Mark's First Ironman

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Before I competed in the Poconos Ironman 70.3, I wasn’t 100% sure if I’d be ready for Ironman Arizona’s swim.

Everyday was a struggle. I seesawed from believing in myself and not.

I learned a deeper meaning of the words HOPE and DOUBT.

Driving to the Poconos I was a little worried, but I focused on thinking about how great it would feel to get out of the water and get to the bike section. Positive thinking put me in a better mood and helped me stay focused.

But the night before the race I got a message from someone who found out about me attempting an Ironman distance starting with zero swimming abilities.

“I’m nervous for this guy…the anxiety would be overwhelming and could end his day really early…I sincerely hope he doesn’t hurt himself. Going from non-swimmer to IM distance event in less than a year is just about as extreme as it gets and quite crazy, imho. I just hope the kayaks are aplenty…”

This message really scared me. But I knew that if I let it get to me then it alone would ruin my swim. So I pushed it to the side and did my best to remain positive.

2012 Poconos Ironman 70.3 recap:

Of course for me it all boiled down to the swim. And it started like you would expect for any swim novice. It SUCKED!

I was struggling and quickly found the first kayak to hold onto. I was feeling very nauseous, and was extremely dizzy. I thought I was going to vomit. I pushed myself and kept swimming and got to the next kayak where I was feeling it even more. The kayaker asked me if I wanted to come out.

No. I didn’t want to. Not at all. Not even a little bit. I refused to let the naysayers win. But, I just didn’t know how I was going to do this. It seemed impossible.

I asked the kayaker how much further I had left to swim. “1 mile,” she replied. UGH…

I stayed there for a few minutes and just pushed off, hoping to make it to the next kayak. With a mix of swimming and floating on my back I made it to the first of 4 turns. A kayaker came to me while I was on my back to ask me if I was ok. And I was.

I started to swim, and I went a few minutes without needing to float on my back. I noticed each time I picked my head out of the water to breath, how amazing the lake looked with the morning sun just over the trees and all of us swimming together.

I don’t know what happened at that point. Something just clicked. But I swam the rest of the way without floating on my back; navigating around all the other swimmers; actually enjoying the experience; all the way to the end of the swim.

All doubts of my swimming abilities were gone. Getting out of that water felt like such a victory. I would think that most competitors at that point would look at the next two legs (56 mile ride +half marathon) and worry about all that lay ahead of them. For me, I knew how much I had just accomplished that the next two legs were of no concern at all. I rode and I ran.

Up to this point there were many times that I thought I made too large of a goal. That as hard as I tried, completing the 2012 Ironman Arizona on November 18 would be impossible for me.

Now I have no doubt. And I’m reminded of a Zig Ziglar quote that says: “People don’t fail because they aim too high and miss, but because they aim too low and hit.” Always, always aim high.

Poconos Ironman 70.3 Results:

1.2 Mile Swim: 55:41
T1: 8:40
56 Mile Cycling: 2:48:53
T2: 4:43
13.1 Mile Run: 1:54:05
Overall Time: 5:51:59

In January 2012, not knowing how to swim or tread water, Mark Izhak signed up for Ironman Arizona, beginning with a 2.4 mile swim.