The question how did you decide to race at Ironman was posted on the TRI-DRS list serve. Following is my response.
I started triathlons in 1986 by watching a friend compete in one the previous year. I'd known him for a number of years through climbing and he was about as far from appearing to be your typical slow twitch athlete as you could imagine. But it looked like FUN.
That started a winter of swimming followed by starting to compete the next year.
Within 2 years I'd become involved in a local tri club and had watched videos of Ironman Canada. I was just amazed that humans could do what I was seeing. And that video moment of Tom Price reaching out to the fallen race leader just after the run turnaround at OK Falls was such a pure demonstration of sportsmanship that you just had to love it. I got to hear the voice of Steve King on video before I heard it live. And those early years colorful folks: Z-man, Cowman, "The Moose", that guy with all the kids who wore blue jean cutoffs and ran barefoot. How could I not be intrigued?
My first time racing at IMC (1988) I has still a tri newbie and definitely didn't know much about the ironman distance.
But it was a mystical experience. I get chills right now, just picturing myself back out on that run course, heading back to Penticton. It was painful but being able to manage that pain and move ahead made me feel powerful and capable. Finishing was an absolute high - and not because someone shouted out "You're and Ironman!". I felt like I'd really accomplished something.
Over the next few years I build up a cadre of training partners who have become friends. This has been a part of the ongoing experience that keeps me coming back.
In 1997 I had an epiphany experience. It was a race when everything went well. The conditions were perfect, I was fit, and the race felt effortless. I just glided along. It was like the most incredible drug experience you could ever imagine. That set a new benchmark, one that I keep trying to get back to.
Now, in my more mature ironman experiences I have sufficient experience to anticipate the high, dread the pain, and manage it all. I've been lucky enough in life to be able to continue following this dream and to find it very fulfilling.
So, for me, deciding to start was just the first baby step on a journey that's led me to places in never imagined would be there for me. I think that may be what that first decision is all about. It's a truly life-changing decision and has the possibility to take you where you might never go.