Today the streets are lined with freakish athletes mounted on Trek bicycles and gliding down the Queen K highway dripping buckets of sweat.
Super light hat? Check.
Bikini-style skin-tight running gear? Check.
Super squishy lightweight sneakers? Check.
A desire to do the superhuman? Absolutely.
These are Ironmen! The toughest of the tough. The craziest of the crazy. What could possibly drive a human to want to race in the Kona sun?
On the mainland, maybe it’s leaves changing color, football on TV, or the start of a new school year that marks the autumn season. For the people of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, it is the Ironman Triathalon. Each year in October, athletes from all parts of the globe ascend on Hawaii Island to show us what is humanly possible.
2.4 mile swim (3.86 km) / 112 mile bicycle (180.25 km) / 26.2 (42.2 km)
For one day a year; stores close, businesses flip their OPEN sign over, and set their eyes on the Kailua pier. 5000 volunteers, thousands of bottles of water, power bars, sunscreen, and a whole lot of synergy goes into this epic production.
Anytime I get a chance to talk to an Ironman, I ask the obvious question: WHY? For some, it may be an addiction, a sickness, or in most cases; to prove to themselves that it can be done. Most simply try to finish; to be called an Ironman. Others, like the 21 American sponsored professional athletes, have aspirations of winning, breaking records, or even beating a rival. To the casual observer, it is a reminder of just how amazing humans can be. Here are some of our favorite Ironman tidbits to get you ready for tomorrow’s race.
1. The women’s field is bigger than ever making up nearly 30% of the field. Paula Newby-Fraser holds six of the top 10 all-time fastest finishes in Kona. She has the most of any female athlete with 8! This year, if ever there was a sure thing; it’s that Swiss athlete Daniela Ryf, is gonna bring it! Look for her to cross first!
2. There are 62 countries represented in this year’s competition.
3. Sean Astin, aka “Rudy” or “Mikey” from the Goonies made the field. How can you not root for him? Another celebrity, chef Gordon Ramsay, makes his return after an Achilles injury sidelined him in 2014.
4. Our international visitors are aplenty – Australia, Germany, and Great Britain lead the way. With Hawaii’s state flag being waved as well, there will be lots of Union Jacks on race day. The Aussies used to dominate; now it’s the Europeans. Who wins this year?
5. The last American to win the whole thing was Tim DeBoom in 2002. Ben Hoffman and Andy Potts are this year’s best chances.
6. The average age of this year’s Ironman is 43.2.
7. I’ll have what she’s having: Daniela Ryf’s breakfast smoothie recipe contains lupine protein, lemon oil, sesame seeds, yogurt, and fruit. You can eat like her but there’s all that training that goes with it too.
8. Most athletes carbo-load the day before the race IN THE MORNING. White breads and pastas are not part of a triathlete’s staple diet so they gently work it in heading into race day. On the day of the race, they’re typically eating 3 hours before the race. Nothing like whey protein and applesauce at 3:30 AM!
9. These athletes are salty. Sodium is essential and tablets are carried by all athletes to maintain healthy stamina and reduce cramping. Typically 800 to 4000 milligrams are consumed hourly.
10. The oldest person to ever set a record in Kona was 75-year-old Jim Ward. That record from 1992 still stands.
Congratulations to all of the participants! We are so proud to host you her on the Big Island of Hawaii!