One of the [many] highlights of this past week was getting to watch NBC's annual showing of its edited coverage of the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. The airing is always in December and a little more than two months after the actual race, giving the network lots of time to compile, edit, narrate and come out the other side with what is quite honestly, a very impressive product. Every year tens of thousands of triathletes (and possibly their families) tune in to watch the 90 minutes (although wasn't it two hours in years' past?) of edited gloriousness. It's even more special to watch it with someone who was there, as their excitement is usually contagious and awesome.
Now, that being said, it's amazing how many triathletes (and I'm looking at you especially Slowtwitch) say that they are "disappointed" by this coverage. "They don't show enough of the pros," or "they should showcase the top amateurs, not the 'special interest' stories," and "I'm not even sure who won," among many other complaints have been lodged over the history of the show's airing. While I agree with some comments, I think it's important to realize that the coverage in and of itself is a blessing. Triathlon gets very little mainstream network acknowledgement that it even exists, so to have a huge network like NBC take up the gauntlet and show us what we love is awesome.
As an aside, it's interesting to note that in Jannuary NBC will debut its "NBC Sports Network," which is a re-branding of Versus. Versus has traditionally been one of the only "bigger" channels to showcase endurance sports (primarily the TdF). Maybe this will begin the process of greater recognition of endurance sports? More details can be found here.
Part of the problem that many so-called "hardcore triathletes" (that is self-branding) have with the Kona coverage is that it highlights some things they preferred were "kept quiet." People that have done Ironmans like to think that it's so special (it's obviously very special) and it's very rare that someone is capable of doing one. Unfortunately for them, Ironman likes to show just how not true that is (good for marketing, good for the "everyman" psyche). Take any reasonably fit (aerobically) person, give them enough time and guidance and they can do an Ironman. No doubt in my mind about that. 16 hours, 59 minutes, and 59 seconds is a LONG time. That's more than two workdays for most people. Just to give some perspective on what that really means, here's a breakdown of a 16:50 Ironman.
Swim 2.4 miles in 2 hours (swim cut off of 2:20), which is 3 minutes and 6 seconds per 100 meters. Transition 1 of 10 minutes. Bike 112 miles in 7 hours and 45 minutes (must be off the bike by 5 pm, so at this point it's 4:55 in the afternoon), which is 14.5 mph. Transition 2 in 25 minutes, which is ample time to collect oneself. Run 26.2 miles in 6 hours and 30 minutes, to finish just before midnight (that's about ~15 minutes/mile; average walking pace is 2.5 - 3mph, which is just over 15 minute pace).
It is no mean feat to be continuously moving for 16+ hours, but given the right preparation just about anyone - if they take their head out of the equation when looking at the distances - can accomplish such a task. So in one sense it's not as "special" as some would like to believe. Sure, it's special in the sense that it's an amazing accomplishment but not in the sense that it's something only a handful of people can do, which Ironman proves over and over again in slow motion every December.
This is one of the reasons why triathlons (and endurance sports, more generally) are so awesome. Everyone has individual goals and expectations, so it doesn't matter what other people think of what you are trying to accomplish. Everyone can be successful in their own right; you don't have to be a multiple Ironman world champion or a course record holder to experience satisfaction with your accomplishments. Some want to be competitive in their age group, others want to finish, some want to win; there's room for everyone in this sport.
I love watching NBC's broadcast of Kona. I love what it represents. I love the stories it tells (Scott Rigsby is an amazing, amazing dude). I love how much slow motion they use because it makes you look jacked. It's a great 90 minutes. The next step is to turn it into TdF style where they have a live showing on NBC then edit it for time and dramatic effect later in the year.
Now, on a more personal (and less exciting) note, my off-season is over. Starting today I will begin the process of running my face off in the quest for some serious run splits next year. Some goals I have include (but are not limited to) running a 16:0X 5k, a sub 35:30 10k (off the bike), a sub 1:20 half ironman half marathon. Bold, but doable with the right amount of work. The process begins now.
I'll leave on this last note; it's finally started to get cold here in Charlotte and thankfully I'm headed south and then west for the winter (and spring, and probably summer). This has been one of my favorite songs since my senior year of college and the timing seems appropriate now that we are fully immersed in December!