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The Ironman cometh
Eminem may have his '8 Mile,' but Wid has his 140.6 miles.
By Isabel Lyman
In the land of Mauna Kea, manta rays and muumuus, my husband, at age 45, faced a Herculean challenge on October 19. He competed in the Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii and had to swim 2.4 miles in the choppy Pacific Ocean, bike 112 miles across windy lava fields, and run 26.2 miles in the heat and humidity to complete the race within the allotted 17 hours. He was joined in his quest by 1,540 athletes, ages 19-80, from around the world and 49 states.
In just under fifteen hours, the Widmeister accomplished his goal. As he jubilantly crossed the finish line in downtown Kona, I hung a lei of tropical flowers around his neck, and Bebé, our 17-year-old son who was working security for the event, bear hugged him. Wid had officially become an "Ironman."
"During the last quarter mile, the crowd was loud and supportive. I never had so many people cheer for me," he says of his final minutes running the marathon. The race course, however, proved to be as intimidating as advertised. "Every stage was harder than I thought it was going to be. From the ten mile mark on, in the run, I was wondering how my body was going to do it."
So was I. But he - and 1,456 other entrants - survived the grueling day. Other finishers included 72-year-old Sister Madonna Buder, a nun from Washington State, Governor Gary Johnson of New Mexico, and Canadians Peter Reid and Lori Bowden, professional triathletes who are also husband and wife.
This year over 20,000 people vied to participate in the Hawaii Ironman. In order to enter the race, the majority of the competitors had to earn a qualifying spot in one of the 23 qualifier races held throughout the world. A lucky 150 Americans gained entrance via a lottery which gives amateur athletes an opportunity to compete with the pros. Wid won a spot through the lottery, but he still had to complete a half-ironman distance to validate his slot. He chose to enter the Half Vineman Triathlon in Sonoma County, California in August of this year.
My athletic husband prepared for Kona for a long time - four years of training. "By faith," as he puts it. He participated in the Greater Hartford Triathlon in Connecticut in 2000 and the Pigman Triathlon in Iowa in 2001. Right before leaving for the Big Island, he increased the intensity and duration of his workouts. Wid swam 7-8 miles per week, biked approximately 250 miles per week, and ran 30-35 miles per week.
While Wid did most of his exercising in Massachusetts - where we live - he spent a month in Oklahoma City to work out in the hot and windy conditions that prevail there. Not until race week, however, did he actually swim in the ocean.
"It was hard to stay on course because of the currents, and other swimmers kept getting in my way," he says of the long dip. The choppy seas also caused several of the triathletes to drop out of the race after the swim due to seasickness. But winds, ocean, and even cyclists who had stopped along the bike course to um, retch, were not going to prevent Wid from achieving his personal best.
Meantime, he has another goal involving an endurance race: He's trying to persuade his bookish wife to train for a half-ironman distance triathlon. A long shot, since, for now, I am perfectly content being "Mrs. Ironman."
The 2002 Ironman Triathlon World Championship will air on NBC on Saturday, November 23, from 4:30 - 6:00 p.m. Check your local listings, since all times are subject to change by the networks.
Izzy Lyman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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