Dec 20, 2010

2.4 Miles, 112 Miles, 26.2 Miles

Those are the distances of the 3 disciplines in the Ironman Triathlon.  There are thousands of triathlons around the world, covering a multitude of different distances.  There are a lot more Ironman distances around the world also.  But there is only one world championship, Ironman Hawaii.  From the Ironman site:

To get to the starting line in Kona, you must either be very lucky and get yourself a spot through the lottery, or very talented, and win yourself a qualifying spot at one of the qualifying events held around the world.
Tens-of-thousands of triathletes try to get one of those coveted Ironman spots every year. Only 1,800 succeeded.

That means 1,800 "lucky" people get to test themselves on one of the biggest challenges the sports world has to offer ... 2.4-miles of swimming, 112-miles of biking, and a 26.2-mile marathon run through tough ocean waves, and challenging lava-covered terrain.

It all began at an Awards Ceremony for a relay running race in Honolulu in 1977. A group of local athletes discussed the idea of an endurance triathlon and combining three major events that already existed on the island. John Collins suggested combining them and making it a single-day event. Later that evening, Collins took the stage announcing the event and that "whoever finishes first, we will call him the IRONMAN." It has since become triathlon's Super Bowl, Wimbledon, World Series, World Cup, and Tour de France all rolled into one. What makes this event so unique is that "average" people get to compete alongside the best in the world.
Kathy and I watch a lot of triathlons during the year because we both really enjoy watching the events, and because Kathy is a triathete herself.  The world championship from Hawaii is always covered by NBC and they really do a good job.  They not only cover the elite athletes, but always try and find good stories about the common athletes that have overcome hardships, or have done something out of the ordinary to make it to Hawaii.  This is where I first heard about Dick Hoyt, who is a personnel hero of mine.  He has done this event a number of times, all while dragging his son Rick in a boat behind him, on the bike with him, and in a modified racing wheelchair.

Here are some snippets from the 2 hours of covrage that I think capture what the event is all about.
If you decide to skip these, just watch the last one about the everyday people.

The opening swim always is scary, because they start in the water instead of running into the water, and it is a group start instead of wave starts.
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This portion covers some of the biking strategy, as well as the pressure on Craig Alexander to 3-peat as the champion and join the legends of Ironman, Mark Allen and Dave Scott.  The women's champion, and the women who is considered one of the greatest ever, Chrissie Wellington had to drop out at the last moment.  This made the women's event wide open.

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In this next sequence, you see Chris Lieto take off big time on the bike, because he knows he can't run as fast as some of the other top competitors, so he must build a cushion.  This almost never works, as a matter of fact I think Thomas Holstrum was the only guy to ever do it.

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In the end, Chris McCormack defeats Andreas Raelert in one of the closest races ever run. I love the part where they are running neck and neck and McCormack hands him the water sponge and Raelert shakes his hand.

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 But like I mentioned up above, the real beauty of this race, and the coverage of it, is in the people who are not the professional athletes.  The mom and dads, the older age groups and the ones who have to crank out the regular day's living as well as find the time to train.  This final section is about them, the amateur athlete who gives it all they have, which sometimes just isn't enough.

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No copywrite infringement is intended with these videos, only the utmost respect.

6 comments:

  1. I have run only two marathons, but that gives me a vague idea into the mental toughness these people have.

    Never bet against an IRONMAN.

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  2. I used to love watching the Ironman, but the way they've turned it into a documentary instead of a sports event bothers me. I love the personal stories (so inspiring!) but something's been missing (the feeling of real competition?) the last few years.

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  3. I'm exercising right now (raises coffee cup to lips)
    Merry Christmas Chris. xo d

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  4. Thanks for the Christmas gift of reminding me how much I suck.

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  5. I know someone who is trying to get invited to that. I think she will. She's pretty bad-ass.

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  6. i guess i should put down the donut.

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