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Why we love Ironman

It is the time for reflection.

Like many I’ve been reflecting about the season just gone, was it good or not so good, what went well, what not so well, what would I like to change, where to improve, what to aim for next year, and deciding my goals for 2016.

For me personally 2015 was a good one. I had a lot of fun and learnt a lot. I have experienced my first DNF. Most notably for me... I have realised being too serious about your hobby can lead into getting lost in the journey of enjoyment what I love doing.

Why we love Ironman A number of us will be making soon the ‘famous’ (at least in the UK) New Year’s Resolutions. It may be a healthier lifestyle, losing weight, joining a gym, or taking on running, cycling or triathlon. A friend of mine made his resolution a couple of weeks ago. He told me he would like to race a triathlon next year. I said, ‘great, but which one?’ How surprised I was when he replied: ‘I’m going straight for the big one, an Ironman!’

But why an Ironman? What is so special about a long distance race that season after season a number of us start the journey of training for?

I often ask this question myself, why do I love Ironman? I regularly speak with other Age Groupers after an Ironman and a number of them say: "Man, this was painful... It was hard... I suffered so much..."

Some of them even say: "It was my last one... Never again... Training for was so hard... I’m retiring..." Only to sign up for their next one the very next day! Why do thousands of us, each year, take a challenge despite all the pain and hours of training again and again?

In my view: for the very same reason! The pain, the suffering, the discovery of our limits, facing obstacles during training and racing and overcoming them, and of course the bragging rights after completing one. It is a unique feeling standing there on the start line wondering what the day will bring, the uncertainty of whether I’m going to finish, and experiencing the journey of the day, emotions and excitement of crossing the finish line – it’s what makes the journey so special. It may be seen as addictive, in a positive way, and at we see coaches equally love helping athletes to conquer it, improve and enjoy the journey.

I only started fully appreciating why I love triathlon so much this year when I injured my back before IM Switzerland. Although it hurt I wanted to finish it but Brett (Sutton) stopped me after the first loop on the bike. I trained well, I was getting stronger and then BANG, I was there, on the side of the road, unable to stand straight, the opportunity of crossing the finish line taken away from me.

Only then I realised that I was taking things for granted: you train hard, you start, you race hard, you finish... but it wasn’t to be for me this time. Only when I wasn’t able to finish I realised how much it meant to me. I wasn’t able to complete my journey, instead of elevated emotions of finishing, a DNF, I was angry, disappointed, sad, feeling empty...

What came to my rescue was the discussion with Brett who was on hand supporting Trisutto athletes in Zurich. First question he asked me was if I remembered why I started doing triathlons in the first place? "Yes, I do remember..."

It wasn’t because I was competitive or was ‘in the mix’ trying to qualify for Kona. It was because I loved the atmosphere before and after the races, the camaraderie, sharing stories with fellow competitors, having fun, leading a healthy lifestyle. Only when I got a bit faster, I became more competitive, more ‘serious’ about the training and the racing did the attitude change. Not finishing in the top of my AG was a failure, a defeat, a disappointment. I had replaced the positive connotation with training and racing with a negative one. Judging my season by the results only I was slowly becoming a miserable, hyper-competitive, never happy athlete.

We had a good conversation with Brett that day. Not being able to finish the race in Zurich was actually the best thing that happened to me last season. It allowed me to find the enjoyment of training and racing again, having fun and not being so serious about it. The injury and Brett’s mentoring helped me to realise that triathlon started becoming a burden.

Now I can say I’m back to my old path and training and racing is fun again.

Triathlon is my hobby and coaching is my passion and I want both to enhance my life, make it more balanced, make me a happier and a better person.

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