Brag for the Rest of Your Life
Today is the 43rd anniversary of the first Ironman, held in Oahu, Hawaii in 1978. The race was meant to settle the argument about who were the fittest athletes on the planet: swimmers, cyclists, or runners.
In honor of this milestone, I have excerpted here from my book Irondad Life my interpretation of how that debate may have unfolded. Enjoy!
My "this sucks" face
Only a person whose good sense was severely impaired would decide to do a race marked by such agony and suffering that it made no sense to normal people. Normal people ponder whether Ironman is the design of al-Qaeda experimenting with torture techniques to inflict on Westerners.
Nope—just the result of a bunch of drunk, testosterone-fueled men trying to one-up each other.
It should be no surprise that the Ironman race was dreamed up by a U.S. Navy officer named John Collins during a beer-influenced debate over who the fittest athletes were: swimmers, cyclists, or runners. John Collins must have been full of Tom Collinses when he came up with the idea to help settle the issue.
I’ve reconstructed the likely conversation here:
Collins: “Let’s come up with a race to find out who is the fittest athlete. We’ll do the swim first.”
Friend 1: “So we’ll swim some laps in a lane in a heated pool, like at a swim meet?”
Collins: “No, you big sissy. We’ll swim in a freezing, shark-infested ocean with waves and currents and the salt water blinding us and jellyfish stinging us. Plus, we’ll have the threat of tropical storms to make it interesting.”
Friend 2: “Will we each swim one at a time?”
Collins: “God no! Everyone will go at the same time so they can swim over each other, kick each other, pull each other, punch, claw, scratch, drown. It will be like the front row of a Who concert...but in the water.”
Friend 1: “How far will we swim? A 100-meter freestyle?”
Collins: “Hell no! We’ll swim two and a half miles so our lungs feel like they’re going to explode and our legs become so tired we can barely walk on them when we get out. The threat of drowning should be a real factor.”
Friend 2: “After we finish the swim, we change and eat and drink and rest, and then bike the next day?”
Collins: “You delicate flower! Fuck no! You take a crap, eat a donut, and get on the bike for a 112-mile ride under a scorching, heat-stroke-inducing sun. To get the heart pump- ing even more, hurricane-level winds will gust directly in your face for at least half the ride and threaten to blow you off the road for the other half.”
Friend 1: “And would we do this over a period of two or three days?”
Collins: “Are you shitting me? You need to finish the bike in eight hours, or you’re disqualified.”
Friend 2: “And how many people are on the bike relay teams? Four?”
Collins: “Relay teams?? Seriously? Put away your pacifier, you big pussy. You’ll bike the 112 miles by yourself until your ass is so raw from sitting on the saddle for seven hours that it will feel like someone beat you with a paddle, and your balls will be so numb you’ll believe you’ll never have children again.” Friend 1: “And then we’re done? We’ll have dinner, get a good night’s sleep, and rise early for the run?”
Collins: “Hell no! I’ll set aside a couple seconds for every- one to puke, and then you’ll drink a couple bottles of Coke or a can of beer, eat a Big Mac, put on some running sneakers, and run.”
Friend 2: “What are we running? A 10K or something? I imagine you’ll want the race finished before it gets dark and runners can’t see the road anymore.”
Collins: “Come on, you undercooked cupcake! You’ll run a full 26.2-mile marathon or as far as you can until your knees shatter, your organs fail, or you start hallucinating and have to be transported to a hospital where a doctor can hook you to an IV and a nurse can massage your leg muscles until they stop convulsing.”
Friend 1: “After all of this, what do you get if you win? What’s the prize money?”
Collins: “Seriously, you guys are beginning to annoy me. There is no prize money. People will lose money on this race, what with registration fees, hotels, flights, paying support crews, and meals. But the winner will get to call himself the Ironman.”
The Reward Friend 2: “That’s it?”
Collins: “That’s it. So...are you in?”
Friend 1: “Damn right, I’m in!”
Friend 2: “Where do I sign up?”
The Real Reward