An Iron Man race was described to me today in this way, ‘Well, you do a 3.8 km swim. Then you ride your bike for 180km. Once you’ve done that, all that stands between you and the end is a full-length marathon, so a 42km run…’

This is what the fellow I was out for a ride with today, has been training for. He’s doing the Penticton Iron Man this Aug, and has been preparing for a year or more. When I met him through work, just this last week, he said he was looking for some good hills – being a visitor to Edmonton he didn’t know where to go. I informed him that really the only way to find hills here (in the prairies), is to go to our river valley to do hill repeats, and that I’d be happy to show him. Of course, I knew taking a guy who is in Iron Man shape out to do hill repeats was asking a lot my current fitness level (lack-luster at best), but I still wanted to give it a go.

At 10 am, we set off. An appetizer of repeats at Gallagher Hill first. Then the main course on 97 street hill, followed by dessert at ‘mini’ L’Alpe d’Huez. In all we managed to pedal out just shy of 500 meters (or roughly 1,600 feet) of elevation gain. Not bad for me these days, and much to my surprise I was able to stick with Darren – even on the very last hill. I held his wheel right to the top. And even though I knew he’d decided to go for 110km ride yesterday, I will admit, for a few moments throughout the ride, I thought to myself, that, ‘Hey, I’m keeping up. Maybe I’m not in as bad of shape as I think I am. I’m keeping up with a guy who is IM ready! Good for me! Yes, how very good for me!’ But, then at the top of the very last hill, as I glanced down at my heart rate, and saw 92% of MAX, I decided to ask Darren, (between my rapid gasps for air) what zone he was in on that last climb. ‘Oh, I hit about 80%’, he said, breathing lightly. So, yeah… Insert bubble burst here.

A 3.8km swim, I am certain I could not do. Without water-wings, I would sink to the bottom of the lake faster than a man wearing cement shoes, and drown. That aside, even if I could swim it, put me on a bike for 180km, at race pace, and I’d have nothing but singed, smoking stumps left for legs at the end – hardly suitable for standing on, never mind running a full 42km marathon. And all this, in the famous Penticton heat! This is by my estimation, pure insanity! So, a huge tip of the chapeau to you Darren, for even attempting to take this on. I find that alone, really quite astounding considering the hours, and hours of dedicated training in the pool, on the bike, plus the runs. It really does just blow me away – and make me curious… If I could put in the time, could I do it? Dangerous question, I know, because I am sure that’s exactly how every IM competitor gets started. I’d better go watch some mindless infomercials with sickeningly catchy jingles to get my mind off it, quick!

Do you think you could do it? Also, how do you think this compares to Xterra? Which would you choose, if you could?