5 Reasons Why I Won’t Do Another Ironmother

Raise a glass...even if it looks like you have to do 2.4 miles of butterfly during an Ironman.
Raise a glass...even if it looks like you have to do 2.4 miles of butterfly during an Ironman.


Let's cut to the chase. Inquiring minds want to know: Will you do it again?

The short answer: no.

The longer answer: if I had a $5,000 gift card to Whole Foods; a weekly cleaning lady; a weekly allowance for massage and chiropractic work; two weeks where I could just train and sleep and eat like the pros do (and do it in a cool place like Hawaii or New Zealand, even better); and somebody who hung out all my workout gear so it wouldn't shrink in the dryer, I might entertain the idea.

Seriously, though, I'm about a month out from Ironman Coeur d'Alene: The giddiness from the finish line has died down, and I've had some time to think about whether or not I'd go 140.6 miles again.

A few reasons I've come up with that point the needle to no:

1. I'm more of a one-and-done than a let's-repeat-the-same-course athlete. I'd rather do hundreds of new races than one race one hundred times; for me, it's much more about the adventure and experience than it is about beating my previous self.

And honestly, I had a pretty perfect race. As I said on the race recap podcast, I did better than I thought I would on my first round of SATs and thought if I studied more, I'd easily nab a scholarship to an Ivy League. (Aaah, the delusions of youth.) My second set of scores? Considerably lower.

Although experience helps with any race, I'm not sure I could put together a more fulfilling race. Yes, I may be able to get a bit faster finish, but is eight more months of work worth, say, 20 minutes off a daylong clock? For me, that answer is a definitive no.

2. The training drained me. Like duh, right? But there were nights when I didn't have the energy to wash my face because then I knew I'd have to apply lotion afterwards. Two steps of facial care was much too demanding, so I went for none (it's not like I was wearing make-up anyway, so no real harm). My bedtime, especially this spring, was closer to 8 p.m. than 9, and I got a little bitter at my kids who asked me to scratch their backs right before they fell asleep—usually a favorite part of my day—because that meant I had to get out of my own bed right as I was getting drowsy. Sometimes twice. (I know: cry me a river, right?) And I got into two minor fender benders—nothing or nobody hurt, minus my checkbook—which weren't exactly due to training, but I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have happened if my braining wasn't thick with Ironmothering.

Mason said he might fly away if I do another Ironman.
Mason said he might fly away if I do another Ironman.

3. And training was the easy part. I got to justify and make excuses for a lot of things that I wouldn't normally do. I deserve to buy dinner out for the third time this week because I'm so hungry and so tired. I will stop at Starbucks after the swim because I was up so early. I will go to bed now and let my husband fold the laundry because I am training. I will let Ben watch another episode of _____________ (fill in bad sitcom on Nick) because I don't have the energy to fight with him to turn it off. I didn't exactly become a diva—divas don't wear compression socks to bed—but I definitely had a moderate case of Ironmother entitlement.

Don't get me wrong: Husbands can fold laundry and mother runners definitely get to treat themselves to a latte. But eight months of continual, relentless focus on getting through 140.6 miles means a lot of important things went by the wayside. I dropped the ball on plenty of day-to-day things—appointments, prescriptions, phone calls, emails—because I just didn't have it in me. And I let some other, more important things lapse as well. (And yes, I realize that is really opaque, but this post is going to be too long as it is.)

Although the training is hard, it's not messy or complicated like relationships and working and parenting are. You get on the bike, you ride until you're pretty sure you've got a blister on your most delicate parts, and you're done. You get in the pool, you swim for so long, chlorine is running through your bloodstream, and you're done. And because you've been on the bike or in the pool for hours, you get to use the Ironmother excuse to validate not having hard conversations or digging into tasks you'd rather not do.

Plus, more often than not, the training makes you feel good, and then people admire you for spending hours sweating, doing this thing that has a clean beginning and ending and only requires some willpower and strength. I mean, the combination of crazy endorphins and the praise from you all sent me to the moon.

Addictive? Just a little bit. Healthy? The verdict for me—a married, working, mother of two who wants to retain all those facets of her life description—is probably not.

