How bored do you have to be to think Iron­man is a good idea?

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Sports -

Last Sun­day morn­ing I watched some of the Dún Laoghaire Iron­man. There was no choice. Road clo­sures meant ef­fec­tive house ar­rest for four hours. And as com­peti­tors cy­cled past one ma­jor ques­tion kept nag­ging – just how bored do you have to be to think Iron­man is a good idea? Ob­vi­ously that’s not the in­tended re­ac­tion.

Watch­ing a cou­ple of thou­sand peo­ple cy­cle 56 miles of the Wick­low moun­tains, hav­ing al­ready swum over a mile across Dublin Bay, and with 13 miles of a run still await­ing them, is meant to be an in­vi­ta­tion to awe. Maybe the few elite pro­fes­sion­als in front might have con­jured that. But they’d long since gone left in their wake a large ma­jor­ity of it seemed mostly mid­dle-aged men sweat­ing out their neu­roses.

Al­most with­out ex­cep­tion they looked shat­tered. Hav­ing al­ready swum across a ship­ping lane, and with the Sally Gap still to be climbed, pre­sum­ing on signs of happy joie de vivre was ob­vi­ously pre­sum­ing a lot. But this was mis­ery. Hap­pier look­ing cy­clists re­treated from Mons.

It was mor­bidly fas­ci­nat­ing to look at: tape, ban­dages and all man­ner of ‘ping’ machines strapped to a sweaty mass of dis­con­so­late hu­man­ity. Some bod­ies looked like they were be­ing held to­gether by plas­ters and the grim re­solve to pa­rade their af­flu­ence. Rather than tri­umphs of the Corinthian sport­ing spirit, ex­treme sports events like Triathlon are re­ally a re­flec­tion of pros­per­ity. Not so much in terms of ex­pen­sive bling as be­ing able to af­ford the time and en­ergy to pre­pare.

The amount of hours in­vested in be­ing able to phys­i­cally con­sider th­ese events must be enor­mous. This is far from a health-main­tain­ing ca­sual jog around the block. This re­quires ded­i­ca­tion of a sort most of us who fill our days with frip­peries like scrap­ing a liv­ing or rais­ing fam­i­lies sim­ply can’t fit in.

So if co­caine is God’s way of say­ing you’ve too much money then ex­treme sports are His way of say­ing you’ve way too much time on your hands. This was only a “70.3” event as well. That’s a half Iron­man, a sort of limp feel of the real deal that’s twice the length. And there are Triathlon va­ri­eties like the Dou­ble-Iron­man and the Deca-Iron­man. By ex­treme sport stan­dard, Dún Laoghaire barely reg­is­tered as a tremor on the pe­ri­odic ta­ble. And of course if that’s what you want to do then good luck. It’s on-trend as part of the re­morse­less rise in pop­u­lar­ity of events that make marathons old hat and turn oth­er­wise sane peo­ple into ob­ses­sives push­ing their bod­ies and minds to break­ing point as some sort of “goal”.

Healthy ex­er­cise

That’s part of the jar­gon. There’s lot of self-ab­sorbed cod-Cal­i­for­nian balls like that. Lots of chal­lenges, over­com­ing your lim­its and ex­plor­ing the real you which pre­sum­ably will be dif­fer­ent from ev­ery­one else if you puke your guts out on the side of the road. Colour me du­bi­ous about all of it be­cause half an hour ex­am­in­ing an­guished mid­dle-aged am­a­teurism in­di­cated a pur­suit that isn’t so much about ex­er­cise as an ex­is­ten­tial cry for help. Be­cause at this point it’s pretty clear the last thing ex­treme sports are about is healthy ex­er­cise.

Pu­n­ish­ing fit­ness regimes of the sort re­quired to take part in Triathlons are what keep phys­io­ther­a­pists in sec­ond hol­i­day homes. They also main­tain the ram­pant prof­itabil­ity of the joint-re­place­ment in­dus­try. Re­cent reports point to the bleedin’ ob­vi­ous about too much ex­er­cise be­ing as bad for you as too lit­tle. There’s con­sen­sus that fit­ness ad­van­tages are neg­li­gi­ble after an hour as well as plenty ev­i­dence to sug­gest ex­treme ac­tiv­i­ties put un­due pres­sure on the heart in par­tic­u­lar.

One US study of more than nine mil­lion Triathlon par­tic­i­pants over three decades found the chance of death and car­diac ar­rest for mid­dle-aged adults was higher than the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion in­clud­ing those who run marathons. Dur­ing the study pe­riod 135 died sud­denly or had a heart attack. On aver­age the vic­tims were 47 years old – 85 per cent were male. Pre­cisely it seems the main de­mo­graphic traips­ing their way around South Dublin and North Wick­low last week.

Sure they’re best able to af­ford it. They’re prob­a­bly also best able to loudly jus­tify it with bunk about stress-bust­ing. And never un­der­es­ti­mate the nar­cis­sism of bored mid­dle-aged men jug­gling both self-sat­is­fac­tion and a de­sire to cling on to fad­ing youth. But if health is the ex­cuse any ex­pla­na­tion is surely part of a deeper psy­chosis, one it has been ar­gued that is rooted in a des­per­ate and very modern need to re­gain con­trol over ever more fran­tic and un­cer­tain lives.

Male ego

You can see the logic. Ask­ing most pro­fes­sional types what they do, or how good they are at it, means stand­ing back for a three-minute an­swer about bosses, clients, of­fice bitch­ing, the value of the pound and whether or not Trump’s go­ing to blow up the world. It’s life as a neu­rotic po­lit­i­cal slalom. And since there’s still a cave­man hard-drive among many men in par­tic­u­lar, the straight­for­ward at­trac­tion of a phys­i­cal task in­volv­ing con­crete ob­jec­tives and a yes or no con­clu­sion as to whether or not you’re suc­cess­ful is ob­vi­ous. The size of the house or the car might be linked to modern savvy but there’s still a link be­tween old fash­ioned phys­i­cal ac­com­plish­ment and the ex­tent of the male ego. It’s even bet­ter if the tough-guy bit in­volves In­sta­gram in­for­ma­tion about ta­pered anaer­o­bic di­etary con­sump­tion lev­els and mus­cles.

How­ever this stuff comes dressed up in cant about health can’t dis­guise how so much of it be­trays a ter­ri­ble anx­i­ety. No one’s im­mune to that. But not ev­ery­one’s bored enough to think ex­treme sports are an an­swer. And watch­ing Iron­man it was hard not to con­sider how bet­ter di­rected all this white-col­lar angst could be if it was pointed to­wards goals that are kind, con­struc­tive or even cre­ative rather than some­thing so de­press­ingly ego­cen­tric.

So if co­caine is God’s way of say­ing you’ve too much money then ex­treme sports are His way of say­ing you’ve way too much time on your hands

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.