As if getting into one of the world’s most iconic athletic endurance challenges wasn’t hard enough, competitors in the Ironman Triathlon World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i, are tasked with conquering a 2.4-mile ocean swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run.
Tom Gart, president of the Gart Companies in Denver, Colo., finished his fifth Ironman triathlon on Saturday, Oct. 12. Despite a knee injury, he took the 140.6-miles in stride. Here’s his race report.
It was an outstanding experience from the start to the end! The swim start is the most exciting athletic event kick-off I have ever seen. I had a solid swim and actually backed off the bike time because I was concerned about having enough gas in the tank for the run in the heat.
Winds were quiet at Hawi (Editor’s note: the northernmost town on Hawaii Island that hosts the IM bicycle turnaround), but I hit a BIG headwind for the last 30 miles on the bike and tried not to fight it to conserve the energy for the run. My big concern was my knee for the run and I had no problems.
I just decided to back off and take it easy to make sure I could enjoy the finish — it was very interesting being out there on the Queen K. in total darkness with the last of the triathletes. (Editor’s note: the Queen Kaahumanu Highway stretches through lava fields and is a notorious segment of the race.)
This race is the best of the best and most participants had won their age group in the last year at an IM race to qualify, so there was not a long list of slow old guys hanging out with me at the end. I am a little competitive and it was not exactly a P.R., so believe me when I say I had plenty of gas in the tank at the end. I’m grateful my knee held up incredibly well. It was a true joy to be able to finish strong and take in all the sights at the end.
The chute at the finish line is electric with energy, even for the slow guys like me — what a privilege to be able to participate. The unique thing about the Ironman is you are out there with the best — on the same day and on the same course and you get to see them on the route. We are all out there, each with our own personal story and journey.
If you are ever in Kona during the IM, you should come and see it. Make sure to stay for the last hour. The pros come back to meet the last finishers who were out there for 17 hours and the crowd just goes crazy. You know each of those finishers has a story.
I know it sounds trite, but the last finishers really are the winners. We saw a 79-year-old woman finish, a rather large guy who had lost over 150 pounds finish. The last finisher was a woman who had done numerous Ironman races and was hit by a car while training. She lost her leg and still came back and did the IM with a high tech blade!
Just the best!