Whew! Time to get something down on paper about this most epic adventure!
I just completed the Ironman World Championship race in Kona, Hawaii 10/9/10 and came back to north central WI Wednesday afternoon. The leaves are off the trees and everything is brown and all Wisconsin-like. Those of you from WI know exactly what I mean; somewhere between winter and summer. Yes, that's fall I realize. But yucky to me. A far cry from the niceties of Hawaii.
I have no idea how I'm going to break this experience up into manageable posts. So, please, bear with me because I'm sure there will be a lot of rambling!
I think the things that really struck me the most were the people and the atmosphere. Electric. That is the best word I can use to describe it. Yes, the scenery was beautiful. The bike porn was hot. The food was great. But, it was the people and the energy about the race that will stick with me forever.
On the trip out, we knew we'd be traveling with tons of Ironman geeks. I met a professional photographer who LOVED name dropping and letting us know what pros he would be focusing on. It was funny because there is always someone you see over and over on a trip like this and he was the guy! And, no, he wasn't real excited about taking my pic!! I also met a gentleman named Phillipe (probably screwed up the spelling). He was from LA. He wasn't a racer and he did not have an athlete he was going with. He had done an Ironman several years ago and just loved the sport. He recently had knee surgery. Basically, he always wanted to go to Kona for the race and was looking to get back into the sport. How nice it was that I got to see him out on the run course twice and on the plane ride home! People like that were everywhere. They just love Ironman!
I've got to give a huge shout-out to the Wisconsin folks; Kim Basala, and Mike and Jenny Wimmer. I saw you guys out there and it truly warmed my heart. I don't know you very well. But you're my home state people. To have your support means a lot!
My personal peeps were the best! I'm probably not the funnest person to be around the few days leading up to a big race. I tend to get quiet and withdrawn. I don't want to talk about it and I have a lot of nervous energy. To put up with me was a challenge. Plus, the few days before IM is full of IM activities; expo, registration, pre-race banquet, bike racking, and workouts. This cut into their fun and I am grateful for their patience. You guys are the BEST!
I lump the racers in this category because they are the driving force behind what makes the atmosphere the atmosphere. Anyone who's done an Ironman or somehow participated in an Ironman either volunteering or spectating knows that the level of fitness at these events is great. Now take that level and ratchet it up X 10! That's what it felt like. The men were tan, slick, and lean. No complaints from me there! The women were impressive to say the least. Body fat? What's that? I saw women in the 50-54 age group on the podium post-race who I dream of looking like. I suppose a lot of this was generated in my head and of my own insecurities but I kept looking at myself and thinking 'what are you doing here? you do NOT look like these people! you look like a good-old WI dairy queen.' And intense! My sister kept saying that she wanted "to feed these people a cheese burger". They all looked pretty focused and it seemed clear they were there with a job to complete.
The event itself is extremely well-organized. This also contributes to the overall great feel of the race. The expo was like a triathlon North Pole; a place to go and see all the toys you can only dream of all in one spot. Of course, the most fabulous of fabulous were there including Headsweats, 2XU, Specialized, CycleOps, SRAM, and Zipp. The pre-race and post-race awards banquets are also top notch. The food was actually good and had some local flavor. There were luau dancers and fire twirlers, Hawaiian music and drum lines. Mike Reilly is, of course, the announcer and he really does an awesome job. If you weren't pumped to race before, Reilly definitely has you ready to go. If you thought your day was less than spectacular, Reilly makes you feel like a rock star after.
People love this race. Ironman athletes, supporters, volunteers....everyone. This is the big dance and it shows. I have more respect and admiration for the race now that I've done it than before when I only dreamed about doing it. Now I know why people want to keep coming back again and again and again.....