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100 things to know about Ironman

10/10/2013
There is plenty to contemplate before athletes begin crossing the Ironman finish line. AP Photo/Chris Stewart

The Ironman World Championship takes place Oct. 12, and here are 100 facts you should know before watching elite athletes take on the course in Kona, Hawaii: 

1. The top 10 men's finishers in 2012 went like this: Pete Jacobs, Andreas Raelert, Frederik Van Lierde, Sebastian Kienle, Faris Al-Sultan, Timo Bracht, Andy Potts, Tim O'Donnell, David Dellow and Dirk Bockel. For the women: Leanda Cave, Caroline Steffen, Mirinda Carfrae, Sonja Tajsich, Mary Beth Ellis, Natascha Badmann, Gina Crawford, Linsey Corbin, Caitlin Snow and Amy Marsh.

2. The men's course record is 8:03:56, held by Craig Alexander.

3. Alexander was the oldest winner in the race's history when he set the record two years ago at the age of 38.

4. Chrissie Wellington holds the women's record of 8:54:02.

5. Mirinda Carfrae has the fastest PR in the 2013 women's field with her 8:57:57 finish from 2011.

6. The fastest run since 1989 was submitted by Pete Jacobs in 2011, completing the 26.2 miles in 2:42:29.

7. In the 2011 marathon, Jacobs averaged 6:10 per mile. 

8. Wetsuits are illegal in the swim, giving stronger swimmers an advantage over slower ones.

9. While racers cannot wear neoprene, legal textile suits designed specifically for swimming, referred to as swimskins, have been found to make swimmers faster by compressing the body and reducing surface friction with the water.

10. In 2012, Andreas Raelert lost nearly four minutes to the lead pack in the swim and still finished second.

11. The record high air temperature in Kona on Oct. 12, the date of the 2013 race, is 92 degrees.

12. The average high temp in Kona on race day is 84 degrees.

13. Black asphalt and lava rock absorb heat from the sun and radiate it back upward, effectively elevating temperature well beyond the measured air temperature. Triathlete staff recorded a temperature of 109 degrees at the blacktop on a day in July 2010, with a reported high air temperature in the mid-80s.

14. Mary Beth Ellis broke her collarbone in a bike crash on Sept. 9. She had surgery to repair the bone, which included removing it from her trapezius muscle, on Sept. 12.

15. Her surgeon, Dr. Peter Millett of the Steadman Hawkins Clinic, said typical recovery time from an injury like the one Ellis sustained is four to five months. She plans to start the race.

16. Boulder, Colo., the home base for many of the top Kona contenders, flooded on Sept. 9, forcing athletes including Alexander and defending Ironman world champ Leanda Cave to leave their high-altitude training grounds earlier than originally planned.

17. Carfrae won five of the six half-iron-distance races she started in 2010, then won the Ironman world title. This year, Carfrae has won just one of the four 70.3-distance events she started.

18. Carfrae was coached by Siri Lindley when she won the world title in 2010 and again when she finished second and broke the run record in 2011.

19. The pair of Carfrae and Lindley split for the 2012 season, and Carfrae finished third in Kona, 23 minutes slower than the year before.

20. Lindley is once again coaching the Australian former champion. She also coaches Cave.

21. Cave has struggled this season and has yet to win a major race in 2013.

22. Cave won the Ironman 70.3 world title in 2012 before taking the Ironman crown, but finished 13th in Vegas this year.

23. Canadian Heather Wurtele was the top finisher at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship who will be racing in Kona. She finished 10th.

24. Wurtele is an outstanding swim-biker, but was regarded as a relatively poor runner as recently as last year. She dramatically improved her run over last winter and ran a 1:19 half-marathon split at Ironman 70.3 California earlier this year.

25. Sebastian Kienle won the men's 70.3 world title in September and will be racing Ironman Hawaii.

26. Kienle, widely regarded by his peers as the strongest cyclist in the sport, made an aggressive move around Mile 60 of the bike last year that was derailed by a flat tire.

27. Eneko Llanos, Andreas Raelert, Frederik Van Lierde and Dirk Bockel have all finished in the top three in Hawaii but never won the race.

