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Why Everyone Should Do an “Ironman”

A loyal member of the SBM Army asked me recently to write a blog post about something specific.

My first reaction was, “What? Am I ‘Dueling Pianos’ now? Taking requests for posts? Put your post request in the fishbowl and I’ll write it!”


Ha ha! Okay, so I’m kidding. (Only about putting your request in a fish bowl.)

But then I had to sit on the request for a minute. Not because of the request itself- I do often post about things that people ask me to.  But I had to ponder the content of it.

It went something like this:

Can you post ….about people recognizing that they have reached the outer limit of what they should be trying to do …and accepting that as their “norm” ….instead of trying to kill themselves training for something beyond their reach? 

At first, I was like, “Okay, I can see this.”

But then I let out this weird whistle, and I was like, “Uhhhhhh. What?! No way.”  …the outer limit of what they should be trying to do and accepting that as their “norm”…

No, no no no no no no no no. No. No.

Okay, so I can see one angle of this comment. For example, you shouldn’t keep running if you knee is broken and dangling by a single tendon, all floppy-like. You shouldn’t bike if your back is broken in six places.

Those might be all outer limits.

And of course, you shouldn’t do triathlon if you don’t have legs. Oh wait.

Sarah Reinertsen – Photo credit:


Then you shouldn’t do triathlon if you don’t have arms. Oh wait.

Hector Picard, disabled triathlete: swimming, biking, running. Overcoming.

Photo Credit:

Or if you are too old.  Oh wait.


 Photo Credit:


The Iron Sister, Sister Madonna Buder –

Or if you’re too young.

Too disabled.

Photo credit for two photos above:

Oh wait a minute here.

I think ole Swim Bike Mom is on to something!

A pattern has been detected…

Through this triathlon journey (and also through my friend, McBlessings and the Getting 2 Tri Foundation) …I have learned to see less the “outer limits” ….and more of the “sky is the limit.”

The truth is… your limits are the limits you place on yourself.  

These limits, whether real limits (missing limbs) or perceived limits (“Oh, I’m too fat”) – are things we can overcome.

And sometimes, they are things we should overcome.

So pick your “Ironman.”

I put “Ironman” in quotes, because when I say “Ironman,” I want you to think of it as your Ironman.

Yes, the actual Ironman -the race full of 140.6 miles of pure fun – was my big, scary dream. But everyone has an “Ironman” – a big, scary personal goal – even though it may not be the Ironman.

See?  The proverbial Ironman.

Your “Ironman” may be a half marathon. Iron Girl. An Olympic distance triathlon.  An ultra marathon. A crazy run through the Rockies like Mountain Goat is doing.


For me, taking on the big scary goal of a half Ironman… and two years later, taking on the bigger, scarier Ironman proved many, many things to me. Going through that long, painful day and having to search inside of myself—knowing that only me could get me to that finish line, on that day, on that bike… in that pair (those pairs) of running shoes— taught me something that will never escape me.

I learned that no matter what life wants to throw at me… that I will meet it head on.  No matter what the future holds, I will stand tall and look it in the face.


Well, because I saw my limitations at the beginning of training Ironman. I am overweight, slow, no “spare” time and full of a bucket of miscellaneous fears ranging from massive chafing down to the wetsuit and riding downhill. I saw these so-called limitations. I acknowledged them.

And I didn’t give a rip.  

I trained hard.  I listened to my coach. I struggled and fought. My family sacrificed with me, for me.  And because of all of that, I was able to not only tow the starting line of one of the most difficult Ironman races on U.S. soil… but I was able to finish.

And you know what?  SO CAN YOU.

Create your outer limit. Don’t find an excuse not to reach it. Pick what you want. Pick something work reaching for. Pick something scary.And go after it. Go after your Ironman.

So yes. In that sense, everyone should do an “Ironman.”

Find your Ironman. 


Push your limits. Work to those limits. Lean against the wall and push. Push until you cry. Push until you break your ass. Push until you want to crawl into a hole and die (like childbirth, eh).

But push through.

Push until those walls crumble. Until you see the strength in yourself that you never knew existed.  Do it for yourself.  Do it to prove to your daughter or son that they, too, can break through barriers in this world – real and perceived.

Do it to prove to those who said you can’t… that you just did.

But really, do it for you.

Because in those moments, when you break through those barriers– you are finally able to see a tiny bit of the greatness that others probably already see in you.

