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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: IRONMAN TRIATHLON FROM KONA, HAWAII!

Monday, October 17, 2011

IRONMAN TRIATHLON FROM KONA, HAWAII!

  




 An Ironman Triathlon is one of a series of long-distance triathlon races organized by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) consisting of a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bike and a marathon (42.195 kilometres (26.219 mi)) run, raced in that order and without a break. Most Ironman events have a strict time limit of 17 hours to complete the race, where the Ironman race starts at 7 AM, the mandatory swim cut off for the 2.4-mile (3.9 km) swim is 2 hours 20 minutes, the bike cut off time is 5:30 PM, and all finishers must complete their marathon by midnight.
   The name Ironman Triathlon refers to both the original Ironman triathlon and the annual Ironman World Championship. Also called Ironman Hawaii, the world championships of the event, held annually in Hawaii since 1978 (with an additional race in 1982), are now preceded by a series of qualifying events. Ironman Triathlon became known for its grueling length, harsh race conditions, and television coverage.

History

   The idea for the original Ironman Triathlon arose during the awards ceremony for the 1977 Oahu Perimeter Relay (a running race for 5-person teams). Among the participants were numerous representatives of both the Mid-Pacific Road Runners and the Waikiki Swim Club, whose members had long been debating which athletes were more fit, runners or swimmers. On this occasion, U.S. Navy Commander John Collins pointed out that a recent article in Sports Illustrated magazine had declared that Eddy






Merckx, the great Belgian cyclist, had the highest recorded "oxygen uptake" of any athlete ever measured, so perhaps cyclists were more fit than anyone. CDR Collins and his wife Judy Collins had taken part in the triathlons staged in 1974 and 1975 by the San Diego Track Club in and around Mission Bay, California, as well as the 1975 Optimist Sports Fiesta Triathlon in Coronado, California. A number of the other military athletes in attendance were also familiar with the San Diego races, so they understood the concept when Collins suggested that the debate should be settled through a race combining the three existing long-distance competitions already on the island: the Waikiki Roughwater Swim (2.4 mi./3.86 km), the Around-Oahu Bike Race (115 mi./185.07 km; originally a two-day event) and the Honolulu Marathon (26.219 mi./42.195 km).
   Until that point, no one present had ever done the bike race. Collins calculated that by shaving 3 miles (4.8 km) off the course and riding counter-clockwise around the island, the bike leg could start at the finish of the Waikiki Rough Water and end at the Aloha Tower, the traditional start of the Honolulu Marathon. Prior to racing, each athlete received three sheets of paper listing a few rules and a course description. Handwritten on the last page was this exhortation: "Swim 2.4 miles! Bike 112 miles! Run 26.2 miles! Brag for the rest of your life", now a registered trademark.






   With a nod to a local runner who was notorious for his demanding workouts, Collins said, "Whoever finishes first, we'll call him the Iron Man." Each of the racers had their own support crew to supply water, food and encouragement during the event. Of the fifteen men to start off in the early morning on February 18, 1978, twelve completed the race. Gordon Haller, a US Navy Communications Specialist, was the first to earn the title Ironman by completing the course with a time of 11 hours, 46 minutes, 58 seconds. The runner-up John Dunbar, a US Navy SEAL, led after the second transition and had a chance to win but ran out of water on the marathon course; his support crew resorted to giving him beer instead.
   With no further marketing efforts, the race gathered as many as 50 athletes in 1979. The race, however, was postponed a day because of bad weather conditions. Only fifteen competitors started off the race Sunday morning. San Diego's Tom Warren won in 11 hours, 15 minutes, 56 seconds. Lyn Lemaire, a championship cyclist from Boston, placed sixth overall and became the first "Ironwoman".







