Ironman Kona: Earning the Big Island

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OK, I get it, you’re in Kona.

Most of my internet right now is full of people’s pictures from the Big Island and tweets about panic training for the BIG race this weekend and Instagrams of the big sunsets. Your internet may not be that — Steve’s certainly isn’t — but, understandably, mine is. And I am not begrudging everyone their fun. Hawaii, as a place, is definitely fun. And, who doesn’t love watching a world championship.

But, (and, yes, there is a but) is it really as blessedly amazingly magical as we let the entire sport tell us? Is it really the only thing worthwhile in triathlon? Or, have you bought into the myth just a little bit?

Ironman may not be my thing. I’m not sure yet. I’ll have to do another before I decide. I’d like to qualify for Kona at some point, just so I can see what it’s like — kind of how I had to watch a bunch of “Girls” to make sure I was right that I didn’t like it, back before hating Lena Dunham had gotten passe and vaguely sexist. I may not ever be able to qualify, though. I need to get at least 45 minutes faster and not hurt; possibly, the woman’s amateur field needs to get less insanely competitive (and some people need to go ahead and upgrade out of the amateur field); and, still, Kona may always be out of reach. It is one of the most competitive amateur events out there, so I totally respect that. I do.

Except, or, I could just buy a lottery spot or a corporate spot or be given a celebrity spot or raise a bunch of money to get a spot. Or, I could just go and hang out.

When I was on the high school cross-country team, I was hurt at one point and had to sit out the meets. Instead, I got to just hang out, take splits, do the pre-race pep talk. I was part of the team, without having to actually be in the pain of running as part of the team. It was (in a lot of ways) so much better than actually racing. But, it wasn’t really the same. And, I wouldn’t have been on the inside at all if I hadn’t put out the pain before and earned the right to be there. The payoff just isn’t there if you don’t deserve it.

Of course, you can go to Hawaii whenever you want. You can do whatever you want. But, it seems like there are a lot more people hanging out this year. A lot more people coming up with reasons they need to be there, that they deserve to be part of the scene. I get that. If someone offered me a trip, I’d have taken it. I also eat brownies for dinner sometimes. It won’t be the same, though. It’ll be like sitting on the outside and trying to bask in the refracted joy.

You’ll say it was magical. It was amazing. You’ll say all that dessert you ate was filling. I hope it is.


70.3 World Championship Predicitons

Tomorrow is the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Mont Tremblant. The race has really evolved in the last few years from a Kona knock-off to a genuine championships, especially now that you have Olympic athletes meeting with Ironman athletes. I’ll actually be riding my bike in the morning, so I can’t follow the livestream of the race. Hopefully, everyone who loves to live-tweet things as they watch them on TV will live-tweet something I actually want to know about and can’t see on TV.

Here’s who I’m sort of rooting for and think could come out on top tomorrow, though there are certainly a handful of people who could win. Which makes it exciting. (If you want more details, the Slowtwitch men’s and women’s previews are totally in-depth.)

Men: Javier Gomez – it’d be sort of awesome to see him come back after the ITU World Championship win and prove he is the BEST AT EVERYTHING

Women: Meredith Kessler – gotta root for the local (when I lived in the Bay Area) girl, who always stops to talk to me at swimming, especially since it’s been great to see her get stupid fast over the last few years

Thoughts and Concerns About the Track and Field World Championships

The past couple days I’ve been watching the Track and Field World Championships full-time and I have more than a few thoughts about the races and coverage. If you follow me on The Twitter, it’s possible you already heard some of these. And, also, you should be watching (and have your own thoughts). It’s good.