So, I guess here’s the post that was requested. Maybe not the answer that was searched for… but a requested post, nonetheless. 🙂



  • Cameron

    August 13, 2013 at 11:35 am

    Thanks for the post! I know many people look at me and wonder how is this 40-something, overweight mom of 3 ACTUALLY doing an Ironman. They probably think “Who is she fooling? She won’t finish because Ironman races are for 8% body fat; 7 min mile runner type athletes!” So I strap on my running shoes or biking shoes and train day after day to prove the “naysayers” wrong. And to prove myself right!

    • Silvia Lynch

      September 20, 2016 at 4:43 pm

      I just read your article
      On triathlete magazine, then came here to read your blog. Congratulations! Thanks for sharing your journey, and for letting the world know what it takes.
      I did my ironman last year and still can’t believe it, with husband 4 kids and a dog… my jeenga game got a lot of helpers, support is key in this endevour.

  • Courtney

    August 13, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Amazing! And I agree, telling yourself you reached you limits is doing you zero favors. Why limit your own success? Everyone should always strive for greatness and bettering themself. Much like your mantra is “Keep moving forward”, mine is “Recognize that your current limits are illusions, because fatigue is voluntary”. Except when I’m racing I tend only repeat “fatigue is voluntary” over and over and it works for me. There are tons of studies being conducting to prove that the limits we place on ourselves are not limitations we are actually capped at. Notably, Samuele Marcora has done some fabulous research that proves limits are illusions we set up for ourselves. Everyone is capable of any greatness they seek, I truly believe that.

  • Colleen

    August 13, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    I do not usually comment back on the blogs I follow, BUT this post really got to me. Everything you stated and showed is SO helpful. You have inspired me to continue moving forward even with struggles. I signed up for a 10k, my first. I am very nervous, I know I am able to do it, if I can do a 5k- then I can do a 10k. I struggle with dropping weight even though I workout A LOT -reading your frustrations everything helps! Thank you for your words, they help a lot.

  • Cynthia

    August 13, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Awesome, very inspiring! Yes, what defines “something beyond their reach”? Life is a journey full of challenges, some physical and some otherwise. I think that sometimes I need to be better about the timing of my goals, and that I might be perceived as trying to kill myself training just due to the other constraints in my life at the time. But that’s still not a limit – it’s an added challenge!

  • jackie

    August 13, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    My “ironman” is an olympic distance tri. Because of the SBM book and posts, I have decided that my secret goal is the olympic tri. Never even thought about doing one before, but I know I can do it. And I will. Fall, 2014!!

  • imk

    August 13, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    I really needed to read this blog today…today was the day I needed a sign to finally register for CDA 2014. This morning I took a boot camp class that I am actually interning at as a brand new CPT and I can usually get through it, this particular boot camp class is no joke. It is 1 hour of all out strength and cardio. But this morning 15 minutes in I was like… holy crud this hard, I may pass out or puke or both… and I am not in the shape I thought I was, and I was totally humbled, and had to dig deep to get through the uncomfortable, not to mention I was wondering if the lead trainer was like…you want a job here? You can’t get through this class? I left there this morning thinking, what makes me think I can do an Ironman? However this past year I have been training and building a base to try my hand at Triathalon’s, to basically celebrate becoming an empty nester after raising two daughters totally on my own and starting a new chapter at 43! Ironman is not my norm, and it totally my outer limit and I won’t stop pursuing it! This past year I have gotten myself to be able to bike 56 miles, and run 13 miles dualathon style…now it is working on the swim, and building more mileage!!! This blog is exactly what I needed today!!! Spot on and the sign I needed to help believe in myself again after a humbling morning….thank you!!!!!

  • Kerryn

    August 13, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    Thank you ! Yep, flippin heck I can do an Ironman. The Ironman IS a dream of mine. I haven’t told anyone yet, I’m not ready for any negative opinions so I will keep my dream close to my chest for a little while longer. Maybe not this year, let’s start with sprint triathlons please, maybe not next year (but possibly start the journey to a half-Ironman). But I WILL pursue that dream. Thank you for your encouragement. Who cares if I am overweight, over forty and over reaching. 2 years ago I never thought I could run 10km but I’ve already put half a dozen half-marathons under my belt and my maiden marathon a few months ago. I might not break any records but I damn well WILL break these self-imposed limits!

  • Jana

    August 13, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    LOVE this post. Yes, yes, yes. As someone who recently blew through a personal “wall” that I had put in front of myself, I now understand without a doubt that the only limitations we have are the ones we invent for ourselves. Don’t ever limit yourself, and don’t listen to people who try to tell you you “can’t” do something. Awesome post!

  • Stacy

    August 14, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Thanks for this article! I cried, and laughed, and realized that the only thing holding me back is ME. I also liked the video about Connor and Cayden Long. I had seen it before but seeing it in that context really made me think again. Connor mentioned autism and my youngest son has autism. I see many Ironman activities in our family’s future. Thanks for igniting our/my fire!

