Local Athletes Take on Ironman
Members of the Annapolis Triathlon Club talk about the ultimate challenge.
There is a certain confidence that comes with crossing a finish line. When you run your first 5 kilometers (5K), there is something that clicks inside of you. Something that confirms that you are more than you thought you were and you can do more than you thought you could.
When you run your first marathon, the click is louder and more evident. Suddenly, you have no doubts. Suddenly, you know that you can do anything you really want to do, as long as you are willing to put the work into it.
I have felt this confidence. I know it is a part of me. It is something I will be able to lean back on when I am 99 years old and struggling with a morning mile through the halls of the nursing home. I am a marathoner and that knowledge will always be there.
Having felt this, I can still only imagine how much louder that click is when you cross the finish line at an Ironman event — when you have swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles and run 26.2 miles in one day and crossed that finish line to receive your finisher's medal and finally you hear: "You are an Ironman." I got a little taste of this recently as I sat outside the Baltimore Coffee and Tea Company listening to Jay Corckran, Ron Bowman, Nancy Cooper and Bill Murphy.
These four, all members of the Annapolis Triathlon Club, met me to talk about their experience at Ironman Louisville. As I listened to their tales of completing a 140-mile race in temperatures that started at 80 and reached 102 degrees, I was in awe. With those high temperatures, even super-fit athletes found themselves suffering. The group described seeing riders along the course sitting under single trees just for the chance to cool off. Nancy described runners who were suffering so severely with muscle and stomach cramps that they had to drop out all together. According to Jay and Ron, almost 1,000 runners were treated for heat-related illnesses and close to 800 ultimately had to drop out. Fortunately, six of the seven Annapolis Triathlon Club athletes who attended were able to finish the race.
Bill, a first-time Ironman finisher, told me that the extreme heat we experienced in Maryland this summer helped him cope.
"I had been training in the heat so the hardest part was really just stringing all three of the events together, one after the other," he said.
Nancy's husband, who is also a two-time Ironman finisher, opted out of the race.
"Louisville ... in August? No thanks," he said.
Any other summer I would have said he was a smart man; in hindsight, I think he might be a genius.
I sat and listened to Jay, Ron, Bill and Nancy for almost two hours and I could not tell you what their final times were or in what order they crossed the finish line. I could have asked outright and they may have told me, but it doesn't matter. Whether they came in first or dead last at the Ironman distance, it doesn't matter because they are all covering the miles.
They are all thrashing about in the swim portion with several thousand other participants. They are all sitting on the bike, pedaling through 112 sun-baked miles. And then, after completely depleting their physical reserves, they head out for the marathon, 26.2 miles of physical and mental torture. It doesn't matter which order they came in, it matters that they crossed that finish line.
There is a confidence that comes with completing an endurance race. The level of confidence you earn at the end of the Ironman was described best by Jay as he explained what it felt like to cross the finish line at Ironman Lake Placid, his first at this distance.
"I think I had to duck coming through the tunnel," he said. "I swear I was 12-feet tall as I rounded that last corner and saw that finish line."
As I listened to him describe that moment, I believed him. It was not just in his head, it is written all over these athletes. They are Ironmen.