Triathlon, especially the Ironman distance of triathlon, is not for everyone. In my previous post, I wrote about what I think Ironman athletes get right, namely that they love to swim, bike and run. They must love it, or they would not be able to dedicate the amount of time necessary to train for an Ironman. The benefits of exercise increase when you like what you’re doing. Enjoy the process not just the result.
Triathlons, in general, encourage people of all ages to remain active and physically fit. One of the best things about these races is that professional athletes compete next to recreational athletes, otherwise known as age groupers. There are more competitors in the younger age groups, but both men and women are competing into their 60s and 70s. In fact, the oldest competitor was in the 85-89 age group. 85 years old and still swimming, biking and running.
My daughter made friends with a little girl whose grandmother was competing. She is 67 years old and has done the race every year, for the last 15 years. What a way to stay active and fit. It is inspiring to see older athletes competing in such a grueling event and a good reminder that, if we take care of ourselves, we can continue to perform at a very high level.
The support is phenomenal. To be considered an official Ironman finisher, you must complete the course- 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile, bike and 26.2-mile run- in 17 hours. With a usual start time of 7 am, athletes need to cross the finish line by midnight. For some, it comes down to the wire. Some don’t make it.
Here is a clip of an Ironman finish, showing the incredible crowd support. It is part of the Ironman culture to support all the finishers up to and even a little after the cutoff. Fans stick around, and it is a tradition for the winners to return to watch, and help if needed, the final athletes cross the finish line.
Numerous couples compete in the race. We met a Danish couple, with four kids, who both did the race. It was hard enough for my family of three to coordinate the enormous amount of time needed for training. I cannot imagine how they arranged to care for four kids while both parents trained. But they figured out a way. The mom finished fourth in her age group.
For exercise to become a regular habit, finding something you enjoy is essential. Support from your family is too. Since Scott spends at least 10 and sometimes close to 20 hours working out every week, he understands, supports and encourages my exercise habits. At times, he provides the necessary motivation that gets me out the door to work out.
We all have excuses not to exercise: tired, bored, cranky, too cold, too hot, not enough time. The list goes on. Often on those days, exercise is precisely what I need and having a motivator makes the difference between going and not going. Essentially every time this occurs, I am glad I got the exercise I needed and grateful to have a supportive husband.
Again, Ironman training is too much for most people but, what can we learn, or at least be reminded of, from Ironman athletes? Do what you enjoy. It benefits you more. Stay active as you age, because you can. Find people that support you. It’s more fun and sometimes all we need is a cheerleader.