(If you'd rather wait to see some of the results until the TV coverage in December, don't read this post.)
Some of my triathlon friends scoffed at the idea of watching the live feed of the Ironman World Championships from Kona. Not me. I looked forward to it like Christmas Eve. I couldn't wait to watch the pre-race coverage with my first cup of coffee. We had a nice decadent breakfast around the computer monitor. The footage was amazing.
It almost felt like I was on one of those stand-up paddle (SUP) boards, watching the pros swim. I noticed Andy Potts took several breaths from his right side and then switched and took another 15 or 20 breaths from his left side. Hmmm. That might be worth trying versus breathing every third stroke as I try to adapt to bilateral breathing. The water looked like it wasn't flat, but had layers of light chop on top of some swells. I wondered what it really felt like for the swimmers out there. Not so bad or kind of rough?
The aerial shots of the transition area left me awestruck. I've seen other Ironman events and the transition at Oceanside is pretty cool. There's just something about that shot of Kona with all the bikes waiting for their owners.
Early on with the bike coverage, they showed Macca pass someone in a no-pass zone. I wondered if that would come back to haunt him with a 4-minute penalty later. While I saw most of the coverage, I did slip out for a swim in the Bay with Kristen and Ryan. Maybe more was said about Macca's pass later.
I felt badly for Chrissie Wellington who was too sick to defend her title. It was great to see all of the other pros in action. I was just as impressed by the age groupers, most qualified with uber-fast times. I was particularly interested to see how my 74-year old friend Mickie Shapiro and fellow blogger Beth Walsh did out there. It was sad to see some age groupers miss the cut-off times and their faces as they were told the bad news that they were DQ'd. I'm not sure if Mickie was DQ'd or if she had to drop out halfway through the bike for another reason. She has done Kona several years in the past. This just wasn't her year. I hope she'll try again because she gives me hope that I'll be able to keep doing this when I age up a few more times.
I waited with anticipation for Beth to cross this finish line. I knew she'd climb in the rankings as soon as she hit the run. She was in 33rd place off the bike. By the end of the run, she finished 13th in her division of 30-34 year olds. She crossed the finish line in braids, and at first, I didn't recognize her! I'm simple blown away by her running and mental toughness. She had the fastest female age-grouper marathon time. I'm not surprised. I am thrilled for her!
I thought about Kona a lot in the past 48 hours. I thought about the duel between Chris McCormack and Andreas Raelert in the last few miles of the race. I’m sure it will go down in history as one of the most exciting IM finishes ever. I thought about how Mirinda Carfrae charged on the last half of her marathon. There was an absolute animalistic aggression to her stride that you don’t normally see with distance runners. I thought about the suffering – seeing Chris Lieto lead the race until he started running like the Tinman. One of my favorite athletes from Boston, Dede Griesbauer, finished in tears. Was she disappointed in her performance or just happy to see the finish line after a day that was so physically and mentally punishing? Yes, the pros showed just how tough this race can be too. And I thought about their tenacity. The oldest competitor in the race, 80-year old Lew Hollander, finished in 15:48. Can you imagine? He did:-)
I couldn't help wondering how these athletes felt over the weekend and now. How tired their tri-sherpas must be from hanging out in the hot sun all day, watching for their athletes. And then there's a little part of me who wonders if I'll ever get there some day. I'm not too proud to take a lottery slot. I am too proud to enter the lottery before I significantly improve my skills though. Saturday inspired me to keep doing just that – regardless of whether I ever make it to Kona. There's just something so pure about watching the best of our sport give it their at the big race.