4. I got really sick of being with just myself. As much support and love as I felt from you all, I really missed my running pals and the companionship and compassion they bring to my life. (Our regular runs got sidetracked when I fractured my foot and had to build up my mileage again.) Those group runs are the only adult contact I have outside of Grant most days. I'll take a solo sweat over no sweat any day, but day after day after hour after hour of just me, myself, and I...well, by about month 5, enough already.

My new nephew will make even better signs for me as he gets older, so I gotta keep going. (But will he still hold them with his toes?)
My new nephew will make even better signs for me as he gets older, so I gotta keep going. (But will he still hold them with his mouth and toes?)

5. I want to go faster. More than anything, Ironmother solidified for me that triathlon is my sport. My mind loves the Swim Bike Run value pack, and my (mostly injury-free) body is on board too. I was so fortunate, in so many regards, to be able to strike a thick Sharpie line through Ironmother on my bucket list, that I just want to let it be.

I can honestly say  with 98% certainty that the Ironman marathon was the last 26.2 miles I ever will put in on pavement again. But Coeur d'Alene got my wheels turning. I'll happily put in 13.1 or 6.2 or 3.1 at the end of a triathlon, hopefully at a faster pace than I've been able to do in the past.

I'll leave you with that exciting cliffhanger: She got in two accidents and now she's going to race again someday in some triathlon? This is better than Modern Family!  

Do you make a mental pro/con list about a race after you do it? What items sway you to do a distance over—or try something new?

27 responses to “5 Reasons Why I Won’t Do Another Ironmother

  1. Wow that was strange. I just wrote an really long comment but after I clicked submit my
    comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyhow,
    just wanted to say great blog!

  2. LOL, you’re right, I do want to do another one, I just don’t have time and know it’s a bad decision. Amazing job on your race… I wish I could smoke the bike like you, seriously amazing!!! And thanks — the pelvis is all healed up, I just will always know when it’s going to rain before the weather man does.

  3. Thank you for your post and the very honest podcast with your race recap. I’ve been out of the tri scene for a few years. The last one I did was a half iron, five years ago. I prefer training to racing and long for those workouts. However, I have a two year old, work FT and have a husband who travels constantly. Your honesty solified my belief that any future half or dare say, full iron distance must wait a few years.
    I trained pretty hard for a half marathon last summer, including hiring help 2x a week so I could run in the evenings without screwing up bedtime/subjecting her to ridiculous heat in July/August. It was a wonderful race and I plan for another this fall (just printed your handy dandy half training plan, comic relief and all). Your effort and achievement are admirable. Your honesty is so refreshing. I don’t think now is the time to spend more time away from my daughter as she is beginning to truly become a little person. I also appreciate the positive comments this site and the podcasts bring. Any athletic achievement should be celebrated. It is not just a half marathon or just a 10K. It’s more than most people (with and without children) do. I thank you and Sarah for creating this community. And congratulations on your amazing accomlishment of becoming an ironmother.

  4. Great post Dimity. I love trying new things, new places, new sports. Very rarely is there something I put the absolute NO on in regards to repeating… however the location always has to change for me. The race is never the same if it’s done on new ground. 🙂

  5. I am planning on training for a tri this spring (after I recover from the Disney Princess half). No way could I do an ironman but thinking of doing a sprint one. I was inspired by your ironmother recap on the podcast.

  6. I swore I’d never do another Ironman and then when a new company showed up in Penticton, I decided to support them. It was a year+ after my first and I think the pain dissipated from my mind and I thought: I can train better. Maybe not faster, but I can make this fun this time. So here I am, getting ready for Challenge Penticton in one month! Yikes! This time to drop off time expectations and to have a great day, celebrating my fitness level and focusing on how I’m lucky enough to live a life where I can work out for fun. Here’s to a fun day in Penticton!

  7. This really resonates with me right now, especially the time away from the family.
    I am almost at the halfway point of training for marathon #3 while working full time and commuting almost 8 hours a week. My house is disgusting,clean lundry is piled up on the dining room table and we are ordering take out way too much.
    I have never said ‘never again’ after finishing a race. Yet.

