Given the remarkable torrent of pessimism we’re exposed to on a daily basis from sensationalist, mainstream media we don’t, unfortunately, lack for reminders of our own mortality. Put more positively, we live in a world that challenges us to be the very best versions of ourselves we can be, all the time, everyday. A common exercise to orient oneself with ones goals is to ask the question, “if you had x amount of time left to live, what would you do?” Most people are readily able to list activities that would provide them with equanimity in death, knowing that they’d lived a full, and in their own worlds, meaningful life. But ask those same people years later how many of those things they’ve done? Not many, if any.
I decided long ago, I would not be one of those people. I would push myself to the very limit of living in as many ways as I felt I needed to in order to one day die a happy man. A good man. A man who lived, hard.
I had the privilege to watch an amazing woman complete this race called the Ironman, and after seeing what people had to go through to achieve this goal of theirs, I knew I had to do it too…Game on.
To paraphrase the all-time epic Guy Ritchie film, “Snitch”; “Every action has a reaction, and an Ironman reaction is quite a f^%$^ thing.” Consequences of deciding to compete are sacrifice, and pain. Pushing yourself everyday to the limit, constantly pushing through to the next milestone. Early mornings, a severe lack of social life, 15+hrs of training a week, and aching muscles begging you to stop. Consequences of deciding to compete are also glory, personal growth, and the realisation that you’re capable beyond the limits of your former self. When things are hard and they keep getting harder, but you survive and you keep surviving, you start to believe. When that happens, kiss your old self goodbye mate, you’ve crossed the veil and the only way to go is up and on.
Fast forward to April 6 2014. You’re standing on a beach with 2499 other versions of you standing around you. You don’t all have the same goal but you’re all there for one thing, finish as best you can. That kind of dream-catching-soul-igniting-ground-breaking-limit-defying determination magnifies to bring the very air you breathe to life. There’s drums beating ripples of excitement into your skin. Helicopters are rumbling, reverberating, acknowledging with a gesture of sound the gravity of the task you’ve set yourself to complete. Inhale, and the adrenaline is there. Exhale, and you’re laughing and screaming “woooooohooooooohooooo” at the top of your lungs because it’s time to tuck and roll baby!
Boom. The National Anthem sounds and a wave of heat washes through your veins as your soul pours its strength into your blood.
Boom. No going back now.
Boom. I can do this.
Words could never truly capture what it means to be an Ironman. For me it was about pushing the limit, giving a Herculean effort, giving everything I had to reach a dream…to show myself that I could. With every chance of failure, and believe me at times I thought I would fail, to keep going and to succeed was a life changing experience. I struggled for days afterwards to truly understand how it made me feel to accomplish this feat. In the end, I captured it as follows:
The path is not for those,
Who claim to be unafraid.
the path is but for the few,
Who venture when they would stay.
Glory lies not in wait,
Only scars that will not heal.
But when it’s greater things that matter,
It’s them that will not yield.
The shadows to them will whisper,
Of a heart beaten, broken and bent.
the heart defiant will cry,
That a life for a life would be spent.
For no matter the trials ahead,
The shield shall always be raised.
With courage to shine through their darkness.
It’s then that a hero is made.
These words for me were a representation of the human potential to be more than we ever thought possible, by simply taking a single step, and then another. To journey, to stumble. To fall, and lie. To rise, and conquer. Falter, but never die.
It was an experience, unforgettable. To the people who travelled this road with me, you’re all heroes in my mind. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. To you the reader, I wish you well in your first step, and the many more that follow.
To the ES Team, gladiators of 2014…YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!!