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Ironman World Championships Are Not For Me

For the last five years I've had a goal of qualifying for the Ironman World Championship race in Kailua-Kona, HI. It is even written on the home page of this blog .

home page statement about wanting to qualify for Ironman World Championships
Here's the paragraph from my home page that states my intention to qualify for the world championships

I think that goal is beginning to look like the pile of used horseshoes out back: rusty.

This year, the race in Kona is an all-women's race. That means 2000 (or more) women will get to compete in the famed "Kona." And that's about double the number when the men and women used to compete together on the same day. I've heard some people say that it's too easy to qualify for these Ironman World Championships now that the genders have their own races.

I guess that depends on your definition of "easy."

First of all, I'm confident that the worst of the women triathletes at Kona this year will still be far superior to the vast majority of people who have ever uttered the words, "That Kona race is pretty cool, I'd like to do that some day."

I'll admit. I'm one of those people and I'm glad more athletes are getting to compete in these races. Because, you know what? No matter how many athletes are in attendance, there will only be one overall winner and only one winner in each age group. The Ironman World Championships still belong to the best of the best unless the best decide not to show up... which is possible.

We age-groupers are chasing dreams to think we can qualify for the World Championships, while the professionals are chasing money. And not just any money, but money to live on. Two completely different motivations. Kona (and Nice) are vacations for the wealthy and fitness obsessed age groupers. But that's just my little perspective. I've never been to a World Championship race and doubt I ever will. I'm OK with that.

In the past few years, I've seen a decline in my athletic performance which was quite poor to begin with. That and the entire Ironman machine are the reasons I can no longer focus on the lofty goal of competing in Kona (or Nice depending on the year).

Don't get me wrong. WTC and the Ironman brand are good for the sport. The company has had its share of problems and PR blunders, but overall, you can not deny that the lure of Kona is still very powerful among many age groupers. WTC nurtured that brand and has kept it strong. Even way before WTC owned the brand, and before the race offered any prize money, it lured many athletes. But Ironman (and other brands) is a machine, a highly orchestrated machine of illusion*. For one day athletes get to feel like superstars in front of a facade that lasts no more than a week. For some athletes, that illusion is important to their identity. For others, the illusion is a milestone in their athletic careers. These are good things for other people. Just not for me anymore.

I don't see myself as one of those athletes that qualifies for the World Championships. I've lost interest in any races longer than the Olympic distance. Maybe it's my age. Maybe it's just a change in my attitude.

Whatever it is, doesn't matter so much because I'm happy with my decision to focus away from Kona/Nice and toward other pursuits. I'm also happy with the journey I've been on while attempting to reach that goal of Kona qualification.

Triathlon still fascinates me and I celebrate all those professional and age group athletes that will compete this weekend in Kona 2023. In fact, I'll probably keep an eye on the live stream, but I think it's time to change that paragraph on my home page.

Whatever your goals, whether you reach them or not, I hope you enjoy the journey.

Until next time...

* - I refer to big production races as illusions and facades in a very broad sense because they are a well orchestrated theatrical show from the view of the producers. The athletes, on the other hand, are able to create something more real and lasting (for themselves and their supporters) from that event. When Ironman was in its infancy (perhaps before 1986), it was more focused on the people and personalities of the athletes than the actual production.

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