What’s this “Kona” thing?
Kailua-Kona, is a town on the Big Island of Hawai’i, with a population of about 9,780.
But to me, as to most triathletes, the key is that it’s the home of the IronMan World Championships.
IronMan – isn’t that a comic, and a film with that guy… you know the one…
It is a comic, and a film with that guy… Robert Downey Jr. but it’s also a rather tricky endurance event. It’s a standard triathlon, Swim, Cycle, Run, but a bit longer than most, though shorter than many!
The swim’s 2.4 miles, the bike ride’s 112, and the run’s 26.2, totalling up to 140.6 miles, to be completed in under 17 hours.
IronMan is a brand name, but is often used to refer to any race of this distance, though non branded events are technically “Iron distance” events. The brand is owned by the World Triathlon Corporation.
The World Championships is open to a few groups, you can qualify as a Pro, racing against other professionals (well, that’s not going to work for me!) There is a lottery of slots, but the chances are slim, or you can qualify in your age group…
Age groups are gender specific and fall into 5 year groups – so at the moment I’m “M25-29”
To qualify each IronMan event has a certain number of “slots” for the world championships, these are divided between the age groups male and female depending on how many participants there are in each group, but having at least one slot per age group. So if there are 5 slots in an age group, the top 5 finishers in that group get offered slots – if they don’t take them it rolls down to the next person in that slot and carries on… in some cases this goes on through several finishers… in most that’s not the case any more, sadly.
So, why do it? Do you actually have a chance?
I watched the World Championships live on line in 2007, sat up until about 3am watching Chris McCormack take his first victory after several failed attempts, and Chrissie Wellington take her first (of three consecutive) victories. I was awe struck; the crowds, the scenery, and the fact that it is possible for an age group triathlete to race on the same course at the same time as the best field, and against the best in your age group. I wanted to be in that position.
I watched again in October 2010, thinking that 2011 was going to be my first bash at an IronMan. The desire to be there was even stronger… So, let’s give it a go! What’s the worst that can happen? People more talented than me have tried and failed, but that doesn’t mean I’ll fail.
When I make it, that will be awesome; if I don’t then I hope to learn a lot along the way about myself, about sport, about priorities and about limits. Mark Twight, climber, founder of Gym Jones, and all round fit-as-hell nutbar wrote the following in an article called “Why: Not all are invited” (link) which was about the training at Gym Jones, but while I’m not training at Gym Jones the following extract is true of my goal:
Meaningful achievement takes time, hard work, persistence, patience, proper intent and constant self-awareness. The path to such success is punctuated by failure, consolidation and renewed effort. It is wet with the tears of emotional breakdown. Personal reconstruction is art. Discovering one’s self, one’s talent and ambition and learning how to express it is a creative process so may not be rushed. What’s the hurry? Pressure to succeed according to a particular timeline comes from outside. If the goal is selfish self-improvement there is no schedule, no deadline. One’s rate of progress is influenced by the intensity used to address the task. Hard, intelligent work speeds us along the path. Neurotic obsession and compulsion may steepen the trajectory but usually lead to illness and injury. In the end, the process takes as long as it takes — you can’t push the river. We are in it for the long haul and demand the same of the athletes we train.
He sent replied to an e-mail of mine once, finishing with the simple line “We become what we do. Onwards.” So this is me, and I’m trying to get to the IronMan World Championships, and I’m trying to find out about myself along the way and where my limits are.