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Cycling Wed: Ironman isn’t that dumb…

It is Wednesday.  Time to write on a cycling topic.

My home town, Louisville, KY, on the northern side of America’s obesity belt has shown some flickers of enlightenment these days.

Labor day, we had the Mayor’s hike and bike.  This drew 7500 cyclists and walkers. These twice yearly (Memorial and Labor Day) cycling events have blossomed into a city-wide celebration of exercise.  There is something–call it magnetic, some would say. scary–about riding with 7000 people.

Two weeks ago, Louisville hosted an Ironman competition. You know the story: a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run. Ironman triathlon is right in America’s wheelhouse.  It is extreme and extraordinary–a celebration of inflammation, P90X meets the biggest loser.

“Hey, Dr M, did you do the Ironman?”
After answering in the negative, they try to no avail, to hide their sympathy. Their look says, “Oh, I guess that is too hard for most.”

But I have been there and done that..

A big bag of inflammation!

In draft form only, I had written about the silliness of the Ironman.  The arguments centered on the notion that the extremeness of the event was counter-productive, and how such an extreme single-minded lifestyle is unsustainable.  Perhaps it was the steady stream of people at work who asked me if I had done the Ironman, and then looked sad when I admitted that I had not.

After the re-read, it sounded like sour-grapes.

Then I thought some more.

And on further reflection, it seemed better to celebrate the idea that our city is increasingly in the limelight for athletic events, and that each of these events acts as motivation for a few newbies.  After all, it was the NY city marathon broadcast that got me off the couch and onto the pavement. That inaugural run led me to try the Indianapolis 500 half-marathon–in hi-top basketball sneakers and a cotton t-shirt.  I met some like-minded folks and and that was that.  I was running at noon instead of eating at noon.

So the message is that although I think the extremeness of the Ironman is folly, it does get a handful of previously sedentary individuals motivated. Like in the early spring in Louisville’s parks where runners blossom like the spring flowers.  Of these, many are first-timers who are venturing off the couch, or computer, to train for their first race.

The enthusiasm of the newbie is infectious; they will read about exercise and nutrition, and in so doing, they will learn, and then some will spread the word. A few of the activist mindset might call their school officials and tell them that chocolate-milk is not a health food.  Society will be the better.  And so on.  Like giving a mouse a cookie.

Yes.  Yes.  Cities should have more participatory events, like those 5ks with tee-shirts, or bike rides, or triathlons and maybe even some criterium bike races (to keep the orthopedic surgeons busy.)

Nope, I’m not beating up the tri-geeks, no matter how goofy they look with their goo-belts, powerbars stuck to the top-tube and straws emanating from the handlebars like a tusk from a rhinoceros.  Heck, how could one who races a bike through sand pits and over steps call any other manner of cycling silly?

Let’s celebrate exercise, all types, just not P90X.

Bring it on.  Spread the word.


Breath hard.


Spend less on healthcare!


2 replies on “Cycling Wed: Ironman isn’t that dumb…”

Hahaha – I have some friends who are using P90X really effectively! But to each his or her own. I volunteered at the Ironman and it was awesome. So much to see all of that up-close.

"Spend less on healthcare."

That's the first time I've heard triathlon training suggested as a way to save money!


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