Sunday, August 27, 2017

6 Ways an Ironman Can Kill You

So I wrote the requisite whiny post about my self-doubts and "wha wha look at me I just barely finished the hardest thing ever." My friends complimented me on my honesty, but really it's just another way of showing off. "Yeah, after having already moved for 130 miles, and like 14 hours, I kinda wanted to quit. But ya know, I'm awesome so despite my b*thching, I finished that sh*t."

Self-aggrandizement to the max.

Need evidence? I wore a flippin' cape. A cape. And it was shiny. Even in the dark a stray streetlight bouncing off that thing could blind you. How much more full of myself could I get? If I wrote, "yeah, I did an Ironman. NBD." You'd be like, "ok cool". But with all the self-recrimination and uncertainty, you were like, "what a hero! He didn't know he could finish but he totally did!"

I'm so full of myself.

Seriously? Look at this @sshole

But one thing that didn't happen is that I didn't die.

[Serious moment]

One amazing powerhouse of an athlete, a father, did pass away at Ironman Mont Tremblant. I'm not making fun of that. It can indeed be a dangerous sport, and folks who do it aren't just pushing themselves beyond their limits. They're risking their lives to prove to themselves and others exactly what they're capable of. That man is a hero and his family has nothing but my love.

[/Serious moment]

So I was lucky. But Ironman is out to get you. Don't doubt that! Here are six ways Ironman can kill you.

The sharks.

Suuuure, people will tell you there's no such thing as a lake shark. But how do you know? Most of the time your head is underwater, if you swim right. My swimming is cr@p, so most of my time my  head is craning up like a periscope. But when it's in the water, all you see is darkness. And that darkness is full of sharks.

I don't think this is a shark, but it's still below you
in the water and it'll still eat your feet off.

Maybe nobody has yet been eaten by a shark. Yet! But it's because they're biding their time. Just you wait. One day there'll be 2000 athletes in the water. And then in a minute it'll be calm as ducks.


Don't believe me? Go swim in a deep lake and tell me the first thing you think of isn't the beasties lurking just a yard below you. They're there. Oooooh, they're there.

The spiders.

What? Spiders? You think I'm kidding. In day to day life, if you see a spider, you can squash it, or dive through a window, or run screaming. But in an Ironman, you don't have the energy for that sh*t. You just stare deeply into its eight million eyes and beg it not to tear your face off.

No joke.

My friend Meghan saw a spider in a port-o-potty at Ironman Mont Tremblant. She had already biked for years, and really had to .... well, whatever ladies do in port-o-johns. Ladies don't pee. They effervesce. She didn't have the strength to swat at it. She just silently willed it to not move.

I still don't know how she lived to tell the tale.

Flying downhill at 50,000 miles per hour.

There are signs. A lot of signs. They all say, "slow the f%ck down." And because people are illiterate, there are volunteers. The first couple of volunteers pat their hands in the air, like, "maybe explore your breaks a bit." The next volunteer is like, "um, there's a big turn ahead, you'll die if you don't slow down."

The last volunteer at the bottom of the hill is like, "slow your f#cking bike down you idiot!"

After climbing a cliff for an hour, the downhill on the other side is nirvana. You want to go fast. You've been crawling in the single digits for an eternity, and the last thing you want to do is ride your breaks down the other side. You don't care if there's a brick wall, an ocean, or a family of grizzly bears at the bottom of the hill. You just want to feel the wind in your face for a brief moment before the next massive hill crushes your dreams.

I'm not worried.

And I don't even look. I put my arms on the aero bars, stick my butt in the air, and just stare at the pavement, because my neck hurts too much to look up. And the wind flies past me so fast that it tears flesh off. It's the most amazing feeling in the world. About a pound of sweat evaporates in two seconds. If I crash into a parked van, I'll just hope there's nothing left of that van after I'm done with it.

After ten or so hours, self-preservation flies out the window as you fly down that hill at warp speed. I think half of the episodes of Star Trek involved going too fast and accidentally traveling back in time. So really, I just want to see some dinosaurs.

