My favorite sporting event no one is watching.

So, today is the World Championship Ironman in Kona. You won’t find live T.V. coverage unfortunately. It’s streaming online, though, so I’ve been watching on and off throughout the day. You can step away for HOURS, and come back to a race that is still not over. We’re about 6 1/2 hours into it right now. Can you even imagine? 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride & oh just a marathon (26.2 miles) to finish. Insane. I think it’s the most physically challenging sport out there, and it’s so inspiring to watch.

The footage of the “age group” participants (us regular folks) is just as awesome. There is a cutoff time of midnight, so you will see people crawling in right at the deadline & the crowds cheering. I can’t imagine finishing at 12:05am or something & them saying “sorry about that! good try!” There are both tears and cheers from me every year–sitting at home watching on a laptop like a big nerd.

I had no idea when I completed my first triathlon 5 or so years ago that I would become such a fan. Running was so revolutionary for me. I doubted swimming/biking could add anything to that. I still don’t really like swimming all that much–especially in the open waters (murky, scary, anxiety-inducing). I DO love the bike–mainly because you get to sit down at least! Really, I love the whole energy of the event. There is a ton of fear from everyone at the beginning. It’s probably 4:30am & pitch black outside. Everyone is questioning their ability in the water (wow, those waves are big!)–we’re all saying (I hear this EVERY race) how we wish we could just get right on the bike. We all run in the water like maniacs anyways, hopping over waves as if we are being chased. Getting hit by flailing arms, tangled in seaweed & trying to take a normal breath amidst all the excitement and panic. We drag ourselves out of the water, not knowing how we will ever get the wetsuit off–much less get on the bike & ride.

Riding the bike is surprisingly quiet. Roads are usually shut down to cars, and we’re not riding at a conversational pace. All you can hear is a little heavy breathing, and that’s it. Everything flies by. You actually can take a second to enjoy yourself–especially if there is awesome scenery.

The run–ahhh, the most comfortable for me. Because at least if you can’t run, you can walk! Or if you can’t walk, maybe you can roll? But sometimes your legs feel like bricks as you hop off the bike and take your first steps. Sometimes your stomach cramps from the weird energy gels you’ve been eating on the bike. Sometimes your legs feel like they are screaming at you to stop because haven’t they done enough already? And then you manage to somehow, always surprisingly, get into some kind of groove & oftentimes can even sprint it in at the end.

And at the end, you are so dirty and gross. You are sometimes still wet and salty from the water & from the sweat. Your legs can be covered with mud depending on where you are riding/running. Your hands are sticky with those energy gels. You’re sandy from the beach. The bottom of your feet are black from running on the pavement in the “transition” area. That anyone would cheer me on & act like I look totally normal when I finish one of these–God bless them. These things put you through the ringer.

But something in this mix of panic, thrills, excitement, torture, sun, water, sand, trails, streets, exhaustion, fear, doubt, confidence–it’s like all of life rolled into a tiny 3 hour segment. And turns out, life is really really FUN! Except for the post-race festivities (I never need to hear “Pump up the Jam” played that loudly), which always make me feel like I have social anxiety & need to find a quiet car as soon as possible.

I’ve taken a year off of triathlons–2 marathons seemed like enough in one year. And plus, the juggling of all 3 sports can sometimes be overwhelming. Breaks are good it turns out–as I watch the footage today, I can’t WAIT to start back on my bike and in the pool after November. And it’s been a couple of seasons since I’ve been able to say that. To whatever sport inspires you! (Even if it can only be found on the internet).