Participant’s perspective: Competing in Ironman Miami triathlon is crazy but worthwhile

A tough ride: Ken Roberts competed in the Miami half-Ironman, but after that punishing ordeal, is probably unlikely to participate in a full Ironman.
A tough ride: Ken Roberts competed in the Miami half-Ironman, but after that punishing ordeal, is probably unlikely to participate in a full Ironman. Miami Herald Staff

You might think that anyone who would swim 1.2 miles in Biscayne Bay, then hop on a bicycle and ride 56 miles from Bayfront Park in downtown Miami, head up U.S. 27 toward Davie, then return and run up and down the MacArthur Causeway eight times for a 13.1-mile closer was half crazy.

I would tend to agree. I did that Sunday in the fifth annual Ironman Miami. As did some 3,100 others. I am guessing that most of them would have agreed at some point Sunday and others, depending on how their recoveries are going, might agree yet.

I say half crazy because we are presumably “light weights” to those who complete the full Ironman, which is that 70.3 miles doubled. But, you might ask, “Why were there 3,100 people half crazy enough to attempt this yesterday?” Because that was the limit. That’s right. This event sold out in July.

Let me hit the pause button just a moment.

One of two things is true of the organizers, who did a splendid job overall with an intensely complicated event. Volunteers everywhere, all smiling and happy and helpful. Good staff. Various police and Florida Highway Patrol blocking U.S. 27 and all other roads as necessary. A bevy of fruits and drinks spread across the course.

But one of two things is true: Either they could not get permission from whoever grants permissions to allow us to run onto Miami Beach and back from Bayside or they are somewhat — and I say this in the most respectful possible way — sadistic.

The reason we went up and down the bridge to Miami Beach eight times is because we did two laps. That’s brutal on the surface, of course, but at the half-way point of a half marathon (13.1 miles) we were exactly where the race was going to end. And then we had to head out again in the midday heat to do a second lap.

Now seems a fitting time to discuss ailments.

When you get to this level of sporting activity, its gets serious. Although this was my first Half Ironman, I have done numerous half marathons, two full marathons and the shorter, Olympic-level triathlon. But this is another level.

For ailments, I miscalculated my necessary salt intake, which probably explains the bowling ball-sized cramp in my left calf that hit about 100 feet from the end of the 1.2-mile swim. I just hobbled out of the water like you would expect a 56-year-old man to hobble out of the water — to the words of encouragement from those cheerful volunteers.

Swimming is actually my strength and I passed dozens if not hundreds of people (OK, dozens). Biking is not my strength — in part because I am riding a used $250 bike (shoes included) while everyone else is on these high-tech machines that run to $10,000 and beyond. So, during the biking, everyone passed me. This was definitely hundreds, not dozens.

Ailments here were a stiff neck — from tilting my head up for more than three hours in an attempt at aerodynamically good form and tightness in the back on general principal.

And then comes the run. I run almost every day, so I am OK in this space. But after the swim and the cycling and the bridge, the damage was the confidence-crushing nature of the task, where the mind rebels and demands relief where none exists.

And then, you are back at Bayside and there is it. The finish line.

In a nice touch, they announce your name as your cross: “Ken Roberts from Coral Gables, Florida.” And you lean down as the volunteer places the bling around your neck.

And you think: Could I do the full Ironman? Could I tackle that beast? With the right training, a coach, a rigorous diet, a solid plan? Not a chance.

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