28. Caroline Steffen and Yvonne Van Vlerken are the only two women in the 2013 field to hold the distinction of finishing in the top three without ever winning.

29. Flu limited Rachel Joyce in 2012 and she finished 11th, but she was fourth the year before.

30. It took Chris McCormack six tries to finally win his first Ironman world title in 2007, 10 years after he won the ITU world championship.

31. Australians have won the past six men's titles.

32. The Ironman bike split record is held by American Andrew Starykowicz, who will be making his Kona debut this year. He rode 4:04 at Ironman Florida in 2012. That's an average of 27.5 mph.

33. Tim DeBoom was the last American to win an Ironman world title. He did it in 2001 and 2002.

34. Inside Triathlon conducted a test to measure the aerodynamic benefit gained by a person riding the legal distance behind another athlete, which is 10 meters for the professionals. This test found that an athlete traveling at the average speed held by the top men can save 12 watts while staying within the rules.

35. While the pro rulebook says they must keep 10 meters between riders (front wheel to front wheel), the athletes have reached an agreement with Ironman's head referee Jimmy Riccitello to keep a bigger gap between each other. About 100 miles of the Kona bike course is on the Queen K Highway, which has reflectors every 40 feet. The referees and athletes use these landmarks to judge the distance instead of having to guess. Add this 40-foot distance to the length of the bikes, and the agreed upon draft zone enforced in Kona is about 13.5 meters, well beyond the 10-meter figure that is on the books.

36. A 500-foot climb starting at mile 53 of the bike brings the athletes to the highest point on the course at the turn-around in the small town of Hawi.

37. Rolling hills cover practically the entire course. The total vertical gain and loss adds up to about 3,000 feet.

38. The men tend to form a large lead pack early in the bike, sometimes exceeding 20 people.

39. Clustering into a pack early in the race is less common for the women, but it happened in 2012. Caroline Steffen, Meredith Kessler, Mary Beth Ellis, Amy Marsh and Leanda Cave rode closely for the first miles of the bike.

40. Steffen, Cave and Ellis all received four-minute penalties (Ellis served hers in transition) during the bike in 2012.

41. Athletes given a penalty on the bike must stop in the next penalty tent on the course and stand still to serve their sentence. If a cyclist is penalized in the final miles, they serve their time in a penalty tent by transition.

42. 2004 was the windiest year in the past decade, and super-cyclist Normann Stadler rode 10 minutes faster than Torbjørn Sindballe's second-best bike split on that day. Stadler gapped three-time champion and eventual 2004 runner-up Peter Reid by 24 minutes.

43. Two-time Kona champion Chris McCormack announced on Twitter that he will not start the 2013 race, saying, "Epstein Barr virus, diagnosis mononucleosis. 4-6 weeks recovery. Kona is gone for 2013. Absolutely devastated. Thanks for the concerns."

44. Semi-aero helmets that create less drag than standard road options but allow more ventilation than full-blown aero helmets are gaining popularity, with athletes such as Raelert and Cave opting to race in the Giro Air Attack in 2012.

45. Of the serious contenders, only Caroline Steffen still raced in a traditional road helmet last year.

46. Brett Sutton is considered by many to be the most successful triathlon coach of all time, having guided athletes including Chrissie Wellington, Siri Lindley, Nicola Spirig and others to world titles or Olympic gold medals. His athletes racing Ironman Hawaii in 2013 are Jodie Swallow, Caroline Steffen, Mary Beth Ellis, David Dellow and James Cunnama.

47. Dehydration and electrolyte depletion are not associated with muscle cramping, according to many studies on distance runners and a 2005 study conducted on Ironman triathletes.

48. Eight-time Ironman world champ Paula Newby-Fraser was leading the race in 1995 until she collapsed on Hualalai Road, just 500 meters from the finish.

49. The very first Ironman champion, Gordon Haller, is returning to race this year.

50. Michael Collins was 16 when he raced in 1979. He was the first person to finish in daylight, but did it the day after the start with a finish time longer than 24 hours. The minimum age for competitors is currently 18.

