Shortly after announcing two Ironmans over a three week stretch that took me to Louisville and Wisconsin, it's become clear to me that each event takes on a face of its own. While flying home from Madison I was reflecting a little on these events and realized that the personality of an Ironman is shaped by many influences.
When we meet someone for the first time we assess what type of person they are. We do this selfishly, to evaluate whether or not we'll like them, and whether or not we'll want to associate with them. With Ironman you don't have that luxury, even if you've done the event before.
You show up race week and go through all the required rituals of unpacking, picking up your bike, checking in for the event, attending the expo, and enjoying the welcome dinner (hopefully). But you know you will be meeting the real Ironman on Sunday morning. You've probably heard about this mammoth personality, the one that has crowded your already overloaded brain with preconceived notions and expectations. Then, as the cannon thunders, you get your first wet dose of its true self.
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So how does an Ironman event create its own personality?
With IM Louisville the morning displays a soft character. You stand in line waiting your turn while Old Kentucky Home is brilliantly played on the bugle. The canon fires, the line starts to move, and you jump off a boat dock into the expansive Ohio River. At this point Louisville is going pretty easy on you. This should be a clue, but you ignore it.
An Ironman's personality is always in your face—the only constant you can count on.
IM Wisconsin is a different story. You are rushed down a three-level helix parking ramp from transition to the water, then prodded to get into Lake Monona as fast as possible. The overworked Ironman cannon performs its job again, and you are thrust into a washing machine of arms and legs. This race is like a bad first impression--like meeting someone for the first time, and they are up in your grill right away, almost nose to nose. But with Ironman you resign yourself to the fact that it'll be with you all day and night so you'd better make the best of it.
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I'm an Ironman announcer, not a psychiatrist or therapist, but I do know that a person can take on different personalities to fit the situation they're in. Ironman is no different. How many times during the event did you loath it and then love it, both in the same hour?
After the relatively easy Louisville swim (if 2.4 miles is easy) you hit the lovely Kentucky hillside roads. If their undulating personality wasn't enough for you, how about what Mother Nature threw in? She decided to take a sauna early in the day, and pull riders in with her. I was out in LaGrange calling out to the cyclists at the 48-mile mark, and the heat-drenched, blank stares weren't what we were expecting at that point in the race.
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