Spectating the Ironman World Championships

From the moment I landed in Kona, I knew that it was going to be an incredible week. The warm sun greeted me at the airport and the ocean breeze was already inviting me to the beach. There were some people on the plane heading over for the Ironman and I chatted with them for a few minutes. That’s when I started to feel the excitement and emotion that I had rush over me time and time again this week. I have never experienced something like it before, so inspiring, awesome and downright crazy. I am so thankful to be a part of the Timex Team that was out there because it was a once in a lifetime experience I ever forget.

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Throughout the week we did a few open water swims, went for a couple runs, but the most amazing day was race day itself. Waking up at 4:00 am, I was so excited and really had no idea what to even expect. The entire little town area was abuzz with the most insane feeling. It was cooler than it had been previous days and before I knew it, it was time to head to the pier to watch the pros start. We walked out there and they were soon in the water, swimming right in front of us, treading water for what seemed like forever. My stomach was literally in knots! I can’t imagine how those participating felt. We were taking photos, trying to identify any one that we knew and then the loudest boom happened and I screamed. They were off! No one had warned me about the cannon and how incredibly loud it was in real life. My stomach was flip flopping and then  the age groupers were entering the water until it was full of little bobbing heads. Another cannon, another scream and they were also on their way. It was one of the most amazing and unique starting lines I’ve ever experienced.

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We walked all around the transition area and saw how it was set up and then walked around to the backside to watch the pros come back in to get on their bikes. They were already out of the water and racing to their spot. I couldn’t believe how fast they were, and how they were able to get on their bikes so fast without crashing into one another. The age groupers were not far behind and it was so fun cheering for them as they hopped on their bikes and took off toward the Lava Fields. The crowd was cheering and just as excited as the competitors were throughout the entire day.

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We watched a ton of participants take off on the bike and went out to the ‘hot corner’ where they loop through several times. I went over to the Timex tent back at the Expo where they were live streaming it so I could actually see what was happening while they were out biking. I have learned so much about Triathlon during this trip, thanks to the helpful tri fanatics with Timex who were patient with my sometimes ridiculous questions and very knowledgeable in the sport. Much faster than I expected the pros were arriving back from the bike portion and starting on the run, which looped out and back in front of the tent, so it was the perfect spectating spot. Hearing the helicopter overhead meant that the leader was approaching and we were within the first 2 miles of their run. I still can’t wrap my head around how fast they were running, after riding a bike for 112 miles. I cheered for a long time in that spot and by this time the cloud cover was rolling in and it was perfect weather.

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Every athlete that ran by had something in common. They were smiling. They were enjoying the crowd, they were happy they had made it this far, and though I’m sure they were in extreme pain, you could tell that they were so happy to have the cheers and support around them. Spectating at any event is always so fun to me and once you yell for a person, you see them perk up and smile. You know you’re making a little bit of a difference in their day. I mean, I love it when people cheer for me! Since they ran by us twice, it was cool to see who was dropping back and who was really trying to run hard. How you can run hard at this point is mind boggling, but hey, apparently it can be done. Before I even knew it, the time had come to head over to the finish line because the first finishers would be coming in soon. We walked our way up to the finish line and the helicopter above was getting louder and louder. We got to the stands right in time and only waited for about 10 minutes for the first Male Finisher, Frederick Von Lierde.

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The crowd went nuts as he crossed the finish line and more finishers trickled into the packed finish line area. One guy fell to his knees and just sobbed. It was really inspiring to see so much emotion from him and just knowing that he left everything out on the course. Then the Female winner kept getting closer and closer. She is a crowd favorite so everyone was screaming and banging on the finishing chute wall. She entered the final few yards and gave so many high fives and was beaming from ear to ear. The announcer said that she had just run a 2:50 marathon. 2:50! That is complete and utter insanity! She jumped into her fiance’s {and fellow participant that day as well} arms and jumped around with excitement. It was another incredible display of emotion and hard work paying off. We stood in the finish line area for another hour watching finishers come in and cheered extra hard for Matt Russel, a Timex athlete, and I was just in awe of how inspiring every single person who crossed the finish line was.

