So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Monday, December 15, 2008

You Have Some "Splaining" To Do

Some numbers are more daunting than others. Take the iron-distance triathlon. Even some of my closest friends have a difficult time wrapping their head around the 140.6-mile (total) distance. After you translate/transform it out to the metric system for the benefit of metric-system-using friends up in Canada, 226 and change (kilometers) sounds even the more insane. To make it sound more round, my metric-speaking friends call it "220."
17 is a more-simple number; that's the number of hours you have to complete the entire event. However, the race organizers make that more complicated by instituting cut-off times for the swim & the bicycle portions. You have to finish the 2.4-miles of open water swimming in 2:20. That means you have to swim 100 yards in a little over three minutes...42 times. I consider myself a poor swimmer, and my distance swim time averages right on the ragged edge of 2:05 for 100 yards.
If you manage to get through that, then you have the privilege of jumping on your bicycle and riding 112 miles, with a cut-off time of somewhere around 10:30 from the start of the race. Oh, the clock doesn't stop after the swim, either.
Let's presume you make it out of the water by the slimmest of margins (sometimes the participants do not), you have to average a little under 14 miles per hour to make the bicycle cut-off. Attaboy.
Now it's time to put your running gear on and do a marathon. Once again, assuming you finish right before the cut-off, it's 6 hours and 30 minutes to travel, under your own power, 26.21875 miles, or 14 minutes & 48 seconds per mile; a rapid stroll...albeit on legs powered by long-depleted energy sources.
Now think about this; there are professionals who are doing this in less than nine hours, and strong amateurs doing it in less than ten. Lots of the finishers could care less about making it in ten; most want to just simply finish.
So, once you run the numbers in a brutally-analytical manner (a friend of mine has completed three Ironman events; we talked about this calculus one night over dinner), where is the challenge? Is it in trying to get through as quickly as possible? Is it in trying to get through it faster than the last time you did it? Or is it in trying to get through it, period? I believe much of it has to do with the mind; having to wrap your head around the concept of distance & of time. Being strong enough to continue forward, yet smart enough to know how fast (or how slow) you need to go in order to make it to the line. Being able to live in the immediate moment & compartmentalize the activity.
Perhaps Desi Arnaz was right: '...anyone who goes to (do this) needs to have their head examined.'

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