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Ironman: A history and race day lookahead
As the sun rises above the western mountains of the Kailua-Kona, Hawaii coast on Oct. 12, two-thousand of the world’s most elite athletes will take to the waters of Kailua Bay on the path to a dream -- being crowned with the title of an Ironman.
With a 17-hour time cutoff, the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile marathon -- all done in succession -- make the Ironman World Championship possibly the most physically demanding single-day athletic event on the planet.
About 80,000 athletes attempt to qualify for the world championship either through yearly worldwide full- and half-Ironman-distance races or by lottery. This year, the athletes will represent 48 states and 52 countries. Domestically, the largest number of athletes competing come from California (111), Hawaii (54), New York (53), Texas (49) and Colorado (47); Internationally, Australia (260), Germany (204), Canada (141), Great Britain (88) and Switzerland (73).
History of the race
Currently in its 35th year, the Ironman World championship has grown from a small field of 15 competitors -- 12 finishers -- in 1978.
The Ironman was originated by Honolulu’s Judy and John Collins, who suggested jelling together Hawaii’s three toughest endurance races -- the 2.4-mile Waikiki Rough water Swim, 112-mile Around-O’ahu Bike Race and 26.2-mile Honolulu Marathon.
On Feb. 18, 1978, the inaugural Hawaiian Iron Man Triathlon was born-and-raced in Waikiki. In 1981, the Ironman was shifted to the lava-laden fields of the Kailua-Kona coast, where competitors battle 45 mph crosswinds and 95-degree heat.
Maps and course descriptions are courtesy Ironman.com.
Without a doubt, the mass swim start is the most emotionally charged start in the sport, thanks to TV helicopters, enthusiastic spectators and the sun rising over Mount Hualalai.
Currents can be a factor and water temperature in Kailua Bay is typically around 79 degrees.
As cyclists make their way north along the Queen Ka'ahumanu Highway, from Kailua-Kona to the turnaround in Hawi, they can be exposed to intense trade winds that buffet much of the exposed western and northern coast of the Big Island.
The winds vary in intensity from steady to heavy blasts that can blow cyclists across the road. For this reason, disc wheels are not permitted. Winds may subside during the gradual climb to Hawi, but pick up again as athletes make their way to Transition Two.
After exiting Transition Two, runners will wind through town before taking on Ali’i Drive, where spectators will pack the roads. Athletes will then retrace their steps, climb up Palani Road to the Queen Ka'ahumanu Highway and make their way to the Natural Energy Laboratory Hawaii Authority (NELHA).
Unless cloud cover or nightfall spares them, high heat and humidity should be anticipated throughout the run course.
Long Island’s Elite Trio
Name: Marc J. Blumencranz
Occupation: Insurance broker, BWD Group LLC.
Previous Ironman World Championships: None
Quote: “I couldn't devote the hours to this without the support of my amazing wife Ellen. [She] is truly the best supporter of the time this sport requires.”
Name: Adam Quinn
Residence: Port Jefferson Station
Occupation: Medical student, Stony Brook University
Previous Ironman World Championships: None
Quote: “Thanks to the understanding of my professors and dean, I’m able to get the time off to travel to Hawaii. First and foremost, I want to enjoy the experience.”
Name: Robert Spina Jr.
Residence: North Massapequa
Occupation: Attorney, private practice
Previous Ironman World Championships: 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2005
Quote: “A friend told me that the winds the past month [in Kailua-Kona] have been horrific, and they are expected to continue. . . . I’m lucky to be in the game. I’m appreciative to be in the game.”
In addition to Brian T. Dessart’s live Twitter updates, the 2013 Ironman World Championship can be viewed on www.ironman.com. NBC will air the event special on Saturday, Nov. 16 at 4:30 p.m.
Brian T. Dessart is a nationally accredited Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, a New York State Critical Care Emergency Medical Technician and an FDNY firefighter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @briandessart.