  8. You hit all the reasons squarely, Dimity, and I was head-bobbing as I read this great post. I know when I’m up for a redo or a new challenge when I want a rematch within 24 hours of the event (that’s what happened after my first marathon) or I can’t stop thinking about trying something new. In my case if thoughts of a running challenge interrupt a good book I know I’m toast!

  9. I always make a mental race recap of all that went well, what I could have done differently, and what sucked. After my first marathon, I didn’t ever want to do another because while it wasn’t a perfect race, it was life changing, amazing, and perfect in the best ways. After chasing after a sub 2 hour half and finally getting it this past April, I find myself wondering, do I really need to do that again? When I did my first duathlon, half way through I thought, what did I get myself into but then did the same race the next year and took 10 minutes off my time. After my second marathon time goal was derailed by Mother Nature (hot, hot, hot!), I’m now training for my 3rd in hopes of running a smarter, slightly faster race. I still have lots of firsts to do: a trail race, a Tri, a BQ(???) but I’m taking it race by race. While I like the comfort of a familiar race, I also enjoy trying new things.

  10. Dimity – I love this post. It’s a terrific “mom’s” perspective on things. I loved following you for your race last month but also love that you are finding the right balance for your family.

  11. Don’t think I didn’t notice that you qualified that “last 26.2” statement with “on pavement.” :^)

    Great post as always–I’m a little jealous. I’m still trying to get that BQ (three years in training for it almost) and I’d love to be able to focus on shorter running distances and other things in life. Part of what keeps me going is knowing that I’ll be able to do that when/if the goal is achieved. Thanks for being a voice of reason as well as an inspiration. We need both in life!

    1. Oh you librarians are so good at picking up on the details…yes, the idea of a longer trail race is definitely exciting. I heart trail running. But nothing big again in 2013…and maybe not even in 2014. 🙂 Oh, and you’ll get that BQ sooner than later…I can feel it in my bones.

  12. As a wife of a 2-time Ironman finisher, I commend you! And I commend your decision to probably not do another. This said as my husband is impatiently waiting for Ironman Lake Placid sign ups to open. He does a full ironman every 2 years (both for his body and his marriage to survive). He admits he wouldn’t even be doing 1/2 Ironmen events if we still had young kids (we are now empty-nesters). I am a newbie runner (16 months, 3 half marathons, and 2 5Ks) but I don’t aspire to do tri’s.

    1. I can see a different perspective, definitely, Denise when our kids are older…I waited until both kids were in school full time to train, and even then, it was super tough. Hope he gets into LP today!

  13. Great post! I always mentally recap my races and usually consider a repeat in the same race if I feel I could have done something smarter or better. My one and only 50k was last summer. It was very difficult and challenging and I was NOT as prepared as I should have been. I finished and was very proud of myself. But, i find myself wanting a repeat because I know more of how I should train and what to expect. It just bugs me! But, is also a good motivator.

  14. I have a list in my head as I am wrapping up my Ultra training for 50miles at the end of August. Time away from my family is top on the cons. My husband asked me just last week if I was going to go for a 100, because as he put it, “Where does it stop?” That is a pretty good indicator that my marriage just can’t take all that alone time. 100 would be 100% of wrong for my family. I honestly don’t think my body take it. I have done so many modifiers just to keep it strong and together for this 50. I run with a training partner on my long runs, so I have been so very lucky, but my husband is alone with the kids every Sat. morning and sometimes Sunday morning since runs are back to back. Whether I run another 50, we will see how this one goes. I have found new challenges in the last 8 months of training that I would like to embrace more. Ever try Insanity? Who yah!

  15. Thanks for the perspective. I have been toying with the idea of canceling my half on the calendar for Nov. It will be my first butI don’t think I am ready for the race or the training schedule with a 1 & 11yr old in the house and a husband that works crazy hours. Still debating if I need more time under my belt before I start that venture.

  16. Thanks for this post Dimity. I’ve been training a lot this summer just for short distance triathlons and I feel like its taken away so much time from my kids this summer. I’ve been contemplating a half ironman and go back and forth because I know it requires even more time and probably more tired crankiness. I’m still on the fence, but either way its nice to know other moms feel the same way sometimes about their training. I’m with you though on the lack of injuries with tris. I’m new to the sport and its been so nice to be injury free.