  • It would have been cool to see a back-in-form Tyson Gay v. Usain Bolt race. And, I know, I know, Gay cheated and doped and had to be axed, but it seems a little optimistically naive to think Gay and Asafa Powell were doping but Bolt isn’t. So, if we’re going to watch one doper win, I’d rather have seen them all go at it. (And, I know, I know, assuming everyone else is doping is a whole prisoner’s dilemma that just encourages more doping. But, if anyone is, don’t you think it’s Bolt? And, I can sort of understand why Gay would be tempted, would be coming back again from injury, be the old guy now, and here’s Bolt who just can’t be beat, who defies basic odds, and who probably is doping himself. Wouldn’t it just be so easy? I’m just saying, empathy is the first step to understanding and, then, understanding is the first step to finding solutions.)
  • If Jamaica is able to be the first-ever country to put four men in the 100m final — EVEN THOUGH their next two best after Bolt, including defending World Champ Yohan Blake, were out for injury or doping suspensions — don’t you think there ought to be a reason why the island nation of 2.6 million is defying basic statistical odds?
  • Speaking of doping, it was nice that NBC actually mentioned it instead of just ignoring the topic entirely and trying to erase people from historical footage like in their Tour de France coverage.
  • It was nice of NBC, also, to sort of mention the whole Russia banning being gay thing.
  • Except, you know, they didn’t exactly. Because mainstream media (not that I don’t loathe that term) keeps calling it a ban on “propaganda about alternative lifestyles aimed at kids.” That’s incredibly, what is the word, bullshit.
  • As everyone keeps arguing back and forth about boycotts and human rights — not that sport boycotts have virtually ever affected policy changes on human rights — no one is actually answering this question: Are gay athletes and coaches and fans being allowed to compete and spectate right now, without being harassed or manhandled by police, with the full freedom allowed by their competitors? That sort of seems like a main question before Sochi.
  • You know who seems like they all just get along? Decathletes. After 20-year-old Gunnar Nixon jumped a personal best in the long jump he came over to tell teammate (and Olympic champ) Ashton Eaton. You know what Eaton did? Even though the jump put Nixon in the lead over him. He got excited for the kid and gave him a high-five and slapped him on the back. You can see it in the background of the NBC coverage. It makes you feel good about people.
  • Though, on the other hand, I pretty much have heard the whole Eaton almost being hit by a javelin thrown by his fiancee story more times than I could possibly care about.
  • The 1500m in the decathlon is, like, the most amazing thing to watch ever.
  • Except for maybe the 50k race walk.
  • And, if you want to talk about cheating, let’s talk about race walking. There have been studies done showing that there’s simply no mathematical way to cover the distance they do with the leg length they have and NOT have both feet off the ground. Which is why the whole point is just not to get caught and the standard is ‘looks like walking to the naked eye.’ The British announcer explained it as a contest of ‘Who can whisper the loudest.’
  • You know what other coverage sucked? The 45″ summary of the women’s marathon.
  • But, they did, however, show all the prelims of the 100m. Naturally.
  • Watching those heats was actually informative, though, because it turns out that diversity bids, or wild cards or whatever they’re called, are quite numerous in the women’s 100m. The qualifying standard is 11.36, but there were women running in the high 12s in prelims. That’s weird. I understand that we want to encourage participation from underrepresented countries and groups. But, it never quite makes sense to me when there ends up being a swimmer at the Olympics who has never been in a pool. Not that I don’t think there should be development programs and wild cards, but in most countries everywhere there are people who know how to swim pretty well. (Though, it turns out the whole swimmer who’d never been in a pool thing worked out ok for him and he actually is the coach of Equitorial Guinea’s swim team and can swim a 55″ 100m now, so maybe I’m completely wrong.) Running is even more democratic than swimming. It’s not as expense-prohibitive as most sports. Hell, some of the fastest people come from countries that don’t have much money. So, when we put women in the 100m who are running in the high 12s and we congratulate ourselves for being inclusionary, are we mistakenly just trying to make ourselves feel good? Does the fact that they’re so far back feed into our notions of the good we’re doing, because if they were better it wouldn’t be as far a stretch for them to be there? I don’t know how I feel about it, but I know I just kept wondering why they couldn’t find one woman from those countries who ran the 100m faster.
  • You know what did make me feel good, though: Ryan Wilson. At 32, he finally made his first World Championship team for the U.S. That means he must have been close for years. It would have been easier to quit, probably. But, he made the team and then he got second. So there.
  • That 110m hurdles mens race, though, is probably the most competitive race.
  • Except maybe the women’s 400m.
  • Actually, there’s been a lot of good races.
  • Wait, where was David Rudisha?