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We got a quick bite to eat, changed out of our clothes and headed back to the finish line for the final hours of finishers coming through the chute and there is nothing like this experience. They were all shapes, sizes, ages, everything, coming through, pumping their arms and crossing the finish line with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen. There were tears, hugs and hearing some of their stories as they crossed the finish line was heart wrenching. But they did it. They were an Ironman. As the time ticked on that evening, it started to rain hard. With the rain coming down, the music blaring and the crowd going absolutely nuts for every single finisher it was a madhouse. The final three hours were by far the best moments of the evening with an electrifying emotional cloud hovering over the entire area. I wiped away tears multiple times throughout the evening, not even realizing how vested I was in the finishers of an event I had never taken part in. The champions of the day come out and put medals on the final finishers necks. It’s just simply incredible.

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It finally was the 16th hour. The hour that it seems the entire city of Kona waits for every year. It’s this incredible 60 minutes where you cry, you laugh, you scream and your tiredness evaporates into the muggy air. You stare down the finishers chute, hoping to see movement at the end, hoping someone rounds the corner heading to their final destination so that they too can be called an Ironman. You have this nervous feeling as you wait patiently for the next finisher and finally the crowd starts to cheer and the roar becomes louder and louder and then you see them! They are coming down the carpet and they will make it! You wish you could help them, as they hobble along, grimacing in pain and exhaustion and finally, they cross the line. Their name is called over the loudspeaker and the crowd erupts and it starts all over again. Tense, nail biting moments that you almost start imagining people at the end hoping that more will make it through before the cut off. Now there’s rally sticks and t-shirts being flung around and the crowd grows and grows and grows. It becomes 11:30 at night and you know there are only 30 more minutes. Louder and louder and louder everyone becomes with each passing moment and when a participant runs down chute, you feel like they were the first finisher. Finally, the clock strikes midnight and the ball is over. Like that you are overcome with tiredness and exhaustion and you make the trek back to your quiet hotel room, where you can reflect on all that just happened and dream of the day that you might too become an IRONMAN.

xoxo

Disclosure – Timex Sports sent me to Kona as a member of their #IMARunner Social Media Campaign.  All my #IMARunner posts and tweets are sponsored posts. All the tweets, posts and facebook updates about the #IMARunner videos are my own opinions and original content. All opinions are my own and honest. I am disclosing this in accordance to FTC Guidelines. Please see Ts and Cs tab for more information.
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12 Responses to Spectating the Ironman World Championships

  1. Your Ironman recap gave me chills. I have a few friends who have competed in Ironman’s and I would LOVE to see one and LOVE to see Kona one day.

  2. man we were so very blessed to have this weekend together! I thoroughly enjoyed meeting you and your statements made everything highly amusing.

    It really was incredible to see all of it so close we could feel the sweat! :)

  3. Kevin says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience and all the great pictures. Qualifying for Kona is on my bucket list, even if it doesnt happen until I am 65 years young

  4. Billy says:

    Such an awesome experience Danica – so stoked you got to be a part of it!!!

  5. Spectating and volunteering at Ironman CDA still ranks as one of those life-changing moments for me. I totally get everything you’re talking about!! It’s amazing how amazed, moved, and inspired you walk away from an Ironman event! :)

  6. Jenn says:

    This was an awesome recap. I seriously felt like I was there just reading your words. What an amazing experience!

  7. Kar says:

    this looks awesome Danica! That’s so cool they gave you the opportunity to go out there!!!

  8. Christine says:

    What an amazing and once in a lifetime experience. So happy you got a chance to spectate one of the most amazing races!!!

  9. This looks like it would have been a purely awesome experience – thank you for sharing! It also makes me feel awfully lazy with my strength training routines and taking breaks in between sets! :)

  10. I’ve spectated an Ironman event in Texas before and the vibe was just awesome! :) Full of positive energy and everyone was soo positive!
    Thanks for sharing your experience.

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