There are two things about Ironman that have captured me and kept me captive for some while now. The first is the training. The other is the last hour around the finishing chute. There are many other things to love about the sports and Ironman events specifically - the people, the locations, the impressive organization, etc. - but training and the midnight chute top my list.
Both deserve a full post or more - and they will get that longer treatment eventually. But here is my take in a nutshell.
Training for long course, no matter what the time target, is the life changing aspect of the sport. It will require some reorganization and reprioritization of every day. It will require a deposit of time and energy (and sometimes money) every day. It is also what upgrades body and soul. The change comes from the work, these regular "deposits", not from the finisher medal.
The finishing chute late in the race is where we celebrate the accomplishment of that positive change. The finishing chute is The Happy Place, the center of it all on The Happy Day. More about "The Happy Day" later. This is when those who had it the toughest that day come in, and we get to cheer them and applaud them. The girls and I make the point of being there around the seventeenth hour, if at all possible. It is always the highlight of the day.