  17. Thanks for that post. I think you have a very sane outlook on things! It’s not on the same scale as your Ironman, of course, but I do feel some of the same things after starting marathon training and going back to work full time for the first time in eight years – on the same day. I mentioned at some point considering an ultra and my husband’s eyes widened and he said “Noooo! I’ll never see you again.” I will be really curious to see how I feel at the end of this training cycle. My gut tells me I will enjoy the distance and training, and that I will want to do another (in a year), but I don’t rule out the possibility that being drained and schedule-crunched all the time will be a deal breaker. We’ll see.

  18. After I do a race, I do go over everything that I did. Because there are so many good races now, that I make a vow never to do the same one twice. One decision I made after my one and only 26.2 is never again. I love to run, but training for that distance felt like a second job. Not only did I have to put in all that distance, I had to watch what I ate, and really was no fun that summer. It was a great accomplishment and I am so proud to say I’ve done it, but the toll it took on my body and my life made it a one and done experience. I’ll stick with 13.1. There’s plenty of races to choose from!

  19. That 2% can creep up on you. My brother just signed up for his 8th IM… This brother is a training junkie so this wasn’t a surprise even if his 1st kid is expected to arrive in @2 weeks. But, that 2% creeped up on my other brother who said after his 1st IM… Never ever again. And then came the NYC IM and the chance to compete with all of the brothers on our Dad’s 10th anniv of going to heaven. He couldn’t really say no then. I get that. But, this I’ll never do another IM after the Nice, France and the NYC IMs brother just told me yesterday he’s thinking of signing up for the Lake Placid 2014 this very morning. Dimity, watch out for that 2%…. Lol 🙂

  20. This came at the right time for me! Last year, about a week after I did my first (only) Ironmother, I wrote this blog:
    Then, in February, I fractured my pelvis. 5 months off running. So I was swimming and biking like crazy once I was cleared to do so, and started toying with the idea of another Ironman. However, last week I went back and read that blog I wrote last September, and came to my senses. I can’t do another Ironmother because it consumes me. Thanks for writing this — it helped me feel better about the decision I already knew was the right one. 🙂

    1. Thanks for sharing that link, gretchen…I think you know in your gut already if you want to do it again, and anybody who wants to: hats off to them. For me, I’m so glad I did it once, and I don’t have it in me to do it again. Hope your pelvis is healing quickly.

  21. Thank you! Love your list.. Helps me to continue justifying my Sprint tri addiction vs. going longer.. not yet.. Too much going on and too much kid stuff to enjoy yet..

  22. I make those mental pro/con lists after a race – well, usually they’re not mental, as I willing share them with my hubby who is usually my running partner for said race.

    A well-organized race, a fun course, great swag…those things will tempt me to do a race again. Disorganization, a not-so-great course, setting a PR and knowing I would want to smash it next time…those things tend to discourage me from a repeat.

    This summer we ran the Missoula Half, and I have to admit it, I was dreading the long drive, and Montana wasn’t a place I’d ever wanted to go. However, it was one of the best race experiences we’ve ever had, and I’m ready to go back. Running the Arizona RnR in January meant a weekend in the sun instead of the snow, and it was wonderful. But, memories of the many training miles on the treadmill make me a little hesitant to sign up again.

  23. I’ve dreamed of Ironwoman for many years and train with a woman who is not a mom who just finished her 3rd at IMLP last night. However, I cannot imagine how I would fit it all in. With that said, I just trained for my first and only ultra (only to have it cancelled last week). What I learned about myself was that as much as I love running, I don’t want to spend hours and hours running every weekend. I had plenty of company, but also plenty of alone time and it was just plain boring. I do now understand why ultra runners listen to books on tape. How many more times could I listen to Britney and Christina belt out a power run song? My race is supposed to be rescheduled, but I am so burnt out from running, that I’ve just taken it really easy for the past 2 weeks. So, I totally understand you Dimity and congrats again!

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