   Collins planned on changing the race into a relay event to draw more participants, but Sports Illustrated's journalist Barry McDermott, in the area to cover a golf tournament, discovered the race and wrote a ten page account of it. During the following year, hundreds of curious participants contacted Collins.
   In 1981 organizer Valerie Silk moved the competition to the less urbanized Hawaiʻi Island (called the Big Island) and in 1982 moved the race date from February to October; as a result of this change there were two Ironman Triathlon events in 1982.
A milestone in the marketing of the legend and history of the race happened in February 1982. Julie Moss, a college student competing to gather research for her exercise physiology thesis, moved toward the finish line in first place. As she neared the finish, severe fatigue and dehydration set in, and she fell, just yards away from the finish line. Although Kathleen McCartney passed her for the women’s title, Moss nevertheless crawled to the finish line. Her performance was broadcast worldwide and created the Ironman mantra that just finishing is a victory.
   The sport of triathlon was added as an Olympic sport at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney as a shorter distance race (1,500-metre (0.93 mi) swim, 40-kilometre (25 mi) cycle, 10-kilometre (6.2 mi) run).






   There have been a number of non-WTC "Ironman Distance" triathlons that have been held since the mid-1990s. The limited number of WTC-sanctioned events, and the limited number of entries available per race, have combined with a growth in the sport that has created demand for these non-trademarked events. Many of them share the 2.4-mile (3.9 km), 112-mile (180 km), 26.2-mile (42.2 km) format with Ironman.   Originally, many used the Ironman name. Due to aggressive trademark protection, most of these races no longer use the word "Ironman". The largest of these include the Vineman Triathlon and Silverman Triathlon.
   The original Ironman is held in conditions which are uniquely punishing for endurance racing: the Hawaii water is warm enough that helpfully buoyant wetsuits are not allowed; though the cycling hills have only moderate gradients they are normally crossed by strong and gusting winds; and the marathon leg of the race is usually extremely hot. Other races under the WTC aegis have their own difficulties,






characteristic of their setting and season. Anyone completing one of these races within the time limit, so long as it is the prescribed distance, is entitled to call themselves an Ironman (the term being gender-neutral). At one time there was no cut-off time, then a 15 hour time limit. For these events the normal time limit is now 17 hours. Some iron distance races (not sanctioned by the WTC corporation, but using the same standard distances) have different cut-off times.


Today

   The Ironman format remains unchanged, and the Hawaiian Ironman is still regarded as an honored and prestigious triathlon event to win worldwide. Although thousands of athletes worldwide compete at an Ironman event each year, the vast majority aim simply to just finish the course if they are first timers, or set a personal record if they've raced this distance before. Only very talented athletes realistically compete for a spot in Hawaii, and just finishing an Ironman race is often the highlight of many triathletes' career. Athletes with disabilities now compete in the event in the physically challenged category, and are required to meet the same cutoff times as able bodied competitors. Australian John MacLean was the first physically challenged athlete to complete the event.






   People completing such an event within the strict event time cutoffs are agreed to be recognized as "Ironmen": the plural "Ironmans" refers to multiples of "Ironman" as a short form of "Ironman Triathlon". In the triathlon community an Ironman is someone who has completed a race of the appropriate distance, whether or not it falls under the aegis of WTC.


Ironman World Championships


   Over time the popularity of the sport of triathlon grew, and the annual race on the Big Island became The Ironman World Championship, with a series of qualifying races required to enter the championship. The Hawaii race consists of the swim in the bay of Kailua-Kona, the bike ride across the Hawaiian lava desert to Hāwī and back, and the marathon run along the coast (from Keauhou to Keahole Point and back to Kailua-Kona); finishing on Aliʻi Drive. The most recent Ironman World Championship took place on October 9, 2010. Qualifying for the World Championship is through placement in one of the other Ironman races or some Ironman 70.3 races. Qualification can also be via simply finishing a race and winning a lottery position (200 slots).







   The current Ironman Hawaii course record was set in 1996 by Luc Van Lierde (Belgium), whose winning time was 8 hours 4 minutes 8 seconds. Chrissie Wellington (Great Britain) set the women's course record in 2009 with a winning time of 8 hours 54 minutes 2 seconds.

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