You Don’t Have To Be A Superhero To Be An Iron Man. But It Helps.
Aaron West figured he was fairly fit.
He’d always been an athletic guy. The oldest of six, he and his parents and siblings were always active. Even into adulthood, West says he always made time to run and bike. And even into his 30s, he didn’t carry a lot of fat on his 6’1” frame.
“I thought I was in shape, I really did,” West said. “Until my neighbor invited me to try my first triathlon.”
West remembers that triathlon—a sprint distance (the shortest triathlon, but still a whopper of a race with a 750 meter swim, a 12.5 mile bike ride and a 3 mile run)—as the worst athletic experience of his life.
“It was very humbling,” says West, laughing at the memory of being passed by a woman in her late 60’s who was rocketing through the course while he was struggling to put one foot in front of the other. “As she went by, she tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘It’s okay, honey, you can do it!’ And then ran past me and just kept going.
West finished that race toward the back of the pack, but he was determined to do better.
That was back in 2002.
Now, more than eleven years later, West has gone from struggling through his first sprint distance triathlon to busting his way through three full Iron Man races.
The secret, says West, is just determination. “It’s amazing what your body will do if you just tell it that’s what you’re doing.” But completing a major bucket list challenge like an Iron Man isn’t all about personal willpower, it’s also about finding the right support. “I’m a real big believer in accountability and outside influence,” says West. “That’s one of the things that has helped me find success in racing—and in business.”
“Having a coach has helped immeasurably in all aspects of my life,” adds West. “They can give you outside perspective and make sure you’re doing the right thing in the right order to get the best benefit. When you don’t have a plan, you don’t really know where you’re going.”
Not that knowing where he was going was a luxury that Aaron West always had along this path. “It was 8 years from my first triathlon to my first Iron Man,” he says. “When I was doing the sprint distance, doing an Iron Man wasn’t even on the radar. It was just a natural progression. As I got fitter and more comfortable, the next thing became the challenge.”
“I think a lot of people see the world championships in Kona every year and in the back of their minds think ‘oh, I’d love to do that at some point,’” says West, adding that with triathlons—as with all sport—the best thing to do is just start. “Just starting is the biggest hurdle most people have. If you can get through the first week and a half of the pain, your body figures out what you’re doing and you really start to enjoy it. As far as triathlons, anyone who has ever done one or is currently doing one wants to help people get into it. It’s an open arms community. If it’s something you’ve wanted to do, reach out to someone and you’ll be surprised at how eager they are to help you.”
When he’s not out running (and swimming and biking) races, West operates a successful real estate business, and still makes time for his wife—a committed marathoner—and their two sons, 9 and 11, who are following in their parents’ footsteps and staying fit and healthy. “We’ve just got a healthy family,” laughs West. “None of us go too crazy with anything but we’re all motivated to stay fit and active.”
But finding time to fit it all in—and make no mistake, finishing an Iron Man takes some serious training time—is one of the major challenges of West’s life.
“With my boys getting older, trying to keep a balance with family and work and training means being more disciplined to keep it all together,” adds West with a shrug. Then, a moment later, he adds that after recently finishing Iron Man Lake Tahoe he’s planning to take the next year off—which, to him, means just doing a few half Iron Man races—in order to refocus on his business and his family. “You can be a mile wide or an inch deep or a mile deep and an inch wide. But you can’t do it all.”
Coming from a guy who has already taken on a feat of endurance that most people will never even dream of attempting and crossed it off his bucket list, not doing it all still looks like a heck of a lot of work.
“It’s fun,” laughs West for a moment, before amending. “If fun is the right word.”