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Kona Fever!

October 7, 2011
October 8, 2011, 6:30 am
The World Series or Super Bowl of Triathlon begins on the Big Island of Kailua-Kona. Every triathlete dreams of one day making it to the island. There are 1,800 lucky athletes that get to swim, bike and run in the most extreme conditions of Hawaii. The pro men will finish in just over 8 hours, the women just over 9 and the official party lasts until midnight when the last athlete officially crosses the line. Each athlete has a different goal, but for most crossing the line in the most grueling test of endurance and will power is enough to satisfy the most competitive of all people. The Ironman World Championships is not only a test for the pros, elite age groupers, but for the inspirational stories brought about by ordinary people trying to do an extraordinary thing.
Last year, you witnessed Rudy Garcia-Tolson compete (who had his legs amputated from the knee down and has no hamstring muscles), two years ago Jason Lester (who has only use of his left arm and legs), Rick and Dick Hoyt-maybe the most inspirational of all athletes (Rick who is paraplegic is pulled by raft by Dick in the swim, pushed on the front of his bike and pushed on the run so he can experience the joy and pageantry of the event http://www.youtube.com/watch?index=0&feature=PlayList&v=rPLCaAu_H2U&list=PL17026704D6C8EF52. You cannot watch the video without getting chills. These stories exist every year and is what separates the sport of triathlon from every other sport in the world.
Kona has been at the forefront of the sport since 1978 when the sport was conjured up by Doug Collins who was arguing with friends about the most grueling test of endurance (2.4 mile Waikiki rough water swim, around O’ahu bike race, and the Honolulu Marathon), the winner shall be pronounced Ironman. Each competitor (15 total – 11 finishers) was given a few sheets of rules for the race with the last page reading, swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, run 26.2 miles, Brag for the rest of your Life! Full story available at (http://ironmanworldchampionship.com/media/history-of-ironman/)
There is one noticeable exemption from this year’s starting line and that is the 2010 champion, Chris McCormack who will not be there to defend his title. Immediately, the odds on favorite revert back to Craig Alexander who is considered the best runner in Kona and just lost a little too much time on the bike last year to catch McCormack and Raelert. If you didn’t see the finish last year Andreas ran an incredible marathon to catch McCormack at mile 24, they ran stride for stride (reminiscent of the Iron War between Dave Scott and Mark Allen) (http://www.mattfitzgerald.org/?utmref=vpironman) until McCormack seemed to have another gear and turned it on to claim his second Ironman title. Others that could steal the title include, Raelert, Tissnik, Llanos, Al-Sultan, Potts, Lieto (I hope he wins one day because he leaves so much out there and just hasn’t had the speed to hold on the run- but hammers the bike- look for him to be first out on the run).
The women’s race comes down to two people: Chrissie Wellington (3 time champ 07, 08, 09)- withdrew last year because of illness and Mirinda Carfrae- last year’s champion. Mirinda may be the better runner (by a slim margin) but the overall athlete has to be Wellington and look for her to take back the title she lost out on last year. Should be a good battle between these two, but in the end look for Wellington to have that huge smile on her face when she crosses the line.
One day I hope to experience what it is like to race on the Big Island against the sports biggest stars. It is an experience that every triathlete dreams of, but each year only a handful get to experience. About 50,000 athletes compete in an iron distance event each year, but only 1,800 qualify for Kona. Good luck to all the athletes competing tomorrow in the event and I cannot wait to see what drama this year brings. The one thing Ironman needs to work on is getting NBC or Universal to show the event live or even a condensed version the day after, then they can edit it for a show later. Playing it on December 18 sucks! Give us the drama in real time, not just in blog form, or twitter updates.
Enjoy the race and if you aren’t inspired to train, check your pulse!
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