I May Have The Wrong Tattoo?

I May Have The Wrong Tattoo?

This is the article that launched it all, originally in Triathlete Magazine, March 2007. It's an oldie but a goodie and as Ironman- Wisconsin and Kona approach, I thought I'd would share it with you. 

I may have the wrong tattoo? No it’s not the butterfly in the small of my back (that was option #2). When I finished the Ironman, I went out and got the M-Dot on my calf (attn: Ironman North America, while I know this is a copyright infringement, I get paid zip to write these articles, so to keep us out of court and I owe you all a beer for the trouble).

Being of a “certain age” and having avoided the Greek letters, Calvin and Hobbes, barbed wire around my arm and Chinese symbol for Spring Break anywhere on my body has always been a source of pride for me. Another source of pride is finishing the Ironman.

So when I finally bellied up to the tattoo parlor and made the conscious and sober decision to have someone permanently inject ink into my skin, to communicate an accomplishment and not Brian Bosworth, I  excited and proud.

I got the M-Dot, with the symbols for peace, love and happiness on my calf. The last time I was that excited to show something off to my friends was show and tell in fourth grade when my dad scored me an autographed picture of Gabe Kaplan (for all you Welcome Back Kotter fans). As I showed it to my training partners "it" happened, "the" comment that pooped on my Ironman parade. “You didn’t finish Kona, only Kona finishers should have the M-Dot, man you messed up, you didn’t earn that.” I heard that several times!

My first thought was “why the hell are they picking on me, I’m an Ironman?” Second thought," if the only way to truly earn the M-Dot is to finish Kona, then I am in big trouble. My only chances are a lottery spot or being an attention hungry, love sick reality star." BTW - How the heck are Ryan and Trista?

Okay, back to the topic at hand. Shouldn’t conquering 140.6 miles be what it’s all about? Does it really matter if it’s on the Big Island, through Sandusky, Ohio or if you’re insane enough, in your health clubs pool, spin bikes and treadmill. Does the location and sponsor make you less “iron?

In sports, I have never seen a symbol that evokes more loyalty and passion, than the M-Dot” admits Chris Hauth, winner of 2006 Couer D’Alene. “There are other great races out there, run by great organizations, but the Ironman draws a line in the sand that people want to cross, it brings people to where they have never been before, asking them to do something they have never done before.” Chris won, let me say that again w-o-n an Ironman, he placed 39th in Kona at 8:56, does he deserve to get a tattoo or to call himself a champion? Some critics would say no.

“Endurance athletes seem to be a group that likes to attack itself from within, there is a bizarre passion to triathlon that is filled with ritualistic type A personalities.” Says Hauth.

Using the words Type A and triathlete in the same sentence is a bit redundant. It’s weird, because Chris has been to that place most of us can only dream of, yet getting him to even crack a smile when he talks about his win is a hard thing to do, to the point you would think he stumbled across the line at 16:07 with me.

If it isn’t about Sub 17, finishing, the accomplishment and all that jazz, then what is it about and why are we so hard on each other?

“In triathlon, you can always go faster, you can always do better, we are all in search of that perfect day. It’s different day for different people, for Tim DeBoom it’s a race, for others it’s journey that they may only take once and remember for the rest of their lives.” Says Hauth.

If you do another 140.6-mile race, with the exact same distances, does it lessen the accomplishment? Can you still call yourself “Iron” or are you a mutant strain of endurance athlete, sort of a Muggle with great calves?

Then there’s age grouper Mike Biarnesen from Gurnee. Long before Mike ever crossed the finish line in Madison, he was an Ironman, or at least encompassed the spirit of an Ironman. In his first attempt to get to the race, Mike broke his hip in a warm up marathon, but didn’t realize it until after he finished. He missed the race. Year two, Mike had a stroke while swimming, the doctor told him he was done, he missed the race again. In his third year, after a long hard recovery, only weeks before Madison, Mike wiped on his bike, cracked his skull and fractured his collarbone. Mike still made it to the shores of Lake Mendota and crossed the finish line with an impressive time.

Before he ever set foot in the water, his spirit, focus and determination made him a solid man made of a metal much stronger than iron and an inspiration to those around him. But does he deserve the tattoo?
“They” say that finishing an Ironman, Sliverman or Any-man puts you in a group of people that separates you from 99% of the other living, breathing human beings in the world. An accomplishment worth a little celebrating if you finish in 8 hours or 17.

But if you’re still uncomfortable with the M-Dot then how ‘bout some other options? What’s wrong with just a 140.6 tattoo or even the T-Dot, Dot Dot. Picture a big red T with three dots over the top of the T one for swimming, biking and running. This is my gift to you, free of charge the T-Dot to symbolize the fact that we are all triathletes from the sprint to the 140.6 distance, and if you make it across that line, it’s an accomplishment worth celebrating and something to be proud of.

What do yo think?  Is Kona the only "true" Iraonman Triathlon, or is the accomplishment of finishing 140.6 miles worth of any racing worth calling yourself an Ironman?


Courtesy of Triathlete Magazine’s March 2007 issue.

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