I like to call myself a ‘re-creational’ athlete. My intention when I do events is to transcend my every day experience of reality. This is no different to other forms of altered states or intoxication but the means by which its achieved certainly derives different responses from people.
I’d like to make a comparison to a common and familiar type of ‘out of it’ experience – the epic night out on the town. You might be sceptical but believe me – at the core of the experience of endurance events is a strange mix of ritualistic preparation, pushing the body’s limits and the bonding with random people and the inevitable – WTF just happened?
The great thing about events like Ironman is you do all the worst things that can happen on a big night out and people will stand and cheer you on, call you a legend then put a medal around your neck when you’re done!
Seriously – for example, you spend a day ensuring you’ve got your lucky socks, enough ‘protection’ (from sun, blisters, cramp and punctures). You start the day slow – pace yourself, but loss of bodily functions at some point is expected and normal. Wetting your pants is completely acceptable as is vomiting and clearing your nose in public. Munchies are planned for and chips, coke and lollies are simply fuel to keep your body moving. Staggering and crying with complete strangers who feel like long lost soul mates fully describes the end of an ironman (or the closing time of a night club). Your body hurts, sweat is soaking everything, but everyone is the same – not pretty but united in ugly. And like a big night out there is the aftermath – the bodies lying on beds, being rehydrated intravenously – others keeled over in various states of distress wondering ‘why’ or ‘I want my mum’ or ‘I didn’t know you could get cramp there’. Others sharing a hug, a story, a thank you, a moment in time.
The difference is the kind of hangover you have. The endorphin high lasts days and the transformation some go through is truly inspiring. This isn’t being ‘wasted’ – its like my dear friend Tracey Lemon said to me once “Ironman isn’t a day in your life, it is your life in one day”.
I salute those who go clubbing all night – they are fellow seekers of altered states and the sense of themselves that comes with this, but I can’t do it that way – and I don’t want to, no judgement – it’s just a preference. I don’t ask people who club, rave, etc – how long did you go out for or how much did you drink for some measurable assessment of their night, I ask – how was your night? And really hope they left the lycra at home.
[In honour of Tracy Lemon RIP – someone who lived and breathed the spirit of Ironman and living life fearlessly and honestly]