What Happens in Vegas












What Lee Gruenfeld liked best about the 2012 Ironman 70.3 World Championship.

by Lee Gruenfeld

- I won a poker tournament at the South Point during race week.

- The Westin race hotel has the fastest WiFi of any hotel in the Western hemisphere.

- There's a Whole Foods only twenty-five minutes…

(Huh? What the…? Get out of here! I'm in the middle of writing a…)

Sorry. That was my editor, Kevin Mackinnon. Now where was I? Oh, yeah: There's a Whole…

(F'cryin' out loud, Mackinnon…huh? What? Oh. Oh, gee. Um…)

Sorry again. But it seems that I'm actually supposed to be writing about the athletic side of this race, since I've just been informed that nobody gives a …

(Alright, alright already!)

In the thirty-five-odd years of Ironman races around the world, there have been cold ones, rainy ones, windy ones and every other combination of weather imaginable. Rarely, though, has there been one so walloped by thermonuclear heat that the long-discredited concept of spontaneous human combustion was finally confirmed. When you consider that this championship race was comprised of the best professional and amateur athletes in the world, it's hard to picture dozens of them sprawled along the course in glassy-eyed stupors reciting long passages from ancient manuscripts. At least that's what it sounded like to me: None had any memories other than vague ones of their heads exploding.

Ironman is supposed to be hard -- competitors like it when it's hard -- but it's not supposed to top 105 degrees, which was what my car thermo read at about 1:00 pm. Maybe that's what led to the kind of rudeness I observed, athletes making vigorous and unwelcome gestures at me just because I was shooting pictures of them from inside an air-conditioned SUV whilst sipping a coconut-and-pineapple shaved ice which, I'd like to point out, I paid for with my own money.

How much did the heat affect the athletes? I tried to recall even one other Ironman event in which only two course records were set among the 28 amateur and two pro divisions. Couldn't do it. The one new age group mark (Sebastian Kienle broke Craig Alexander’s men’s course record by 13 seconds) came from Ellen Hart in Women 50-54, an extragalactic performance in which she bettered her 2011 time by five minutes. To put that in perspective, imagine yourself running a marathon in a hazmat suit and snorkeling fins and setting a PR. There were whispers that Ms. Hart cheated by training harder than anyone else, but it's still under investigation.

But at least there were plenty of longs hills, hardly any breeze on the run course and no shade anywhere. After all, this is supposed to be a world championship, right? The faint of heart need not apply.

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