The Fifth (and most important) part of an Ironman

Posted: Mar 26 2014

As I compete in Ironman in Melbourne, Australia on March 23rd.. It has been months of training, feeling stressed out by lack of training, dealing with a multitude of injuries and finally, reaching a place where I feel confident and calm. I can deal with whatever comes my way and whatever happens, I will embrace and savor the experience. I can do anything for 12 hours…right…..

Through the past few months of training, I have had many long and lonely hours on my bike. When I train for an Ironman, I am sure to include many solo bike rides so that on the actual day, it’s no surprise to spend 51/2-6 hours in the saddle all alone. When I ride alone, I have hours to ponder, think, strategize and plan. Lately, I have found myself pondering this crazy thing that we commit to, called Ironman. To some people we really are crazy and to those in the know, we do this because we can…because we actually love it, and because there is NO better feeling in the world than crossing the line at the end of a long race!

There have been many articles written about the selfishness of Triathletes and how there is a 50% divorce rate amongst us. I for one am so delighted that my better half is NOT a triathlete. I think the competition would be far too intense.

So, on my recent long rides, I have been visualizing my upcoming race, imagining how it feels through each transition, I have been visualizing what I’ll be wearing and what the finish line looks like. I keep on imagining how special, uplifting and amazing it is to see those faces that I love so much pop up in unexpected places on the course. And as I think about all of this, I started to think about the FIVE elements of a triathlon. Yes, five….whoever said that a triathlon is swim, bike and run, was DREAMING!

In any race, the fourth element of the triathlon is nutrition. If you don’t eat properly and plan enough calories, you WILL bonk and no matter how much preparation and training was done, you will have a difficult time.

But, the fifth, and probably most important element of any longer distance triathlon is family support. How many of us could spend the many, many hours of training, racing and planning if it were not for an unbelievably supportive partner or family. As I wind down my training and start to taper for my next Ironman, I am reminded of the incredible sacrifice that my partner makes. And I feel truly blessed. Not once in the past three months has he been annoyed, frustrated…all he has done is quietly support me. He has not complained when his weekends were ruined because I was on my bike until 3pm on a saturday! Or when I was exhausted and falling asleep at the table. Or, when we went skiing and I would wake up and spend the first three hours on the elliptical machine and spin bike and meet him somewhere on the mountain. No, he has not complained once. He has cooked me amazing meals, and when I have sobbed in his arms because my leg hurt or my foot hurt, he has held me and told me that I will be just fine. Whenever I do a big race, he is at the start line, at the finish and seems to work out how to find me all along the course to lift me up. It’s not easy being a race day supporter. It’s a long and usually hot day.

I cannot explain the feeling I had at mile 11 in Ironman Canada, my first ironman! I thought I was imagining things when a man in a red t shirt started running towards me shouting my name. When the fog cleared, I realized that it was Lawrence wearing a t shirt that read…Andi Neugarten, you are one sexy Ironwoman. What a burst of adrenaline I felt, He ran beside me for a few minutes telling me how amazing I was and inspired me to lift my legs and increase my pace for a while. The bottom line, is that we all know we could not do this alone. Yes, the training is intense. The training is all about us. But NONE of us would manage without a loving and supportive partner. Thank you Lawrence Maio….from the bottom of my heart…I may be an Ironman, but so are YOU!