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40 Stories – The Race Every Year – 1978 To Present

I’ve highlighted thirty-nine great moments at IRONMAN. This is the 40th and last in this series. And this one honors every single race in IRONMAN history.

Yes, there are key individual accomplishments by athletes in every part of the competitive spectrum who have made a huge impact on the race and the sport. But ultimately it’s the sum total of every athlete, volunteer, sponsor and cheering supporting fan coming together for one great purpose on that one fateful Saturday each October that make IRONMAN great.

The energy builds race week. The springs of anticipation get wound tighter as the clock winds down to race morning. Everyone wakes up race day wrapped in that special IRONMAN energy of knowing something amazing is about to take place.

Race morning and the swim start is like uncorking a potent bottle of life.

IRONMAN is never mediocre. It’s a day where time seems to stop and a doorway opens up to something life changing.

And I mean life changing in so many ways. I still reflect back on the magic of the race and the experiences I’ve been part of over the last thirty-five years there. I’m still learning lessons about life from those intense moments in sport that all took place on one of the most powerful places on this planet.

Yes, the final ingredient that makes IRONMAN a truly transformative experience is Hawaii itself. Mauna Kea, the tallest point on the Island, if measured from it’s base at the ocean floor to its peak is taller than Mt. Everest. Mauna Loa, almost as tall as Mauna Kea, is the largest single mountain mass on the planet…by far. And Kilauea is one of the most active volcanos on earth as we are seeing this year. Yes, that energy seeps into every facet of the race, into every athlete’s journey and transforms IRONMAN in Hawaii into a very deep personal experience.

We struggle. We overcome. Challenges call forth more than we thought we had. We find the greatest amount of self-confidence when we finally quiet the inner voices that are trying to talk us into backing off and taking the easy route to the finish. But silence gives us the strength to take the next step with every ounce of force our being can muster.

The distance and the conditions make IRONMAN like no other race on the planet.

Some years are windy, others hot. Some have both. But none, no matter how calm or cloud covered are easy.

But then no one comes to Kona to race the IRONMAN because they want easy. They want to experience epic, iconic. And that only happens when your greatest effort gets pulled out of you and revealed by the raw fingers of challenge and intensity.

This is not a bad thing! There’s a freedom in finally surrendering to the reality of how the day is unfolding, even if it’s nothing like you had hoped. There’s deep strength gained by continuing to push long enough that you know you have no turning back. When you hit that competitive critical mass out there on the lava, there’s a moment when it all switches. Suddenly the scales tilt away from focusing on the pain and become locked in on making the goal happen: to finish no matter what.

Defending Champ Jan Frodeno saw how difficult IRONMAN can be when it doesn’t go as planned in 2017.

Not every race turns out as hoped. But that too is what makes every IRONMAN great.

There are time cutoffs that are not always made. There can be complete body meltdowns where misjudged strategies take a dangerous toll and it is indeed time to pull the plug on the day. Those are just extreme reminders of what everyone is up against.

Sometimes IRONMAN can seem almost “normalized”. Pretty much everyone has heard of the race and many likely know someone who has completed the distance. But that in no way makes covering 140.6 miles under your own power on the Island of Hawaii at the IRONMAN anything close to easy!

This video sums it all up:

This final Top-40 Greatest Moments At IRONMAN is meant to honor every one of the 39-years of the race that are now part of the history and the lore of IRONMAN. It’s also to set the stage for one more great day coming up on October 13th, 2018. It’s going to be the ultimate birthday celebration for IRONMAN! It will be the race. And it will indeed be another epic, iconic, inspiring day.

See you there!

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