Ironman Part 2: Can He Walk At All Or If He Moves Will He Fall?


If you missed Part 1 here it is. Now for part 2:

If you missed Part 1 here it is. Now for part 2:

The First Thing You Have To Know About An Ironman Race Is that "tough" doesn't even come close to describing it. You think you know fatigue? This race converts the muscles of the world’s strongest athletes into vanilla pudding, commonly causes nausea and internal bleeding, and makes athlete's foot seem like a fungal blessing. Far beyond merely tough, Ironman's ugly.

When you race in Kona, Hawaii where the Ironman World Championships are held, you’re racing against more than just a field of 1500, and your own physical limitations. You’re also racing against the elements—stifling humid heat is a constant and unpredictable gusty winds pay a heady toll.

“You can be out on the bike goin 30 miles an hour floating along and then you hit this huge headwind out of nowhere and you’re down to 12 miles an hour” says Scott. “You think what has happened? How long am I going to have to endure this? Most people psychologically break because they’re not used to dealing with such adverse conditions in their training.”

And if you think you’re at least going get to scope out the tropical fish between strokes on the swim you got another thing coming with all the inadvertent elbowing and kicking that goes down. “Each year to date the swims are brutal,” sighs Scott. Then of course the training is also killer. Tim Deboom was doing a road ride in Tucson Arizona in 1995 when he was knocked unconscious. “An elderly lady in a big car threw me from my bike. I broke my second, third, and fourth lumbar vertebraes.” He still has some back pain issues from the crash. A year later while trail running in Tucson, he broke his leg and was sidelined from competition for almost a year. “I haven't been back to Tucson," says Deboom.

‘No pain no gain” may have been the fitness mantra of the '80s but Ironman takes that concept to a whole different level. With this competition, it's more a case of, “Your heart may say no, but your body still goes.” Scott was already swimming 4000-5000 yards and running 10-13 mile a day, six days a week-“just for personal fitness”- before he heard of Ironman.

Once he decided to compete, it became a matter of incorporating bike rides (250 miles a week) into his schedule, and ramping up his workouts to six hours a day. Even Scott’s fitness junkie buddies, and those are the only kind you make with that kind of workout, thought he was insane. “They’d shake their heads and go ‘wow man this guy's a nutcase.’”

It’s not just the exertion that’s insane about Ironman, it’s the deprivation too—this is after all a race that takes an entire day to complete. Ironman pioneer John Collins tells a a legendary albeit unsubstantiated story of stopping at a greasy spoon for chili during the first-ever running of the Ironman. Most racers don’t believe it.

“That’s a lot of baloney to me,” says Scott, I think Collins embellishes some of his stories. He’s probably like that because he was never much of an athlete”.

So what do real Ironmen chow down on? Well, Scott subsisted primarily on bananas and figs in the 80s. “People followed what I’d eat and they’d end up jumping in the bushes every ten miles,” he says. “But what do you have instead, a peanut butter sandwich?”

These days top competitors like Deboom drink Redbull, crunch on power bars, and slurp power gels to keep their bodyies on the go.

No matter how F.U.B.A.R the Ironman lifestyle may seem, it becomes a religion to the it’s practitioners. “I enjoy the training more than the racing,” admits Deboom. For Scott he saw the training as a game. “I was intrigued by how I would recover, then be able do it again" he remembers. "I thought, 'Ok I could do this-- and maybe go a little farther or harder the next day.' It really didn't seem to have an end to it."

While many competitors including Deboom and Allen were content merely to finish the race when they first got into Ironman, for Scott it was never about merely survival it was always a race.

This could be why Scott blew by the field in his first race in 1980. “I never saw anyone the whole race,” he remembers. "I led on the swim, I led on the bike and then won on the run.” Which aslo explains why Dave Scott, is known in triathalon circles simply as “the Man.”

Copyright © Mike Dojc, 2006

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