I admit, I was completely awestruck.
You would think I had a chance to interview Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, the way I felt on the phone. I couldn’t breathe. I was shaking. I was totally in awe of the person on the other end of the line.
Who was this person who reduced me to such a state? It wasn't a celebrity or well-known expert at all. But I was awestruck by someone who calls himself Ironstruck.
His name is Ray Fauteaux, and he's a 14-time Ironman finisher. Yes, you read that right – FOURTEEN. If you don't know what an Ironman is, let me fill you in. It's the granddaddy of all triathlons (swimming, biking and running), where you complete a 4km swim, 180km bike ride and 42.2km run (which is a full marathon), all in one day. As in 12 hours. I'd probably die before finishing the swim, but Ray not only finished it, he went back and did it 13 more times.
Is he a famous athlete? An extraordinary physical specimen? Nope. (Although completing the Ironman that many times certainly means he's in good shape!) He's just a regular guy who decided one day that he'd like to complete the Ironman – so he did.
Ray's story is a pretty incredible one. A former smoker, he took up running in 1977 and finished a marathon. But in 1982, he was watching “Wide World of Sports” on ABC and saw the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. As he watched, he thought, "I want to do that." He couldn't swim (he claims he was afraid of the water), but figured he'd give it a go. He learned how to swim, and in 1984, crossed the finish line in Kona.
The story of his journey is mesmerizing (if you want to read more about it, check out Ray's website at http://www.ironstruck.ca/). What's more, it shows the determination and dedication it takes to push yourself to the physical limit. Ray is now in his 60s, but he continues to push forward and today he writes about the Ironman, offering help and training advice to anyone who is interested in going the distance. (To learn more about triathlons, be sure to check out "Want to try a tri?" on Primacy Life.)
I was nervous speaking to Ray because I felt like he did something I would never have the guts (or athletic ability) to accomplish. I had never really considered doing a triathlon before, but after talking to Ray, well… I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tempted.
Will I ever do an Ironman? That's a difficult question. It's incredibly expensive (Ray estimates it costs about $5,000 to do one Ironman) and there's a pretty high time commitment involved. With a busy, hectic schedule and two young kids, I think I can honestly say I don't have the time. That is, I don't have the time (or money!) right now.
Ray says the fastest growing group of Ironmen are women in their 40s, those women whose children are older and finally have some disposable income. If what he says is true, then maybe I, too, can one day do an Ironman. After all, my mid-40s are only 10 years away. A lot can happen between now and then!
But for now, I'm putting my dreams of Kona on hold. Ray did tell me that too many people fail to take into account the time and commitment (and money) it takes to complete an Ironman. I don't want to be one of those people.
See you in Kona – in 2020!
A journalist with more than 10 years experience, Alison’s work has appeared in a number of top Canadian publications, including glow, Oxygen, Canadian Running and more. She is the former editor of a number of well-respected Canadian and American trade journals and recipient of a Kenneth R. Wilson Gold Award of Excellence in feature article writing. She is a part-time faculty member at Sheridan College’s journalism department, as well as an avid runner and fitness enthusiast.