Here's the thing: In the war for the Perfect Day, I am the battering ram. I am also the fortress, and it's the utter suffering of ramming one against the other that is the Ironman Life.
Somewhere inside of me is the Perfect Day at Ironman and it's going to take a siege engine to find it. But it's not as if the Perfect Day will just happen, or even ever happen. By definition it can't happen, shouldn't happen, but the more it doesn't happen the more I want to achieve it. And with success on the race course defined as total self destruction 1 foot after the finish line, it's lose-lose either way.
The Ironman Life is not an easy one, so why do we do it? Why do we (or the smart ones anyway) give up television, food, sleep, friendships, social lives? Why do we count each hour of each day of each week (only an Ironman athlete can tell you how many hours are in a week of the top of his head) and block it off for one of only three purposes... work, sleep, or training? It's an obsession that is it's own reward: the more I suffer now, the more I will be able to suffer on race day. And so there it is... I'm suffering now for the privilege to suffer later.
And it IS a privilege. I don't know what you've heard, but finishing an Ironman is much easier than they make it seem, but racing it is much harder than people would like to admit. Imagine: investing 6 months of physical, mental and emotional energy... constantly feeling tired... shoving 5 or 6 thousand calories a day down your throat... night sweats... testosterone and other hormones out of control... meticulous attention to detail on every aspect of your training and race... all to have a bad stomach on race day and the hours and hours of sacrifice go for nothing.
So for me, finishing the Ironman without suffering means something went horribly wrong... I didn't race. Suffering without finishing is obviously worse. It's the delicate balance between the two that I'm searching for... getting the most out of my body while fighting the fear that I'm not getting enough.
And that's why I do it, why many of us do it. Fear. The fear of missing out on the perfect day. The fear of not getting the most out of ourselves, the most of our gift. The fear of floating at the start line, thinking about 6 months of training behind me and visualizing the 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, and 26.2 miles of running that lay ahead of me and wondering: Did I do enough?
Will I suffer? Yes. But will it count... we shall see.