Some may argue that soccer’s World Cup is the greatest sporting event ever. Some may pick football’s Super Bowl. Cases can be made for prizefights (Rumble in the Jungle, anyone?), certain Olympic events, hockey’s “Miracle on Ice”…every sport has a pinnacle of achievement, a defining moment. For triathlon, that moment happens this Sunday, October 8, in Kona, Hawaii, at the Ford Ironman World Championships. NBC will broadcast its coverage on December 10, 4:30-6:00PM EST, but if you want to catch it live, log on to http://kona.ironmanlive.com/#axzz1aCmLoI3s today for live coverage (race will start at noon Austin-time, with the last finisher coming it at 5:00 a.m. Sunday morning).
There are Ironman events all over the world (and there are Ironman-distance events that are independently run and not part of the trademarked event series). All you need to participate is the money, the nimble dexterity to get registered before the race fills up, and the will to train constantly in three separate sports for months and months and months in order to test yourself over a grueling 17-hour day. But Kona…Kona is different. With the exception of a few lottery slots, a small amount of charity slots, and some entries given to international athletes, triathletes racing at Kona won a slot because they were the best overall and best age-group athletes at a qualifying race. Like Boston-bound runners, they earned that spot with a fast time; they are, simply, the best of the best.
Kona came about because some training partners made a bet to see who was the better athlete; they combined three existing races, the Waikiki Roughwater Swim, Around-Oahu Bike race (a two-day event), and Honolulu Marathon. The first one finished would be called “the Ironman.” That was in 1978, and since then thousands of athletes have taken on the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-run.
The race has changed along the way: the race moved to Kona in ’81, time cut-offs were added the next year (that’s the same year as Julie Moss’s epic finish) and then dropped to 17:00 hours in ’83. In 1990, the course was changed to include what is called “The Pit” and “The Lab.” What makes Kona difficult (besides the fact that it’s an Ironman) is the grueling heat among the lava fields and on the roads, and often times, wind becomes a huge factor. It is, simply, epic. Conditions for today’s race, however, look great, and commentators are already predicting some screaming fast times.
Austin has a remarkable contingency of triathletes at Kona; check the list of registrants for anyone you might know. Austin’s own Amy Marsh will be competing with the pros, as will sometimes Austinite Michael Lovato. We at Austin Fit Magazine wish them, our Austin-area age-group competitive athletes, and every other triathlete taking the field well as they become, yet again, an Ironman.