51. The Ironman World Championship moved from Oahu to the Big Island in 1981.

52. The race grew from 326 competitors in 1981 to 850 in 1982.

53. Iron War, the 1989 battle between Mark Allen and Dave Scott that has become the most celebrated head-to-head race in Ironman history, was settled when Allen dropped Scott on a small rise at mile 23.5 after the pair raced side by side for 138 miles. That small rise is now known as Mark and Dave Hill.

54. ABC's "Wide World of Sports" captured Julie Moss' 1982 collapse just meters from the finish. That spot is behind the current finish line because the event used to finish on the Kona Pier, where transition is currently located. Footage of her struggling to finish helped propel the growth of the sport.

55. Every touted contender in the women's race has a major strike against her, leaving the field wide open for an upset. Caroline Steffen has never won in Hawaii; Mirinda Carfrae has struggled for over a year; Leanda Cave is yet to win a race in 2013; Mary Beth Ellis has a broken collarbone; Rachel Joyce has never finished higher than fourth.

56. German athlete Sonja Tajsich finished 14th in 2010, 7th in 2011, and 4th in 2012 with the day's fastest run split.

57. Tajsich lost more than 14 minutes to Cave during the swim in 2012, but only finished seven minutes behind. She had the fastest marathon split in the women's race by nearly four minutes.

58. Tajsich has been nursing plantar fasciitis since the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in September.

59. Since Normann Stadler did it in 2006, no male has won the race after coming off the bike with a lead over the rest of the field.

60. Chrissie Wellington accomplished the same feat in 2007, '08 and '09. 

61. There are 37 women and 54 men on the professional start list. The top 50 pro men and top 35 pro women are awarded a Kona slot based on points accumulated at races starting from Sept. 2, 2012.

62. The extra starters earned their slot by winning a world title. Athletes with that designation only have to "validate" by finishing an Ironman between last year's championship race and this year's.

63. 2,167 people are registered for the 2013 race.

64. Average finish time in the last four years, according to Runtri.com: 11:32 (2012), 11:25 (2011), 11:14 (2010), 11:37 (2009)

65. Pro athletes make up only four percent of the field.

66. More than 5,000 volunteers help support the racers. The med tent next to the finish line is staffed with more than 300 people. 

67. The average age of the registered male athletes is 42, and the average for females is 40.

68. Many of the top athletes use power meters to gauge their effort during the race. Defending champ Pete Jacobs, Jordan Rapp, Luke McKenzie and others will have their real-time power data displayed on Trainingpeaks.com while the race is happening.

69. Training Peaks reports that Faris Al-Sultan's 2012 peak 30-minute output of 308 watts is enough to power a flat-screen TV.

70. Riding with a power meter allows athletes to accurately gauge their caloric expenditure on the bike. Training Peaks software calculates that most of the top men consume 4,500–5,000 calories on the bike alone and the women typically use about 3,000–3,500.

71. 2012 Kona champion Pete Jacobs' power data shows he rarely went "into the red" during the bike. His power file on Triainingpeaks.com shows several spikes above his threshold power (what he could hold for one hour), but they are for such short durations (15 to 30 seconds) that they don't count as "matches," a term that power analysts use to describe hard, sustained efforts that will tire a rider over time. Sustaining a fairly consistent effort level on the bike helped him run his way to the title.

72. Participants typically lose 3 to 5 percent of their body weight during Ironman Hawaii.

73. Rachel Joyce is a lawyer. She practiced in the UK as a solicitor before leaving the profession to become a full-time pro triathlete.

74. Andreas Raelert holds the iron-distance world record of 7:41:33, set at Challenge Roth in 2011. He swam 46:18, averaged 26.7 mph on the bike to split 4:11, and ran 6:08 miles en route to a 2:40:52 marathon.

75. Marino Vanhoenacker has the second fastest iron-distance personal record of all time of 7:45:58, set at Ironman Austria in 2011.

76. Vanhoenacker failed to qualify for the race this year due to injury.

77. American Andy Potts has been first out of the water every year since he first came to Kona in 2008, and usually by a sizable margin. He is yet to survive at the front of the bike pack all the way back to transition, losing between 8 and 12 minutes to the main contenders in each of those five races. His best ride was 2012, when he gave up eight minutes to eventual champ Pete Jacobs.

