Adding a Fourth Event to IRONMAN

Anybody who runs a leading edge business will tell you the same thing: "Innovate or die." Steven Jobs invents the Apple and by the time he's finished bragging about it, the company gets snatched away and given to some guy who used to sell soda. Took Jobs another ten years to figure out he needed an iPod a year to keep from losing it again. Did Bill Gates sit on MS-DOS? NASA on the Mercury capsule? No. They got creative and kept on going.


So you have to ask yourself: Just how long do the Ironman higher-ups figure they can get away with only three legs in the world's toughest triathlon? Are they really ready to let this great event go the way of film cameras and vinyl LPs?

It doesn't matter if it's still called a tri-athlon, either. We still "dial" telephones that have no dials and nobody cares about that, so they'll get used to this, too.

So what do we do for a fourth event? Here are a couple of ideas.

Archery: You know that Winter Olympics biathlon where cross-country skiers have to stop and shoot guns at targets while their hearts are still doing about 195? (I love that event because it so mimics things we have to do in real life.) Suppose Ironman athletes had to come out of the water and then shoot half a dozen arrows at targets, with thirty seconds taken off their total time for each bull's-eye and thirty added if they miss the target altogether and hit something in the massage area. Can you imagine the intricate strategy in trying to figure out whether or not slowing down for the last hundred yards of the swim so you can steady yourself is worth it? Hey wait, here's a better idea: You have to get off the bike every ten miles and do it. (I love that because it so mimics the Winter Olympics biathlon.)

Wheelbarrow racing: That's the two-man event where one team member holds the other's legs in the air as he runs along on his hands. Takes two people, though, so for the professionals you make the second man the athlete's agent. I can just see the agent pushing as hard as he can even though his client is mostly running with her face rather than her hands. "She'll clean up later!" the agent shouts to concerned spectators as the sponsors he's signed up cheer lustily from the sidelines. Hey wait, here's a better idea: Let the athlete hold the agent's legs. My guess is we'd see faster times and possibly a few fatalities.

Boxing: One of the problems I have with Ironman is that there's not enough head-to-head competition. Sure, once in a while you see two people running a few feet apart, but aside from playing with each other's minds there's not much one can do to materially affect the performance of the other. So what if we were to pair off competitors by whatever position they're in at, say, the Energy Lab exit, slap on the 15-ounce gloves and let them duke it out for three rounds. (Age groupers would have to wear head gear, but not the pros.) That way you'd have a chance to, literally rather than figuratively, put some really serious hurt on your closest competitor, and knocking him out of the race would take on a whole new meaning.

Poker: No Limit Texas Hold 'Em in T-2. Everybody starts out with a hundred chips, each one worth ten seconds off the clock. It's up to the athlete how long he wants to stay in the game. Couple of all-in bluffs with 2-7 off suit, score pocket rockets against an empty flush draw behind the big stack and you could win the whole race without ever stepping foot on the run course.

Pool: Something that's always been faintly annoying about Ironman is that a complete klutz could win it because there's hardly any hand-eye coordination involved. So let's set up a hundred pool tables in Hawi like that scene from "The Color of Money" and have a playing field that favors the finely coordinated for a change. Everybody starts with a full rack and doesn't leave the table until fourteen balls are down except the eight. We'd have to think about whether competitors could stash their own cue sticks in their special needs bags.

Fencing: What a riot this would be with real swords and exhausted athletes! Of course, we should probably have it after the run so it's near the medical tent.

That's only a handful of the many possibilities. Another idea I considered was chess, but too many fights would break out and, besides, it's not very spectator friendly and would unfairly favor the Russians. Bass fishing came to mind but you couldn't do it at the world championships because, well, there are no bass in Hawai'i, and who'd want to train that hard just to get through a qualifier? What about rhythmic gymnastics?

Hey wait: Figure skating!

Nah. The sport couldn't afford the scandals.