  • AGeneve11

    August 14, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    I LOVE THIS. Just started reading your blog and you really have inspired me. I have read up on all your adventures and DANG GIRL YOU ARE AWESOME!!!!! Thank you for your honesty and humor!!! Also… I’m glad I’m not the only one with the secret dream of an Ironman!!! Don’t tell anyone. 😉 keep on keepin’ on, SBM!!!!! 🙂

  • grumpy runners

    August 15, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    You are so inspiring. I started reading your blog and book a few months ago. Perfect timing. Right before my first sprint. You make training “real.” At least real for me. (Overweight and a mom to 3 teenagers). I have a way to go to get to my half ironman someday. But it is on my list!! Thanks for the help!!

  • Ara

    August 20, 2013 at 11:11 pm

    I completely agree with you. Unless, like you said, you have a limb hanging by a thread,.don’t put limitations on yourself. Granted, it’s easier said than done, but you can honestly set out to accomplish whatever you want.

  • Jen

    August 26, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    Thank you. I’m a mom of two boys both under the age of three. I’ve run 3 marathons and a couple halfs. I was actually training for a half when I got pregnant with my first son. I totally stopped training and let my body go. I’ve been in a funk about the baby weight, my lumpy hips, saggy boobs, flabby belly, which has changed my whole outlook on life for the worse. Yesterday a friend of mine finished his first Ironman and it inspired me. Questions began to race through my mind, could I do that? Do I have the time? The money? The ability? Amid the questions something inside my kept pushing. While searching for Ironman/triathalon books online today I was led to your book. As I read the first few pages I began to weep as what you wrote resonated with me. Which led me to your blog. I haven’t told anyone yet, but today I decided to become a triathlete. My mind is filled with so many questions, fears, anxiety, and excitement. You’re truly an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your journey, it has inspired me to begin my own. I look forward to reading the rest of your book and your blogs!

  • Charity

    September 3, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    I have been hooked on your blog for about a month. I eagerly check for a new post daily, sometimes twice a day, just so I won’t miss anything. I have read this blog a total of 10 times and most likely will read it one more time, tomorrow morning, just before I hit send on my Chattanooga Ironman payment page. I love the way you write and the inspiration I greedily gobble up as soon as I see it. Thank you for putting out there all the fears, triumphs and inspiration that I have carried around in my little self, but have never said outloud!! You rock!

  • Kathy still

    April 19, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    Love your blog!!! Completed first half ironman last October after losing my youngest son, he died in an auto accident exactly one week before high school graduation. He was going to college on a swimming and academic scholarship, and had just completed his first mission trip. I had to do something, I knew Drew would not want me to sit at home and cry my days away as the last thing he wrote in his journal the night before he died was “we are so blessed and we receive God’s grace when we should receive his judgement”. Now training for a full ironman and Drew’s spirit will get me through each stroke, pedal and step!

  • maggie

    June 18, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    I’m really fit and have done marathons and three sprint tris. I’ve been training for an Olympic tri in July and a half iron man in August and am about to give up on the half iron man. This weekend I finally did a 1 mile swim, 40 mile bike ride and 7 mile run but over 3 days! I jumped from a. 5 mile swim to 1 mile and was exhausted Sat. I can run on sore legs no problem so felt great on the 7 mile run Mon but by that night I just wanted to die. I felt so wiped and so in despair. Even Olympic distance feels harder than training for a marathon. So I am giving up on the half iron and thinking I’ll just do another sprint in August and a marathon come September. Part of me believes I can do the HIM but part of me just feels like it’s not with feeling this exhausted, sore and miserable. What’s your advice?

    • maggie

      June 18, 2014 at 12:11 pm

      Btw I know I’m in trouble if doing that over 3 days killed me because I’ll need to do more than that in 1 day in ~7 hrs. Also I have not actually signed up for the HIM so no $ or registration wasted.

  • cherylann

    August 4, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    I have completed 2 IMs, a half dozen 70.3s, 9 swims from Alcatraz, 7 Xterra tris, 13 marathons, 5ks and 10ks and half marathons too many to keep track of, run the Grand Canyon 3 times (one was a double), have run up and down every mtn. peak surrounding my home town,(still hold some records), have done many, many century rides and am training for my 120th triathlon (I have won, placed or showed in my AG in more than 80% of them). Is it important to me? Not really. Is it fun and does it keep me energized and in shape and ready for other challenges in my life? Absolutely. But my races are only a small part of who I am, what I do and definitely takes a back seat to career, family and other interests.


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