78. After he finished second to Craig Alexander in 2008, Eneko Llanos has struggled at Ironman Hawaii. Six-time Kona champion Dave Scott started coaching Llanos earlier this year and Llanos ripped off a string of victories, including beating Craig Alexander at Ironman Melbourne and breaking eight hours at Ironman Frankfurt.

79. The portion of the run course from about Mile 16 through 20, called the Energy Lab, is blocked off to spectators, leaving the athletes completely alone for this critical stretch of the race.

80. The last person to test positive for performance-enhancing drugs at the Ironman World Championship was Nina Kraft. She crossed the line first in 2004 and tested positive for the banned blood-booster EPO in her postrace drug test. She admitted guilt.

81. All athletes have until midnight to finish the race, giving amateurs 17 hours to cover the 140.6 miles.

82. To finish, competitors must also finish the swim in 2:20 and get off the bike 10.5 hours after the start.

83. The final finisher in 2012 was 77-year-old Harriet Anderson, who broke her collarbone six weeks before the race and crossed the line with 41 seconds to spare.

84. When the sun sets, athletes still on the course are given glow sticks to stay visible in the darkness.

85. In June, Inside Triathlon asked Tim DeBoom to pick the favorites in both races. He selected Alexander, Raelert and Frederik Van Lierde as the top male contenders and Kienle, Llanos, O'Donnell and Docherty as the next group.

86. DeBoom selected Cave, Steffen and Ellis as the top tier with Carfrae, Joyce and Corinne Abraham as the next most likely to contend.

87. In 1985, Scott Tinley was the first athlete to don a full aerodynamic bike setup, including a bullhorn bar, aero helmet and shoe covers.

88. Disc wheels are illegal on the Kona course because of the strong and unpredictable crosswinds.

89. A few apparel companies, including Castelli and Pearl Izumi, have been investigating the aerodynamic effect of clothing. Both have found that covering the shoulders and armpits helps reduce drag for many athletes. Look for some racers to wear long-sleeve pullovers during the bike that come off for the run.

90. In case of a mechanical problem, both the male and female pros will have one neutral support car driving closely behind the race to provide assistance. Aid from the support car typically doesn't come immediately, however, so punctures or breakdowns still result in lost time.

91. Age-groupers are on their own for mechanicals. Not only does the race not provide official support, but receiving support of any kind results in disqualification.

92. Former Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward hung up his football cleats in favor of cycling shoes this year. He is racing Ironman Hawaii, his first stab at the distance, after training under the guidance of eight-time Hawaii champ Paula Newby-Fraser.

93. There are Porta-Pottys on the run course for emergencies, but many athletes elect to take care of business on their own terms.

94. Considering the quality of the field, finishing rates are quite high despite the tough conditions in Hawaii. Last year there were 1,883 finishers, and a 4.9 percent DNF rate.

95. September's inaugural Ironman Lake Tahoe had a 20 percent DNF rate.

96. The five most common med tent visits in Kona: dehydration/exhaustion, GI issues, cramping, blisters, minor injuries (road rash, contusions, ankle sprains, etc.).

97. The female professionals start five minutes behind the males and 25 minutes ahead of the age groupers. The idea is to find the sweet spot that prevents the women from overtaking the slowest male pros or riding alongside the fastest age groupers, so they can race without interference.

98. Athletes can make it to Ironman Hawaii in four different ways. Most punch their ticket by qualifying at Ironman or select Ironman 70.3 races. Others routes include the Ironman Lottery and Legacy programs, winning one of the eBay auctions for the (very expensive) charity-donation slots, or being invited by Ironman for promotional reasons such as celebrities and Kona Inspired athletes.

99. There are 100 slots allocated to the Ironman Legacy program that launched in 2012. Athletes who have completed 12 or more Ironman-branded iron-distance races, including at least one Ironman in 2011 and 2012, and are signed up for another in 2013, are eligible for one of the 100 Legacy slots, as long as they are also an Ironman Hawaii virgin.

100. Matt Lieto, Michael Lovato and 1994 Kona champ Greg Welch will be announcing this year's race on Ironman Live, a streaming race update provided by Ironman.