A few (OK, eight) years ago, Provo, Utah was bestowed a tremendous honor: it would be the newest host of an official Ironman. So of course, every local who had pretensions in any of the sports at least considered doing the race.
I, of course, was one of these people. I didn’t actually go so far as to sign up for the race, because that would have been exactly the same as telling my wife that I wanted a divorce. See, she was pregnant with twins at the time, and there was a reasonable likelihood that she’d either be on bed rest or delivering on race day (with twins, the delivery window is gigantic).
But still, I thought about it. And once, while Dug and I were riding the Alpine Loop together (on one of the parts where you can simultaneously talk and breathe), I made an outrageous claim:
“I think I could do an Ironman right now. No special training. Just pull it out of my butt.”
I wasn’t joking, but I said it in such a way that it could be treated as a joke. And I expected Dug to treat it as a joke. After all, I do make unfounded, outrageous claims from time to time.
“It’s funny you should say that,” replied Dug. “I’ve been thinking the same thing.” And we went on to discuss how a fit cyclist could just roll up to the starting line of an Ironman and do it.
Gear is essential here. You’ve got to have one of those specialty triathlon wetsuits. Have you ever swam in one of those? It’s incredible: you’re instantly twice as good of a swimmer as you are in real life. You float better, you slide through the water faster, and they’re all set up to give your arms a good range of motion.
I can understand why triathletes get worked up about their wetsuits. There are probably gradations and subtleties of wetsuits they can get all geeked up about, just like cyclists get all obsessed with their bikes. The few times I swammed with those wetsuits, I swear: it was almost like I knew what I was doing.
Even so, as someone who hasn’t swummed much, I know I’d tire out before long. And that’s what the backstroke is for. Flop over on your back and just troll along.
Hey, we weren’t saying we’d win the Ironman.
Acknowledging that we would be two of the last three out of the water, we’d quickly find our bikes (because there wouldn’t be any others left in the rack), eating a nice, healthy lunch before starting the ride.
Perhaps, just to underscore the fact that we weren’t taking this thing seriously, we’d wear baggy mountain biking shorts and ride full suspension mountain bikes for the ride (but we’d put on slicks and lock out the suspension). Maybe we’d wear those BMX-style helmets, too.
Turning a nice easy gear, we could ride a road century in our sleep (though that may increase our chances of missing a turn).
You see how I’ve cleverly avoided titling this section “The Run?” That’s because there’d be little actual running involved. It’d be more of a hobbling, wounded-animal limpfest that lasted five hours, at least. Probably six, to be honest. We’d walk 75% of it. But we’ve both done marathons before. We knew we could push through another.
And then we could say we’d done it: an improvisational, no-specific-training Ironman.
The thing is—and I have no way to prove it—I really do think a reasonably strong cyclist with endurance riding experience could pull off an Ironman without any particular training in the other disciplines. And by “reasonably strong cyclist,” I mean me.
So the big questions are:
- Am I completely out of my mind, or is this possible? Both?
- For cyclists, pure swimmers, and pure runners: Could you do an Ironman right now? For triathletes: Could you do the Leadville 100 or Cascade Creampuff today? (For the Leadville part, pretend that Columbine mine is not presently buried in deep snow.)
- How much money would someone have to pay you to try? Would it need to take the form of a bet, or would it need to be straight-up payment?
For myself, I’m thinking a $3000 bet would do it, but the guy betting me would have to pay my entry fee and buy me a wetsuit, which I get to keep no matter what.
PS: This post originally published May 2, 2006, in my Spaces archive. And also, right now I’m pretty sure I could not complete an Ironman.