Who are the contenders in the 2011 Ford Ironman Championships?
What is an Ironman?
To complete an Ironman involves months of dedication and training, and probably years of racing to build up to the final event: a 3.8km swim, followed by a 180km cycle then 42km run (a marathon). To do any of those sports in isolation is impressive: to do one after the other is epic. The cut off time is usually 17 hours, however the average time (vastly dependent on race conditions!) around 12 hours.To cross the finish line is an achievement so great, that you’ll see many sporting the Ironman logo tattooed on their ridiculously fit body – a body that puts most of us to shame. For days after the race, competitors will wear their medals proudly round their neck and their ‘Finisher’ t-shirt out to breakfast, lunch and dinner. Rightly so!
What’s so special about Kona?
Ironman events take place all around the world. However, with its extremely gruelling conditions, strict qualifying criteria and extensive media coverage, the Hawaiian Ironman is regarded as the most prestigious triathlon event to win worldwide.
Only the fittest of the fit will even get to the starting line at Kona. The only way to get there is to win a spot at one of the qualifying events around the world, or be incredibly lucky to be one of 200 who win a place in the ‘lottery’. Tens of thousands try to get there each year – only 1,800 succeed.
Think about how much training you would do to complete a marathon – countless hours pounding the pavement to the same songs repeating out of your iPod. Now throw in a splash of training at the pool – up and down the blue line, over and over again, this time with no music to distract you. And then there’s the cycle – Ironmen would think nothing of a lazy 200km cycle on a Sunday morning before many of us even contemplate waking up. Training for this event should be a full time job. But for most, it’s not – they board the bus or train like everyone else and work a steady 40+ hour week. I asked a friend who was training for an Ironman how he fitted it all in.
“Got up at 4.30am for a 2 hour cycle before work, hit the pool at lunch for a 5km swim, then ran home from work – about 25kms’.
Now that’s commitment.
Though most probably prefer not to think about it (or care), the financial investment to complete an Ironman is pretty hefty. Here are a few of the major expenses:Race entry fee: Varies, but to enter the Port Macquarie Ironman in Australia costs $675. You often need to qualify for Ironman by first completing a Half Ironman (70.3), costing around $270.
Equipment: The most basic road bike will cost you $1000+. The more serious athletes will think nothing of spending $10,000+ on a bike. That’s more than my car! But it’s more than just the bike. There’s also a helmet, lights, gloves, jersey, cycle shorts, bike shoes, running shoes, heart rate monitors, trisuit, swimmers, goggles etc etc ...not to mention the most important part of any race – the anti-chafing cream.
Travel: Accommodation is probably needed at every race, as you need to get to the transition area in the wee hours of the morning on race day. Getting to the race will usually involve a train, plane or automobile, also clocking up loyalty points on your credit card. And who can resist the occasional souvineer – whether it’s a ‘I heart Hawaii’ tee or pelican magnet from Port Macquarie.
Then there are the trips to the physio, massages, gym membership for rainy days….time to ask for a credit limit increase?The Triumph
A few years ago, I volunteered to help out at an Ironman event, as I was up there watching a friend who was in it, attempting to qualify for Kona. I was fairly naïve about Ironman, having never watched one or even completed a triathlon. My day started at 5am, and I could sense the nerves, anticipation and excitement in the air. Thousands of bikes were racked up in transition, representing millions of dollars of investment from a group of people who were absolutely dedicated and driven to reach their ultimate goal: simply, to cross the finish line. At midnight, I was wolf whistling and clapping the final person across the finish line, along with thousands of other spectators and competitors who had crossed the line previously. This woman was about 55 years old, and tears of triumph were streaming down her face as she stumbled across the finish line, while the commentator announced to her ‘YOU ARE AN IRONMAN’.
I had goosebumps.One day, I hope that person will be me. It’s the domino effect of being inspired by one person, and believing that if they can do it, then I can too. In a few weeks, I’m doing the Olympic distance Noosa Triathlon. Next year, I’m juggling between a marathon and a Half Ironman. My next overseas trip is to Kona, Hawaii – just in time for Ironman. The dominoes have started to fall...