With all the excitement post Ironman, Dan has been getting lots of questions from curious friends & family about what it takes to become a competitor at such a gruelling sport. We sat down with Dan and discussed the good, the bad and the ugly..
1. Were you always sporty, even as a kid?
I was born into a family where exercise was like brushing the teeth, or tying the shoes. My parents didn’t say much – it was more the consistency of their behaviour in regards to running every morning / entering races for fun or silly stuff like taking the stairs instead of elevators – and when it was questioned ‘why?’ the answer was always, that’s just what you do….
So in respect to the question; ‘was I sporty’, I was more a creature of my environment – movement & exercise was just a part of who I was, more-so – my particular personality or ‘unique trait’ was that I had a fascination for pushing myself, breaking limits or basically always finding ‘extreme ways to play’
I grew up surfing, skateboarding & playing street basketball (more like combat basketball) and really breaking rules in regards to finding adrenaline fuelled adventure – my childhood was always about competition, either between my brothers or my friends – who could go bigger, faster & longer – pushing myself and finding out where the limits were became sort of like an identity – it made me happy – I was never the best, fastest or most talented – but I had a way of placing high expectations on myself and over time my asset became my mental strength & toughness and as I aged – the confidence i had in myself as an athlete.
2. What sports did you enjoy most as a child?
I was right into surfing (bodyboarding), surf sports (nippers) adventure & endurance sports, skateboarding, snowboarding and some team sports (rugby etc)
My passion was always individual endurance pursuits – I was in love with Professional Adventure Sports (surfing / snowboarding etc) Nutri Grain Ironman, Ironman Triathlon and anything that pushed the limits of human endurance.
I first came across the Ironman sport when I saw the Hawaiian Ironman on Wide World of Sports – I was 8 years old – ever since then I was fascinated by it!
3. On average, how many kilometres did you run/swim/bike a week when training for Hawaii?
It was a lot – The buildup to Hawaii especially, but I said to myself it was going to be my window – so I threw everything at it
On a general week in that block preparing for Kona – I’d train an average of 20-26 hours; which was made up of 12 KM swimming, 400 KM cycling and 70 KM running
4. What’s the hardest part of competing (and completing) an ironman?
There are so many elements of Ironman that challenge you deeply. If I look back, the most challenging thing for me was balancing my busy life of multiple responsibilities in family, business and social / community engagements for the 10 month program that I undertook – and then attempting to do it all with a smile (as this is what I wanted my kids to see) when often I was just SO fatigued.
In saying that – I was so committed and driven to get myself ready and in the best shape – that it never felt like a chore, so gritting my teeth and persevering became ‘training in itself’ – it is that stuff (breaking through the hard days) that is the most important training in my mind – So one of my strongest achievements through the whole process, was the progression of my Mental Game – it is war hardened now – I feel like I can push through anything! My belief is, it is the ability to rise above the dark days, where your body wants to give up – that essentially paves the way for you to finish an Ironman in the Kona conditions, at your potential.
In regards to racing on the day – the hardest part is actually the days and hours before, nothing can prepare you for those nerves – I can only liken it to setting off to war, as a warrior – you know you will face pain / hardship and anguish – but there is also such a thrill about it!
… and then there is the Heat on the lava fields in Kona, holy heat -it tested me in more ways that I have ever been tested!
5. What do you say to yourself when you want to give up?
In regards to the Kona heat- I felt the intensity of this heat, its peak at about 30 KM into the Marathon – I was just over 8 hours total into the race, I couldn’t replace the fluids fast enough (as I was loosing 2.5 litres every hour in sweat) – At the time – physiologically, my body should have broken down – well it started to, I started to dry reach, my hands were curling up with cramps and everything was a blur – it was at this point that I stopped at an Aid station – took in as much fluid / ice and i took a big breathe – looked up in the air; and I remember so clearly thinking “HOW DO I WANT THIS TO END” – it was a kind of – out of body experience where you allow yourself to chose your own adventure – almost spiritual in some ways – and the power that came from how bad I wanted it to end with me finishing – over ruled any pain / physiological distress I had.
I was able to run through the finish – no emotion can beat the feeling I had of overcoming that pain barrier and finishing the race well.
6. Where do you pee during the race? Do you stop to eat?
There is no stopping in Ironman 🙂
You are at your limit all day – so therefore I had 2 pee moments – Both don’t need explanation, lets just say – when you are racing / you are racing!
As said – you never stop in Ironman, unless you need to (penalty, mechanical issue or sickness / injury) – all your nutrition is carried with you – I consume about 2000 calories of Energy Gel on the bike and approx 500 calories of the same on the run
I also consumed about 14 litres of fluid, 16,800 mg of sodium, 2000 mg of caffeine and a fair few Anti Inflammatories
7. Why (omg Dan, WHY) is swimming 4 kms, Biking 180 kms and then running a full marathon (that’s 42 kms) in the SAME DAY interesting/appealing to you?
I think it goes back to the first question you asked, in regards to who I am & where I came from – I think when you really look at it – In a time in my life (midlife crisis you say?) where I needed to evaluate who I was and what I stood for, the Ironman experience was perfectly positioned for me; My childhood dream of seeing it on TV when I was 8, my goal to out-do my 30 year old self (when I last raced Ironman), the lessons I wanted for my kids, the huge undertaking of strategy and discipline, the mental prep, the physical prep – my business, with my responsibility as a leader of a business with a Core value of Inspiring Kids and finally what I wanted as the beginning of a legacy for myself and my family – in our community at large and small – all these things led me back to Ironman – the distances could have been anything , Ironman was just the pinnacle of what I believe Human potential is.
8. It sounds like such a solo sport- did you feel alone at all?
Not at all. While the sport it self is an individual event, I definitely had a whole team there with me. My wife, Erica and 3 kids attended numerous events and races in the lead up; my coach and team mates trained with me day in and day out and my community and network of friends continuously checked in on my and encouraged me along the way. It really does take a village.
Team mates at the finish- best feeling ever.