A new champion was crowned, and a returning one reigned once again. Craig Alexander from Australia covered just enough moves on the bike to be in a position to launch a successful steady attack on the marathon for a final victory time of 8:17:45. It was a risk, no doubt. He let 8:20 open up between himself and the bike leader Torbjorn Sindballe on a day when the winds came back to Kona. That’s a chunk few can make up. But Alexander saw from his second place performance from last year that there was really only going to be one threat to him on the run if all went his way.
And that should have come from returning champ Chris McCormack. But unfortunately, his race literally derailed when his gears kept slipping into the small chain ring up front, and that is not a gear that will do you much good against a freight train of the sport’s elite. His race ended shortly after the return at the far end of the course. It played out to be another year that proved just how tough it is to return as the defending champion and do just that…defend.
That task was less of a challenge for the 2007 champion, Chrissie Wellington, who lived up to all of her competitors’ predictions that she was in a class of her own. She did give them a chance, however, with a flat tire on the bike that she could not get inflated. She relinquished the lead she had at the time and pondered her next move when her lone CO2 cartridge spewed all its contents outside the tire rather than into its interior. Fortunately, one of those who passed her gave her a second chance by tossing her another pressurized bottle of the day-saving gas.
It wasn’t long before she was back on track and in the lead. Her final time at the tape was 9:06:23, and it could be argued that without her downtime with the flat that she just might have crushed the record books with an Ironman course record. Ah, so much has to go right for you out there to pull off such feats. Needless to say, unless the world ends there is probably a good chance she will be back and going for it again next year, even though she said today was THE toughest thing she has ever done in her life. You would never have known she was suffering by the smiles on her face and the waves to the crowd. But perhaps that’s all part of her secret formula. Pretend like you are having a great time and then you just might post one at the finish.
This just reminded me of a great T-shirt I saw earlier this week that said, “You don’t have to be having fun to have fun.” That about sums up what it’s like to race here at the Ironman.
The wind will likely be what most remember as the toughest challenge of the day. Even the elite were weaving all over the road trying to stay upright when the side winds hammered them. It broke up packs and cracked spirits sending athletes packing back to the drawing board for the answers to solve the Ironman race puzzle. A quick look at the finishers list will show some impressive names that sunk fairly far down because of the toll the conditions took on them.
Everyone knows the reputation for how tough the winds can be here, but the past few years have been relatively timid. For those who have only raced here a couple of times, or those with short memories, the wind in the previous few races may have been falsely interpreted as “the winds”. However, today recalibrated the scale and brought back conditions that earn legacy status.
I hope you had a chance to follow the race through some of the live webcasting sites, and we all look forward to what NBC and other networks around the world will do with the images the top sports cameramen captured today. Some of our team members have finished and others are still out there completing their Ironman day that has now gone into night. We will give you a full update on how they did in the next eNewsletter that goes out next week. If you have not signed up for it, just enter the Sweepstakes that is on our homepage and your name will automatically be added to the list.
We hope you have enjoyed our Ironblogs. Luis and I have had a great time here, and as always look forward to hearing all the race stories that speak proudly and loudly of individual victory at the Ironman Triathlon World Championships, 2008.
Aloha, and hope to see you here next year!