Putting on the monkey suit

March 2, 2007

The hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life is a Half Ironman, at Blue Lake just out of Rotorua in December last year.

A Half Ironman is a triathlon consisting of a 2km swim, a 90km cycle and a half marathon (21.2km?) to finish. My time was 6hours 23minutes 21seconds. Running down the finish chute was a great feeling!

I was pretty broken mentally and physically from about two-thirds of the way through the run. But, somehow, I found a way to keep going. I’m not sure if I can explain how or why.

I did a heap of training in the lead up to the race, including one famous “lighthouse swim” from Freyburg beach in Oriental Bay around the lighthouse and back. I think it’s about 2.4kms (imagine crawling on your stomach 6 laps around and athletics track, and you’ll get some idea). I can pretty confidentially say that will be the longest swim I’ll ever do in my life.

From the outside the amount of training required and the distances all seem quite ridiculous. I was lucky to have a good bunch of people to train with, who quickly became good friends. But, hanging out all the time with people like that does create this funny dynamic where the crazy starts to seem normal. The majority of the group were training for a full Ironman, which made the distances I was covering seem totally sane in comparison - “I’m only riding for 4 hours today, not like that head case doing 6 hours!” There is always somebody prepared to go a little bit further and work a little bit harder. When we got to the point where it was just a step too far we called it “putting on the monkey suit”.

I like this quote from The ultra-marathon man, Dean Karnazes:

This training made the extreme seem ordinary and made the impossible seem the next logical step.

From Wired Magazine, 15.01

This weekend I’m heading up to Taupo to support some friends racing in Ironman New Zealand. Good luck to them and to everybody else competing, mostly against themselves, I expect. You have my complete admiration and awe. What an amazing story you’ll have to tell once you’ve finished!