Recently I noticed that on Twitter I am not being followed by a single Victoria’s Secret model. This is disappointing, but hardly surprising as taking up Ironmans has not exactly given me a body like a mighty pylon of muscle and a chiselled jaw so granite-like that it could deflect kettles. In actual fact 'going long' has turned my physique from a bloviating fleshbag into a sort of human hat-stand, capable of being mistaken for a pine mug tree if I stand still for too long in the kitchen.
This is not what I anticipated when I embarked on my Iron career and I had assumed that doing 140.6 miles would make me bronzed and solid, like a mighty oak, as opposed to looking like a twig that just dropped off one. This is not the only way that Ironmans have disappointed me, so here are my ten reasons why you should never do one. Heed my words:
10. Your running pace will be slower than a mohair rabbit crawling over velcro. Remember that Park Run you could do in under 20 minutes? Now the best you can manage is 22 minutes, although on the plus side you can manage it about five times in a row.
9. You can never be ill again, never turn down an athletic challenge again, never fail to get the lid off a jam jar again, never take the escalator instead of the stairs, never fail to lift a paving slab and never complain that your wheelie bin is a 'bit heavy' without some smart arse saying “I thought you were supposed to be an Ironman.”
8. Once upon a time you could drink a bottle of wine, or five pints of lager, or both, without staggering about like a witless mollusc. Now though, thanks to the disappearance of all your body fat combined with your Benedictine abstinence, one bottle of Peroni is all it will take to make you as much in control of your limbs as Joe Hart.
7. Your shopping bill will go through the roof because, after hours of consuming food in lozenge format, you will strip your kitchen cupboards like a plague of locusts, devouring comestibles in huge quantities and ridiculous combinations. Pilchards and yoghurt anyone?
6. You used to be so neat and clean with hygiene standards that would please Gok Wan. Now you will happily wee yourself while swimming or cycling just so you don’t have to stop. And what’s more, you’re secretly proud of having mastered the ability to piddle while pedalling.
5. You will become more obsessed with the weather than the Daily Express. Will it rain next month/week/ tomorrow/all summer? What tyres should I use on my long ride? Should I take arm warmers or will I end up just carrying them? What about that hi-viz gilet in case it’s murky? Has the rain made the lake colder? Will I need sun-cream on my run even though it’s cloudy?
4. You are alone on a country lane, your only companions are the rabbits, the only sounds are the drrrr-thwick of your bike and the odd crow laughing at you, and you feel as warm-hearted as a Russian football fan. This is because it is 5am, a time you believed was a myth before you took up Ironman training. But it’s the only way you’ll get your long ride done before the delivery vans and the bendy-bus of death come to chase you away.
3. You will acquire chafing in parts of your body that you previously didn’t consider even mattered. When I run there is something about by gibbon-like arm action that causes the inside of my bicep to chafe against my vest. Upon inspection there is nothing but a small, red welt yet it is unspeakably painful, and concentrating on ignoring it makes my face go red and swollen like I’ve got a nut allergy.
2. You will lose all sense of monetary value. Only in a world as mad as Ironmans would you consider a bag or a cap you get for entering a £400 race as a 'free gift'. And afterwards you get a medal you’ll never wear, and a race T-shirt you’ll wear to death for two weeks before your British modesty kicks in so you only trot it out at the occasional future race.
1. You will get this funny feeling in your chest. It doesn’t hurt, but your chest somehow swells slightly, and you feel slightly taller than you used to. And your heart starts to glow a little more brightly, in a way that makes Marvel “Ironman” Tony Stark’s look like a bulb in a fridge. And is all of the above worth it for this funny feeling? Totally.
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