Andrew Buchanan ’23 holds a fist in the air triumphantly as he completes the race. There are supporters cheering him on each side.

Andrew Buchanan ’23 raced his first full Ironman in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on May 22, 2022. Andrew placed first for his age group (men ages eighteen to twenty-four), qualifying the scholar for the 2022 Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, this October.

Written and contributed by Andrew Buchanan ’23

I told almost nobody about my plans to do Ironman Tulsa, a 140-mile race. I’m generally reluctant to even tell people that I race triathlon at all—especially Ironman—because triathletes are often result-obsessed, and non-triathletes often pin the endeavor to a single event. This sport is entirely inward for me.

I signed up for IM Tulsa for a dozen different reasons, but the main one was to encourage my own mental and physical well-being through grief. Ironman racing is a multi-month gift I gave myself: a promise to prioritize the activities that I love the most and taking care of myself in the process.

Training each week was a reserved space to explore North Carolina on bike, run dirt roads at sunset, or to let life’s stresses dissolve in Bowman Gray pool.

I had no coach and am not affiliated with any club or organization, so most of my training was self-directed and centered around consistently having as much fun as possible (think Mad Max: riding bikes 60 miles shirtless through the night with music blasting and bright colorful lights). An Iron-distance event requires a huge volume of training, so why not enjoy it?

The race results really shocked me. I had no clue I would win my age group. I toed the start line keeping in mind my long ‘list of whys.’ Nine of the ten hours were really fun, and that final hour pulled me on an inward journey full of raw emotion and grit. It was an experience unlike any other.

I can’t wait to race in the Ironman World Championships this October. This journey was life-changing for me, and if there’s any way that it might reach others and inspire them, I want to try.