You just never know what the Ironman and the Big Island will present us with. The race was without a doubt the first time in recent years when the winds played a factor. I have worked with NBC for many years now, and just about every one of them they do something to highlight the winds. However, even NBC cannot pre-write the script of Ironman, and the winds that can blow Iron dreams into a million pieces have been a no show for while now.
Well, not 2008. All elements seemed to be up for the task of making the race something to remember. Side winds trumped the day, breaking up the packs on the bike like no year that I have ever seen. This is a good thing. Fairness is always nice to see out there. Everyone was concerned with staying upright much more than trying to outfox the marshals with a quick draft.
You know the results of the race, and have most likely already searched the Ironman website for your friends and others that you follow in the sport. What may be missing from your virtual experience unless you were there was the rain that came to cleanse the awards ceremony. The last time this happened was in 1993. Hhmmm. That was the 15th anniversary of the Ironman. This was the 30th. Are we seeing a pattern, or just random chance????
Anyway, back to the awards. I woke up Sunday morning (post race and awards day) and I said to Luis, “I hope it doesn’t rain at the awards.” It just had that feel to it. Well, everything started as usual. Island Breeze, a local performance group the fuses Hawaiian tradition with modern and traditional rhythms kicked off the evening with a fantastic show. Then it was on to the time that I love most when so many great moments from the race are acknowledged.
One of the highlights is the annual announcement of the Ironman Hall of Fame Inductee. This year it was two people who make up a famous team: Dick and Ricky Hoyt, the father and son who do the race in tandem. At birth Rick’s umbilical cord wrapped around his neck long enough to cause permanent damage. He cannot walk or talk, but he can communicate with the help of a computer and has participated in endurance athletics with a passion with his father who tows him in an inflatable boat in the swim, pedals him through bike rides with Rick on a seat up front, and then covers ground faster than most who just have themselves to worry about on the run with Ricky in a racing wheelchair. It’s truly incredible, and real to the bone.
Well, at the awards they received the 2008 Ironman Hall of Fame Inductee award, and for the first time we got to hear Ricky “speak’ with the aid of his computer. He told of his birth, of those who told his family to give up on him because he was just a vegetable. Showing humor and humility he asked us “What kind of a vegetable am I supposed to be?” He told of his elation to take part in races, and of his father who made it all possible. In closing he informed us all that his name was “Rick”, not “Ricky”!
Rick, I salute you.
Needless to say, there was not a dry eye in the audience. It brought Ironman and all the little dramas that get in the way of just having gratitude that you have the good luck to have a body and a mind that can be out there racing into perspective.
It also brought the rain. At first it was mild, but enough that the Hoyts needed to be covered with an umbrella. Then it came down with a little more authority. Then just as people began to crawl under their tables for cover, it stopped…temporarily.
As the age groupers were called up for their hard-earned accolades, the rain began again. By the time our athletes Kelly Lear-Kaul (2nd 35-39, pictured above trying to stay dry under a coconut leaf), Diana Hassel (2nd 40-44) Helge Babel (3d 50-54) and Steve Smith (2nd 60-64) had received their carved bowls I was drenched. I raced back to my table for cover. Everyone I had been eating dinner with was gone along with about 90% of the close to 3,000 people who were there initially.
The MC’s, Mike Riley and Bob Babbitt, did their best to move things along quickly, but by the time the pros were called up nothing was dry, and even though it was the tropics it was getting cold. By now it was certifiably pouring. Chrissie Wellington did her best to give a great speech, and she can give one. But in the closing moments of her words the Island and the water had its way and the microphones went completely dead. No sound. Sorry, Chrissie. You’ll just have to come back and win number three next year.
Riley then shouted out the names of the pro men, but no one could hear him except those right up against the stage. The rain was pelting down. The men’s champion, Craig Alexander, gave a speech, but fewer than about 50 people heard it. Too bad. It was fantastic. I heard it, shivering and drenched to the core. He closed it by saying, “The morning after the race my three-year-old daughter came barreling into my bedroom and climbed into bed with me and my wife and said, ‘Daddy…Mummy and I are so proud of you. You did that whole big race all by yourself’. And that was enough for me.”
If that was enough for the Ironman Champion 2008, perhaps there are small words and thoughts out there in the world that are enough for all of our great endeavors.
Just as Mike Riley was trying his best to wrap up the evening and the awards, the lights when out, adding the last stamp of finality to the day, the event, and the Ironman 2008.
We hope you have enjoyed our blogs from Kona. I will try to add more throughout the year, because while Ironman is one incredible day, life goes on and great things happen during the other 364 days as well.