Getting side-swiped by another biker.

Oh, this is real. I was looking at posts after Ironman Mont Tremblant. Lots of awesome and gnarly photos of limbs that used to look like limbs. People getting passed on the right. People trying to pass folks who are riding side-by-side like it's a lazy afternoon ride. Folks taking up the whole bike lane while 18-wheelers are flying by inches away. Real estate is tight in these situations.

Nobody does it on purpose. Geoffrey was griping about the people who passed on the right. He said, "the only reason to pass on the right is if some idiot is riding out in the road." I nodded my head, like, "yeah man, those people are all @sshats." I was totally one of those guys riding in the middle of the road, and I totally got passed on the right because of it.

It wasn't on purpose. I passed somebody on the left. Then I passed somebody else. And then because I'd been biking for half my lifetime, I was too tired to go back to the right. Or maybe my brain was just too tired. Or maybe I saw a hybrid spider-shark. In any case, it happens. And if I'd caught my bearings and swerved to the right where I belonged, I totally would've smooshed that dude passing me on the right.

That's why the rules are there. To prevent accidents. But we are just monkeys with half-functional brains. Monkeys on spinning death machines. And that's half a brain on the best of days. When you've run out of energy and popping gels like it's the cure for cancer, you don't even have that half. So unless you're Wolverine, look forward to missing some skin on your knees and hands. They make for great pics.

Your body literally exploding.

You know what mile 20 of the run feels like? It feels like you took a bite of gnocchi, except oh, it was actually a grenade. And the grenade sits in your stomach, making your feel queasy. And then it blows up. But you haven't crossed the finish line yet so you don't get to stop.

That's what it feels like.

At that point in the race, there's no part of you that doesn't hurt. Your scalp, your toes, some random spot on your forearm. It all screams in agony. I don't even know how it's possible. It's like you've used up all of the regular muscles, and your body is scrambling to utilize your bowling muscles, your chess-playing muscles, and the muscles you use when your friend says something really dumb and you turn to the side with a look of incredulity like, "did you just seriously say that dumb thing?"

"Did you seriously just say that dumb thing??"

All those muscles hurt.

You don't literally explode. But with your mental health long since evaporated, it's exactly what you think has happened. You just stare straight ahead, your expression blank with terror. You think, "I hurt too much. Something is wrong. But I can't stop. I can't look down and see what's wrong. I just have to keep going and hope that they can reassemble me at the finish line."

Good times, that.

Some random bullsh*t you can't even comprehend.

The probability of dying in a plane crash is 1 in 11 million. I just Googled that. The probability of a plane falling out of the sky and landing on your head is far below even that. It's so low that even Google won't tell me what it is.

You know how long you're out on that course? Long enough that that probability suddenly becomes an actual number. All those statistics assume you're going to the grocery store. They don't assume that you're going to the grocery store via a 140 mile route without a car. All of the things that are, like, super rare, become a lot more likely when you spend literally the entire day outside.

It doesn't help that you're utterly oblivious to your surroundings.

That 10% chance of rain suddenly becomes a guarantee that the single bolt of lightning that strikes for the whole day does so while you're on top of a mountain (because Ironman doesn't F^ck around and all of the climbs are the Alps). That small chance of a rabid beaver charging at you from a bush becomes much higher after you've swam, ridden, and run past every bush in the hemisphere. That small chance of getting clotheslined by a tree branch becomes much higher when you're aiming for those tree branches on purpose, hoping to have an excuse to finally lie down for a minute.

Pretty... and full of rabid beavers

So yeah, next time you do a 140.6, stop and think about how brave you actually are. And next tie your loved ones do something totally insane, count your blessings when you see them at breakfast the next day. And if the only thing they have is a scraped knee or a line of puncture wounds from a shark bite, they should count themselves lucky!

Still better than dying from diabeetus.

Thank-you Google image search.

1 comment:

  1. Great story and congrats on finishing the Ironman. The bike photo is priceless!