It is an early morning on race day – of course. 4am wake up – the plan was to have breakfast with Nicole Leder but I have to admit I ran a little late. 4:30 onto the bike (bring a light – it is incredibly dark out there on Alii Drive before sunrise). We recommend to everybody who is coming to support an athlete to take the bike to the start area. If you park your care anywhere between Queen-K and Alii Drive near the start / finish are you won’t be able to get your car back out for the entire day. (a good spot to park is on Palini just North of Queen-K – the road on the backside of Walmart) From there it is an easy 5-7 minute walk to transition.
I rode the bike and this way was able to ride almost all the way up to transition. It was a pleasant surprise to run into a friend and club mate from Hamburg – Micha Dohse, who was followed around by the Germany Tri-Mag the entire day for some documentary. We shared a few good guesses for what the pro race will look like and while we were standing there at the Pier – people all around us trying to find the best spot to watch the pro race go off at 6:30am, a sudden announcement turned an otherwise lively and cheery place into complete silence. Did we hear right? Chrissie Wellington pulled out of the race before it even started? Yes we did. No Chrissie Wellington in the race! Official reason – she is sick and can’t start! Of course it took only seconds after people recovered from the news that rumors made the round. Positive drug test, mental issues, she lost it to the pressure and so on. Well, it’s all wild guessing – if you wanna find out: go ask her.
Of course that completely changed the odds for the race. Who could make the race. The incredibly fast multiple 70.3 winner Julie Dibbens, Mirinda Carfrae – the womens uber-runner or Germany’s Sandra Wallenhorst? We were to find out about 9,5 hours later.
People quickly got back to their routine – a lot of chatter, the sun was rising over the pier and the warm feeling started crawling up inside. Ok – this is what makes the mythos Ironman Hawaii. Or is it the other way around? Does it only feel special because we are constantly told about the mythos and now this is what we think it must feel like? Which way ever – it was a great feeling watching the pros getting ready the last minutes before their start with the sun still rising. Of course the music did the rest. The power of music.
Just after 6:30 the pros were off – the Ironman Hawaii 2010 had officially begun. While it was all about the victory for the pros for a lot of the age groupers starting their race at 7am (the put more time between the starts to assure a fair race with less drafting in the womens pro field once the strong age group cyclists make it into the mix) it was all about hearing ‘YOU ARE AN IRONMAN FINISHER’ when crossing the finish somewhere between 8:40 (fastest age grouper) and 17 hours after starting the race.
A good spot to be is just outside T1 where Alii and Palani meet. This way you get to see the athletes head out onto the bike course, come back down Palani and then a little later make it back up Palani (it’s a steep incline and you can get a good look at most of the athletes). After that it is all about waiting until they get back into T2 – unless of course you want to make your way out into the lava fields and catch them again out on the bike course. I opted for the ‘jumping forth and back between Starbucks and Jamba Juice on Palani and check the race online’ option. It is the perfect time to catch up with friends, exchange ‘old war stories’ from other races or simply make new friends when sharing your screen and news with them.
It was Chris Lieto and Maik Twelsiek making the the pace on the bike – closely followed by Vanhoenacker and a German connection with Bocherer, Bracht, Stadler and Raelert. In the mix as well former World Champ Chris ‘Macca’ McCormack.
When they got into transition I caught Macca and the smile on his face with this ‘game’s on’ nod when he recognized me sent a shiver down my neck. I don’t believe I have ever seen that kind of confidence on an athletes face. It was clear – Macca was going for the win. By the time they got back to Palani and up that hill again (the same spot I mentioned for the bike is also a good spot to watch the run) and passed the 10mile mark Macca had taken 2/3 out of Lietos lead and just after Palani he passed and let the race. From here you can either take your bike and head into the infamous Energy Lab or cheer on the many age group athletes – this way you stay close to the finish. Being at the finish for the arrival of the first pros was definitely worth it. You get to see the live action on a huge screen – and action it was I am telling you. About 22miles into the race Germany’s Andreas Raelert – last years 3rd place – caught up to Macca and an epic battle began. I don’t even want to imagine what must have been going on in their heads – running shoulder to shoulder for the next 3 miles at the absolute limit until Macca finally managed to break away and run his way to his second World Champion title. You should have seen people during those 3 epic miles of Ironman running. People were turning away from the screen cause they couldn’t watch it anymore.
After that I stayed around for a little to watch some of my friends cross the finish before I moved on to the best part of the day – heading up to the Hannes Hawaii Tours tent on Queen-K just across from Bike Works. Music, cold drinks and a whole bunch of crazy Hannes Hawaii Tours supporters pushing athletes up that last hill on the run course. We were singing, dancing and cheering on people. Yelling at them, helping them to activate the last energy and reminding them to embrace this last mile of their race of a lifetime. It was long dark by the time Kitty – the last amateur athlete in the field made her way out of Kailua towards the energy lab – with still 16 miles to go. You can’t imagine the inspiration you experience out there watching and celebrating all those athletes. This is what makes our sport so special!
I personally finished my day of – still totally psyched from the great experience – with a 8 mile run home through the dark, a quick dip in the pool and then off to bed! I was wracked and not a chance I would make it back to the finishline party!
Back out of bed in the morning I cycled to the pier for a last swim – enjoying the great variety of sea animals and quickly catching up with some athletes who were already back in the water. It was most rewarding to receive their thank you for pushing them up that last hill the night before. Even if they don’t have the strength to tell you right then – whenever you have the chance to attend a race as a spectator – stay around for the age group athletes and show them your support. It makes a huge difference for them!
Check back fro our summary of the Hawaii trip, recommendations for your trip and things to look out for in the next couple of days!