Friday, March 15, 2013

The Ironman Delusion

So... I'll confess... I'm one of those Ironman athletes on the cusp of ditching the sport (to a degree) to venture into the far-more-exciting world of ultra running, of multisport races, of XTERRA, of multi-day races, of Ultraman, of adventure racing... really, anything and everything that seeks to challenge the mind and body.

I feel Ironman has become a serious delusion to many of those that participate in it. For many, they think it is the ultimate endurance event. At just about 12 hours, give or take a couple hrs, it is only the beginning of endurance racing. Ironman itself puts on races around the world that are, to put it lightly, not challenging, not breathtaking, and very often multi-lapped. It becomes more about completing the distance fast, who cares where you go or what you see... than it is about overcoming a challenge, a true challenge: a mountain pass, a challenging loop, an epic trail run. It is a pavement pounder's paradise, and I'm a little over it. There are, of course, exceptions.

I believe Challenge have the right idea for some of their races. Stunning locations, stunning and honest courses -- I dare you to find a more honest course than Challenge Wanaka half-iron!

Nevertheless, my real issue is with the training. Often, I feel I'm not allowed the flexibility in training to cover grounds as I wish: I want to mountain run, trail run, I want to switch it up between my tri bike, my road bike and my mountain bike. I definitely don't want to road run, who on earth would want to run on roads? I want to run/hike the great tracks of the area: Motatapu track, Grandview Range, Isthmus Peak, Routeburn, Hollyford, Greenstone-Caples, etc. New Zealand has a wealth of tracks, and I'm experiencing few, only in the off-season when I'm not in full IM training mode.

Honestly, I want to become a master of the terrain. I want to experience great suffering and pain in races. I want to sign up for a race totally batshit scared again. I also want to do the short races, whatever the discipline, turn off the brain, and go hard!

GODZone began last weekend. It is a non-stop multiday adventure race. The racers only have a day of prep for the course; the start location and disciplines are revealed at the last minute, one day before. I had some friends racing the last 2 years of the race, I followed via live tracking as they went off course, got lost, couldn't find their checkpoint, got frustrated, became sleep deprived and saw sleep monsters. I also saw when they paddled like crazy (despite their fatigue) down the Clutha River to make the dark zone cut off (i.e. no one can paddle on the Clutha river between 8pm and 7am). To say the least, I was inspired. I've written up a two, tentatively three, year plan to get me to that start line.

Well, really, when you're not excited and dreaming of qualifying for the world championships in your own sport (Kona) because you think the course is boring, and the on-road marathon is a joke, then you need to reassess your race choices and your goals. So, I'm reassessing. You'll definitely still see me on the start line of some choice half-iron or 70.3 events... think Boulder 70.3, St George 70.3, Lake Wanaka half, etc...

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