In 2008, I started chasing Ironman and at the time, it seemed like it was me and a bunch of strangers.  There was the occasional local guy but at the time, I didn't really know anyone.

That all changed in 2010 when I attended a training camp.  At that camp, I met a bunch of new friends and when a group of us qualified for the Ironman World Championship, we were reunited in Kona, we met the friends of the friends and our circle expanded.

When I left Kona that year, I had a bunch of new friends and we managed to stay in touch one way or another over the years.

In the following three years, I returned to Kona and although I saw some familiar faces, some of the old faces had disappeared from the landscape.  Where did they go?

Some left to have kids, others left for various reasons but the most honest answer I got -- I'm tired of suffering.

I started chasing Ironman because it seemed like an outrageous goal -- a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike and then follow it up with a marathon.  Some would ask:  "All in the same day?"  I reply with a smile:  "Yes, all in the same day."

After realizing I might be good at it, like my friends, we continued honing our skills until we made our way to the pointy end of the stick.

But then what?

You do what you know how to do.  You race, you qualify and you go back to Kona.  When it's all done, you start all over again.  String a few years together and something you love can turn into work.

I think that's the point where we see people fall off. 

A person could choose to dial down their training and accept the results given the training but I think the idea of racing for less than the win is unacceptable.  So much so that they'd rather leave the sport altogether than 'participate'.

I got a taste of that myself this year when I skipped out on Coeur d'Alene.  I probably could have raced.  But with a bunch of athletes racing, I chose not to jump in.  Truthfully, a part of me was glad I had so many athletes in the game because the idea of being unfit to win weighed on me a little bit.  Like my friends, I'd rather not start without my "A" game.

Fortunately, when Wisconsin rolled around, I had an itch that needed to be scratched. 

I was nowhere near as fit as I was in previous years but I wanted to play and that was enough to get me to start. Once I realized I wasn't going to die, I paced the day according to my level of fitness and I actually enjoyed myself.

At the end of the day, I didn't win, I didn't get on the podium and I didn't qualify for Kona.  Surprisingly, the world didn't come to an end and my friends still like me.  I mean isn't that what we thought?  We'd perform less than our best and everything would come crashing down?

Every time I think about my Ironman future, I'm reminded of a post I saw from an elite age grouper of yesteryear.  In his post, he said he regretted not going out on top. 

To me, it seems like you go out when you're done.