With those words, Mike Reilly punctuated the end of my first Ironman. November 1, 2008: 13 hours, 52 minutes, 40 seconds after the cannon's fire sent me into the Gulf of Mexico at the 10th annual Ironman Florida.
Why Ironman? Because four days before, the voice in my head still asked, "can you?" Because a year ago, I committed to shoot for a goal that seemed incredibly high, and that voice started asking, "you think you can?" Because three years ago, after my first season of triathlon, Ironman seemed out of reach. Because five years ago, after biking myself into shape and losing 25 pounds, I couldn't imagine running, let alone attempting a marathon, and that voice gave a convincing, "no way." Because eight years ago, as an overweight, out of shape couch potato, I couldn't spend 20 minutes playing with my toddler before needing a break, and that voice didn't even have to say, "don't even think about it." Because 35 years ago, the kids who were good at sports convinced me that not only did I suck, I would never be any good at any sports. And because most of those kids who were so athletic 35 years ago are overweight, out of shape, and begging for heart attacks - and I refuse to go to that party.
What is Ironman? It's way more than swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and running 26.2 miles. That's just one day: the show. Ironman is a commitment. No one get's there without the commitment to put in the time, the miles, and the mental and emotional work to move their body 140.6 miles. Ironman is months and years of early morning runs, long weekend rides, swimming through the winter when even the indoor pool seems better suited to narwhals.
Ironman is more than commitment. It's a journey. It's a journey to that place in yourself where you could just stop, but you don't. It's a journey to find your physical and emotional limits, and finding them much farther away than you imagined. It's a journey to find out what you're really made of. And just when you think you're there, you learn there is no there. What you're really made of is just the drive to get to the next bouy, the next turn, the next mile.
That's Ironman: just pushing to the buoy, the next turn, the next mile, until you reach the end. Some people make it to the end in eight or nine hours, and some in 17. They all push right to the end, and they're all Ironmen.