Exercise great caution when completing an Ironman, as the following side effects may occur:
1. A big, goofy smile may permanently be on your face for an extended period of time. There is no end in sight, and this side effect usually lasts longer than four days.
2. You may experience an overwhelming appreciation for every single aspect of your life. Sheer euphoria may be achieved while making waffles on a Saturday morning. You may feel a strange love of rain falling on your window as you read a magazine. This usually makes above goofy smile even bigger.
3. Cell phone batteries typically will run out. You are so excited to return phone calls from all of your friends and family, that as you sit on your couch and watch the rain fall you feel an overwhelming appreciation of friendships and support that were magnified during the past nine months. You want to thank each one personally and explain that they were with you that day, whether they knew it or not. And this leads to cell phones dying.
4. You may experience cramping in the fingers, from writing personal thank-you notes to your friends and family, who supported you in so many ways. Some were actually on the course. Some had their students make construction paper cards for you. Some put Gatorade in your mailbox. There are varying amounts of acts of kindness to repay, and inevitably you will feel extreme cramping in your writing hand.
5. You may experience restlessness at night, as you play out the last half mile of your race. You will not remember the pain during the race as much, but that last half mile--you remember every second of it. And you will keep thinking about it, over, and over, and over again until it's 2:37am.
6. You may find yourself desiring the strangest things. Said things may involve actions that you NEVER in a million years would have expected to desire. Do not be alarmed if you miss getting up at 5:00 to go swim, or wish you could go out and ride a nice, hilly, 75 miler.
7. You will feel an overwhelming sense of love. It might be for a friend, or for your family, or your spouse. Most likely, it will be a combination of all these people. You will not realize that an Ironman triathlon can bring out these strong feelings of love and loyalty. It might bring tears to your eyes at the strangest time, like while making dinner or grading papers. Because, you realize that without this love as a support over the past year, you would not have made it to the starting line, let alone the finishing chute.
8. You may feel a little lost. You might wonder if you can top this, or what to do next. You should breathe deeply. You have plenty of time for all of these things, and you do not have to make a decision rightthissecondforcryingoutloud. So slow down, and enjoy the moment, Mr. or Mrs. Type A.
9. You will ultimately realize what it was all about. You will look back on this and remember the best part about it: the perspective. You will remember that when you trained for an Ironman, you had to let go. You HAD to. If you didn't let go of unnecessary feelings and doubts and drama and events, you didn't make it to the starting line. And that, you will realize, was the best part about the journey. The all-encompassing and all-simplifying manner in which you arrived in the water at 6:50am on a September morning reminds you of this. With Ironman, you cut out all extraneous activities and focused on what really mattered: namely, love. And you will vow to carry this into your life now that Ironman is over.
10. You dream about your next one. When you can finally fall asleep, that is.