2008 Ford Ironman World Championship

October 13th 2008

Lee Gruenfeld looks back on the 2008 Ford Ironman World Championship through the lens of a camera
The 2008 event wrapped up at midnight last night. The report from the field?

It was windy.

It was hot.

It was humid.

Yo, dude [as this year's youngest competitor might have put it]. It's freakin' Kona. It's the world's toughest endurance event. It's supposed to be, like, windy, hot and humid! You think bragging rights come from coasting downhill on a Barcalounger for seventeen hours? Chrissie Wellington's gigawatt smile didn't come from winning a pinochle game. You want calm, cool and dry, go race in Brooklyn.

Others have already written the thousands of words of which a few pictures are worth, so here are some pictures.

Things might look really chaotic in the bike staging area at 5:00 am, but in fact they're actually really chaotic.

Navy cruiser USS Lake Erie, a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser named for the decisive USN victory in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812.

Swim-to-bike transition bags

Staging areas for wheelchairs and handcycles

There are many ways to show support. Sally Crawford's (W60-64) posse is bedecked with her bib.

And this...I have no idea.

Missy LeStrange, Cherie Gruenfeld & Donna Key-Ness:
Among them, thirty age group wins in Kona.

Swimmers making their way to the water.
Notice how happy and serene everyone looks?

Heck of a place to drop a contact lens.

Someone remembered that this is supposed to be fun:
Veteran competitor Tiare Lund, 63, of New Zealand.

Seventy-year old many-time age group winner Rich Clark of Tiburon, CA

Bill "Irongent" Bell presides over the pre-race festivities.

Mary Ann & Bob Blais, parents of ALS "trailblaiser" Jon Blais

WTC kahuna Ben Fertic and Mike "Voice of Ironman" Reilly

Staying off your feet is good race strategy.

No, it's not a bad dream. You're really doing Ironman.

After thirty years of refinement, they're close to figuring out how to keep everyone behind the start line.

"No, no...I meant move to your other left!"

The first three out of the water.
Not easy looking graceful after 2.4-miles of hard swimming.

Powering up Palani.
Frank Huppmann of Germany in green, with Jame Hecsko of Manhattan Beach, CA, sticking close.

Out on the Queen K approaching Waikoloa Village Road.
Cyclists were treated to a tailwind on the way up.
Coming back? A different story entirely.
That's 61-year old David Asp of Red Wing, MN, up front.

Scott Powell, 40, of Dallas, TX, making the turnaround at Hawi.

Michaela Fuchs, 41, of Austria, back on the Queen K on the return from Hawi. Why is she smiling? Probably still wondering about that sign she saw while passing through Kawaihae (next photo).

About eighteen miles to go.

Laurie Beers, 54, from Kailua Kona, passing the "Scenic Point."

"The mountain is so big, and my bike is so small."

The aid stations volunteers make it a little less lonely.

"Masseuse to the Stars" Doug Thralls mans the bike in/run out intersection at Palani & Kuakini. Not nuts about the music, though: Check out the ear plugs.

The old Ironman course started off the run with an uphill.
The new course starts off the run with an uphill.
Lesley Mettler of Seattle, WA, shows the way to Gerard Santamaria of Melbourne, Australia.

Guts.

Seven-time overall female winner Natascha Badmann.
She made it through all of the swim, all of the bike and ten miles of the run and was thrilled, considering that doctors said she'd never toe the line at an Ironman again. They also said she couldn't swim and wouldn't be able to pedal a bike. I'm pretty sure these are the same guys who proved the bumblebees can't fly.

Craig Alexander, just over a mile from the finish line, caught in the process of changing that number on his bib to a "1"

Marie Protat, 27, of France, at Mile 7 of the run, fighting the temptation to turn left and jump into the ocean.

A whole new meaning to "kokua."

Jason Fowler of Kingston, MA, muscling his way up Palani on his way to a second place finish in the handcycle division.

They say it's hellish down in the Energy Lab.
Whatever.

"Dark" describes the Queen K at night like "chilly" describes Antarctica in December.

Remember those personal messages you entered at the Expo?
This is what they looked like to the athletes.

Paula Newby-Fraser once said that you spend all day hauling yourself through 140.4 miles...

...just to experience that last 0.2 on Ali'i Drive.

At the finish line.
Forty-five minutes left and several dozen athletes still within striking distance of the 17-hour midnight cutoff.

Mike Reilly's personal guarantee: Make it across that line on time and you get to hear "You are an Ironman!"

Overall winner Craig Alexander of Australia

Women's winner Chrissie Wellington of England, Competitor Magazine editor and Ironman Hall-of-Famer Bob Babbitt and Women's 60-64 winner Cherie Gruenfeld.

A splendid time was had by all!