I was sitting reserve in Pittsburgh yesterday and staying with a friend of mine. So what's the natural thing to do after a day of golf? (not my choice, I got roped into it. I hate golf.) Sit around and watch the Ironman World Championship coverage on the Ironman website, of course! Seriously, T and I are both giant nerds, but I've talked about passion for triathlon and how both T and I have that passion. In the same way that people admire basketball and football superstars, T and I admire Chrissy Wellington, Craig Alexander, Chris Lieto, Linsey Corbin, Chris McCormack, and other professional triathletes. So with our computers set up we texted/talked to each other about each big thing that was going on in Kona yesterday.
Chris Lieto is a very talented triathlete who has won the Ironman before, in Wisconsin, Canada, and Tokyo. The guy is ridiculous on the bike, setting the course record in Canada and last year having a 12 minute lead on eventual champion Craig Alexander in Kona. This year, Chris was kicking some major ass on the bike, but with temperatures topping 104 degrees, it was a hot day, even by the blast furnace Kona standards. Chris started off the run, but early on, it was obvious something was going on. He was struggling a little bit. The announcers were unsure of what was happening, but I could see it in his form and his expression. Fast on his heels were Andreas Raelert and Chris McCormack. McCormack has won Kona before, in 2007. Even further back, but just as dangerous, was Craig Alexander, who has come from behind in both his Kona wins on the run. He was running an unreal 2:35:00 marathon pace. Lieto was faltering, and soon was passed by McCormack. I thought there was the possibility that Lieto would be able to rally, but he was unable. No Kona again for Lieto, who has hinted at hanging it up. I think he's still got a shot at winning Kona, but certainly the window is closing for him.
Anyway though, Chris McCormack made a crucial decision that ultimately netted him victory. Near the last aid station, McCormack and Raelert were running stride for stride, just as Mark Allen and Dave Scott were in the Ironwar. At that point, the observers twittering about the race and myself were wondering if it would come down to a sprint. When they shook hands, I figured they were making an agreement to not sprint until the end. Turns out it was just congratulating each other on a great race. At the last aid station, McCormack elected to not stop for aid, but Raelert did, and was unable to catch up. I was surprised he made the decision to stop. I mean, at that point, step on the gas! Grind it out! You're so close! But it wasn't to be. Chris McCormack snapped the tape in Kona and silenced the doubters about him. Most importantly, he held off Craig Alexander, who finished 4th and was very gracious.
The thing is, McCormack winning the mens side of thing probably wasn't the biggest story of the day. No, in my opinion, the biggest story of the day was Chrissy Wellington's decision to not race. The hype surrounding Chrissy coming into this race was unreal. It didn't seem to be a discussion of whether Chrissy would repeat; it seemed more like would whoever finished 2nd get closer than last year? These questions were moot when Chrissy announced that due to flu-like symptoms, she wouldn't be able to perform with the respect that the race and her competitors deserve. Talk about a classy human being. She races Ironman with the respect Ironman deserves. You don't compete in Kona unless you are capable of doing your very best. Chrissy captures that, and in turn, captures my respect for life.
One of the best quotes from the bloggers following the race went something like this. I didn't quote it word for word and can't find it this morning, but basically he summed it up that we should all keep our dreams of completing the Ironman, since it doesn't matter who is winning the race. I think that's always something to keep in mind in triathlon. As much as I love the sport, I'm not at the point where I RACE, per se. But I definitely go hard during the event and work as hard as I can.
As I said in a list of truths I was making about triathlon this week that I'll post later...plan to complete an Ironman...dream of Kona.