Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Big Kona

I had every intention of writing yesterday. I had plans of coming up with something whimsical (assuming that I have that sort of potential). Alas, I just did not have it in me.

It might have been out of respect for my Jewish brethren. Yesterday was Yom Kippur and I did not want to tempt my Jewish readers by posting something that they could not read. But the real truth was that I spent much of the day watching the Ironman Kona live feed. I have been looking forward to this day for a while. It's no secret that I want to, one day, NOT watch the race and actually do the race. Since I am not that good of an athlete, and since the rest of the world seems to be getting faster, I have to live vicariously through others.

The Unfortunate Beginning
The race started at 7:00 am, like all other races in the Ironman world. The professional race goes off a few minutes early. However, Hawaii is much further west of my current location. And, like you should have learned at some point in middle school, the further west you travel, the earlier it gets (that is until you reach this magical, imaginary line where the system gets skewed).

7:00 am is 1:00 pm in the Banter time zone so I had some time to kill. I have been running a lot lately. My running could use some work and I have been taking advantage of the off season to start building up a run routine that I can carry on into the 2012 base season (more on this soon). I went for a near 5 mile tempo run which I was able to hold a 7:22 per mile pace and felt like I could have gone faster. I'm not there yet but I may soon have to drop my "I'm not a runner" attitude.

After a quick shower, I took the Wife shopping. It is the weekend and she gets her time. Plus, we had a free $10 coupon that expired later in the day. It was for a sporting goods store. Up front, this would seem like a positive. Until you realize that there are so many possibilities and we spent too much time looking at stuff we could afford on a $10 budget. Our actual purchase was limited to socks and a swim cap. Finally, it was reduced to 3 swim caps (the Wife prefers the lycra kind, which kinda sucks since I have roughly 3 billion free silicon/ latex kind that they hand out at races). Lycra caps are small items and are not easily found in a sporting goods store that is bloated with golf and football tailgating supplies. By the time we made it home, I had missed the swim start. My viewing started as the lead dudes were entering transition.

I hooked a second computer up to my television. This act enabled me to watch the race on a bigger screen and freed up my computer for other tasks, such as blogging. I didn't really touch my computer much during the race. I was riveted.

A Brief Recap of the Important Happenings
Andy Potts, as expected got out of the water first. You'll remember Andy as the inspiration for my "Know the Course" post. He's an amazing swimmer and a great athlete. However, his swimming prowess is almost immediately negated by the bike ride. Chrissie Wellington, the -if-she's-racing-she'll-probably-win racer, was uncharacteristically way behind the leaders. Chrissie missed last year's event due to a viral infection. She didn't want to miss again. However, she was injured. Having suffered a horrific bike crash a couple of weeks ago (see left leg in photo, click to enlarge), her preparation training was below ideal and was apparent from the onset.

Once the athletes jump on 2 wheels, Andy sadly gets passed. Chris Leito, a fellow American, tends to be the king of the road. Yesterday was no exception. Here's the thing about watching the pros race the bike ride... They are absolutely fun to watch. There is more than 4 hours of coverage on the bike ride alone and I was glued. I can't handle watching more than 15 minutes of a professional football game due to boredom. But 4+ hours of men and women cycling down the road? That I can do with absolutely no problem. I find these athletes inspiring. In fact, they busted me out of my now 3-week cycling drought.

After the first woman, Julie Dibens, made it past halfway mark, I went for a ride of my own. I envisioned myself at some point in the near future cycling down the Queen K highway, past scores of cheering fans, and living up the moment. I had re-entered the cycling world thanks to IM Kona.

I got back from my ride in plenty of time to watch more of the bike leg. Chris Leito made a break during the second half of the 112 mile ride to put a gap between him and the other athletes. His lead was not as big as it was in the past. Julie was still slamming the competition on the bike. Chrissie, who would have normally been in the lead by now, was many minutes behind. She was very near Mirinda Carfrae, who was last year's winner.

On to the run. I watched the entire pro marathon without missing a minute. I had planned on cutting the grass but I felt guilty for missing the swim and some of the bike. The grass would wait until tomorrow (which is actually today). This was a good decision because Chris Lieto was passed very quickly into the run leg by Craig Alexander. Crowie and Chris have battled in the past but never this soon in the race. Chris struggles on the marathon and Crowie was soon running in the pole position all by his lonesome.

Julie had set a woman's bike course record and had a commanding lead. However, she recently had surgery on her foot and was clearly struggling on the run. She ended up dropping out of the race, thus officially negating her course record. Poor woman. Chrissie started the run leg many minutes behind the bike leaders, including Caroline Steffan, and was about 3 minutes ahead of Mirinda. Rinny is the owner of the IM Kona Marathon record, which she set a year ago. Running is Rinny's strength. It was shaping up to be an interesting women's race.

History was Set
Craig Alexander held his lead. Going into the final 3 miles, his quads cramped up and he stopped to stretch at least 3 times. Some of the really great runners, Peter Jacobs and Andreas Raelert were chasing but they were very far back. It was Crowie versus the clock. The number to beat was Luc Van Lierde's course record set 15 years ago. It looked as if Crowie was going to end up a few seconds short. But then, looks are deceiving as he beat the old mark and became the first person ever to come to the line under 8:04.

With Julie out of the race, Chrissie took the lead from Caroline around the halfway mark. Interestingly, Mirinda was not gaining or losing any time. Chrissie and Rinny were matching mile for mile, which was bad for Rinny as she stayed about 3 minutes back. When Chrissie crossed the line, she had set a new run course record, beating Rinny's time from a year ago. Ironically, she held the record for only about 3 minutes as Rinny had beaten Chrissie's run time by a little more than 30 seconds. Rinny had reclaimed the run title, which was a consolation prize. Chrissie was now the 4 time Ironman Champion and had the second fastest time in IM Kona history. She showed that, even though her swim and bike times were un-Chrissie-like, that there is more than one way to win the title. In her victory speech, she thanked Rinny (in true champion form) for providing the motivation to run so hard.

So there you have it. A great day in triathlon. The long-standing men's record goes down with male champ had proven to his doubters that he can SBR better than anyone else ever on the course. The female champ, having never lost a race at this distance, came from unfamiliar territory (from behind) to score the victory over last year's champ. Plus, a doofus of a blogger got back on the bicycle, officially kicking off base training for next years season.

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