Ironman is not pretty. Ironman is responsible for building some pretty bodies, for sure, but Ironman itself is not pretty.
The swim is not pretty:
For in-water swim starts, you know that half the people around you aren't quiet because they're focusing on the swim. After a cup or two of coffee, plus a water bottle or two of hydration formula, and those long lines at the porta-potties, and you can understand those looks of relief on those faces beside you.
Take a good open water swim, with a hefty wind and some serious chop in the water, and you can't help but swallow more water than some people drink in a day. Give that a few minutes to churn around in a few hundred stomachs, and something's coming back up.
The changing tent is not pretty:
With a 2.4 mile swim, then a 112 mile bike, and then a marathon, many people like to change into discipline-specific clothes between each segment. I mean a total change. Each gender has its own changing tent, so I can't say what it's like in the women's tent, but in the mens...trust me, it ain't pretty!
The bike is not pretty:
The people who are fast on the bike don't like to stop. For anything. Not event to unload excess liquid after several water bottles. Instead, they just let it go while they're on the roll. That's not pretty enough, but imagine someone doing that while flying down a hill in front of you at 40 mph. Definitely. Not. Pretty.
The run? You guessed it:
There's really not much new on the run, other than toward the back of the pack, where you see a lot of people after 13, 14, 15, 16 hours, utterly spent and running on nothing but pure determination.
Here are some samples (sorry, no changing tents):
2007, Normann Stadler vomits on the bike
1982, Julie Moss famously crawls to the finish line
Although Ironman is not pretty, it is pretty freakin' awesome.
John Blazeman, Warrior Poet, Ironman
Team Hoyt, might just be the most awesome act of a father's dedication you'll ever see