IRONMAN 70.3 Hawaii drew thousands of age groupers again this year, who come for the Big Island race and stay for the hospitality and vacation-like atmosphere. A tribute to Jon Blais and a new race director marked the special weekend.
There are things in life you just come to depend on: The Soviet Empire will live forever, Babe Ruth’s home run record will never be broken, Apple will never dip below 600, the best person to handle your investments is Bernie Madoff and any triathlon staged in the Mojave Desert at the tail end of summer is going to be hot and dry.
Every time I go to an Ironman race I come back saying the same thing: This is the greatest place in the world for an Ironman. I’m always right, by the way, but I do see the problem. Whatever. Arizona is the greatest place in the world for an Ironman.
Elite prizefighters are surrounded by entourages, people who hover close by day and night and are devoted to their meal ticket’s every comfort and convenience. The fighter gets so used to it that it’s often a shock when, at the time he needs that support most of all, it suddenly evaporates and he finds himself on a tiny patch of canvas-covered earth, alone except for one other man who’s sole purpose is to beat him to a pulp.
It’s much the same with the Ironman triathlete. After months of constant encouragement from family, friends, coaches, club members and workout partners, there comes a point when he is suddenly, frighteningly, alone.
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.
Vineman? No need to whine, man…there's wine, man!
Eagle, Tin, Steel, Iron…all very cool. But seriously: How do you compete with Vineman? Do we toast with a glass of metal? Do old friends connect over flying predators? Did Jesus turn water into tin?
A few weeks ago I wrote from Ironman 70.3 St. Croix that, after every race I cover, I always say that that location was the greatest venue on the circuit, but that even though I was now saying the same thing about St. Croix, this time I really, really meant it. Seriously.
Except that, seriously, now I’m at the Ironman 70.3 Hawai’i, still affectionately known as Honu, and this time, no BS, no kidding, I swear to Pele I really mean it, this is the greatest venue on the circuit, bar none.
It’s an island in the Caribbean. That right there is enough to get it into the top three. Second, unlike a lot of tropical islands, it’s relatively unspoiled. That means its charms haven’t been manufactured by Acme Genuine Authentic Authorized Quaint Reproductions-on-Demand , Inc., nor do boatloads of coupon-wielding tourists descend in hordes on outlet malls measured in square miles. There are no cruise ships here and, for that matter, far fewer tourists in comparison with neighboring stops in the other U.S. and British Virgin Islands.
So this buddy of mine on the East Coast named Charles Popper hears I'm covering Vineman and the first things he says is (now bear in mind that Charles has a PhD in computer science from Harvard and this is just how the guy thinks), "Have you ever thought about how much energy is wasted in a triathlon?" Matter of fact I have, and have written previously in these pages on how some of that energy might be recovered.
But Charles isn't interested in recovering it, just putting it to good use. "You have over two thousand absurdly fit people stomping around on pavement for 13.1 miles," he says. "Stomping? In wine country? Hello?" Incredulous at my density, he expounds: "Why not have them stomping grapes instead of pavement?"
Sometimes a picture says it all. Lee Gruenfeld covered Ford Ironman Arizona for us here at Ironman.com. Last week we posted his recap of Rudy Garcia-Tolson's amazing race. Today we have a selection of photos from Gruenfeld that tell a wonderful story.
As we prepare for this weekend's Foster Grant Ironman World Championship 70.3, we have one last look at last months Ford Ironman World Championship through the eyes of our wonder-columnist Lee Gruenfeld. [Photo gallery]
Readers probably aren’t aware of this, but I’ve had on ongoing battle with the powers that be in the Ironman head office. There are things they simply won't let me say, even if purely in jest or if I try to write them in Swahili.
As an example, I’ve tried to make humorous reference to athletes popping a few cold ones out on the lava fields, but every time I do, it gets bleeped.
Tempe. Say it soft and it sounds like…Tempe.
It may not have the scenic grandeur of Lake Placid or the tropical charm of St. Croix or the exotic mystique of Kona - think Cleveland without the awesome views - but Ford Ironman Arizona has quickly gained a reputation as perhaps the most spectator-friendly course on the circuit. It sure as heck wasn't friendly to the athletes.
I fancy myself a writer, but there are some things words just can't capture. So, herewith a few visuals of a truly incredible day.
So you think you're an Iron Whiz, do you? Raced in or watched several dozen IMs, read all the race programs and every page of the Website, attended every interview and subscribed to all the magazines?
Jeez, do you ever need a life.