How I Became a Man of Iron with 11 Months Training
By Jason Pegler
Key Themes: Memoir, Triathlon, Endurance, Cycling, Running, Ironman, Human Potential
When I was nine years old, I loved sport and was captivated by watching the
Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. I swore to myself that, one day, I
would do that race and win it. That was in 1984. For the next twenty-eight
years I continued to love participating in and watching sport, although I do not recall thinking about the phrase ‘Ironman’ ever again, apart from about the
superhero played by Robert Downey Jnr in the film.
In July 2012, I was to rekindle my passion for Ironman racing. This book describes my journey from complete novice to Ironman finisher in 11 months.
My promise to you, the inspiring reader, is to give you my all, be honest and
not take myself too seriously.
Training for and completing my first Ironman made me a better person, a
better partner, a better father, a better business owner and improved my
health. This is because it made me think bigger and raised my self-esteem.
You may be a multiple Ironman, a professional Ironman athlete (in my dreams,
hey?), a coach or a triathlete; you may have a swimming, cycling or running
background and be considering taking up the sport, or just have an insane
desire to complete the ultimate one-day endurance sporting event that was
designed to test the human potential to its limit.
Believe me, it’s not easy, but when you cross that finish line there is no feeling quite like it.
Enter Your Ironman
The most decisive moment for me, and I believe for anyone wanting to complete an Ironman, was to commit to entering an Ironman by paying for it a long time in advance.
For weeks, I had been discussing with Nick which was the best Ironman race to enter. Nick suggested Frankfurt or Klagenfurt as the two best races in Europe. Nick entered Frankfurt and, as I procrastinated, it very quickly sold out, as did Klagenfurt. He advised Klagenfurt, as it was a fast course with a swim in a lake and a fast bike course, so I picked that. I did this by entering through an Ironman travel agent called Nirvana Europe, which buys Ironman tickets. As long as you book your accommodation with them, you can purchase your ticket with them, albeit at around £150 more than it would be if you bought it on ironman.com before they sold out.
The moment I entered Klagenfurt, it was like the whole thing became 100 times more real. I became totally focused and probably obsessed with completing the race, which was not until June 2013, some eleven months away. The fact that I did this in my first few weeks of training was a massive psychological boost that gave me huge motivation and momentum to complete my sessions. I already saw myself as an Ironman and just needed to do everything I could to make it happen come crunch time.
I started to watch YouTube videos of all the great Ironman World Championship races at home. Thank God for YouTube. Top of my list was the infamous 1989 “Iron war” between Dave Scott and Mark Allen. Dave Scott was the six-time champion, and was practically unbeatable in the humidity of Kona, until Mark Allen finally managed to become victorious and come first after several years of heartache. The two had been head to head, wheel to wheel and elbow to elbow the entire race, and obliterated the rest of the field. With only a couple of miles to go, Dave grabbed for a drink at the last drinks station, and Mark said that something in his mind went go and it was like he was “shot out of a cannon”.
That’s a bit like I felt the moment I entered Klagenfurt, although I was bit clumsier and less canon-like than Mark. During training, I actually ran into a lamppost and rode into a ditch, but managed to carry on both times.
Seriously though, a golden nugget of advice for you is to enter the race way in advance. I would recommend an official Ironman race if you can afford it (see ironman.com), as that is how triathlon and Ironman started. They are also brilliantly organised; people come from all over the world, and it gets you close to the source of energy you need to complete an Ironman (only joking, although, for me, I think there really was something in that … anyway, back to the story, or, dare I say, guide….)
By entering the race well in advance, I was fully committed. I knew what lay ahead … I was totally excited and absolutely terrified. That was my yin and yang. I then set about telling everyone I saw about it. That was a big driving factor in me taking the plunge to meet up with Nick, enter the race and continue the training, which is a huge commitment in anyone’s life. By telling everyone about it, you become accountable, as next time you see people they will always ask you how the training’s going, guaranteed … this unconsciously and consciously drives you to carry out your training. It’s also a nice thing to do, as you would be amazed how many people it encourages to exercise more regularly. I told hundreds of people within the first couple of months of entering, and found myself as an unpaid fitness mentor, instructor and consultant, all of a sudden. That was a lot of pro bono work, I am telling you.… The more accountable you are to other people, the more likely you are to complete your goal…. That goes with anything in life, and it goes big time with something as hard-core as doing an Ironman….