2014 Ironman World Championship Spectating and Why Pros Matter

For those that have never been to the Big Island, it is not really something that can be understood just by hearing stories or watching it on TV - you have to be here. I don't care if you are the World Champion at a different distance or done a 100 other triathlons, Kona is special and it is not something I can really explain - it is something that has to be experienced and preferably by crossing that line. I competed in this race in 2010 as an amateur and in 2013 as a professional, but I hope that watching the 2014 Ironman World Championship will give me a different perspective on my fellow competitors racing on our sport's biggest day.

Although my own perspective might be unique, I hope that it is not. You see I love this sport. I love most everything about it. I love the lifestyle that comes with it, I love the hard work and discipline that is required to be successful. To be truthful, I am still enamored by my fellow professionals out there competing and I can't tell you the last time I was excited about watching a professional sport outside of triathlon. I often hear that triathlon is too boring to watch, that it is too long to spectate, and that it is in general, just not spectator friendly. Maybe those critics are right, and maybe I will be one of them after Saturday's event, but the beauty of Ironman is that it is a very long day and anything can happen.

Anyone that says they can pick the winner doesn't really truly understand the state of triathlon today. There are so many factors that come into play on race day. There are specific strengths and weaknesses of the athletes, tactics, conditions, nutrition, and a host of other external factors that all come into play. I could see five different winners based on five different scenarios and although I can try to pick winners and losers based on a particular scenario, I have to deal with both the odds of the scenario and then those racers within the scenario itself. But less I try... Give me Marino "Bink" Vanhoenacker and Daniela Ryf.

Although picking the winners is a gamble, one thing is certain - every professional athlete toeing the line on Saturday is extremely talented, well-trained, and dedicated. Talent is not just limited to physical attributes either and I know that the likes of Andrew Starkowicz, TJ Tollakson, Maik Twelsiak, Jan Frodeno, Craig Alexander, Pete Jacobs, Bart Aeronauts, Faris Al-Sultan, Sebastien Kienle, Andy Potts, Marino Vanhoenacker, Rachel Joyce, Mirinda Carfrae, Caroline Steffen, Daniel Ryf, Meredith Kessler, Gina Crawford, and Amanda Stevens will all influence the race, but more importantly put on a great show.

Outside of the professional race, I am excited to spectate friends as well. I am excited to cheer on all the amateurs who manage to balance work and family with all the blood, sweat and tears, that come with being some of the fittest endurance athletes on the plant. I am looking forward to watching a phenom amateur - a guy who doesn't know how good he actually is. His name is James Burke. I am excited to see how former speed-skater and Olympian Apollo Ono does. I want to see how his hard work from speed skating translates to Ironman racing and I am curious what he thinks of Ironman and the experience. I have already had a good time catching up with friends & sponsors, and other people in the industry and there is more to come. I am happy to thank all the volunteers who help out to make this great event possible. And lastly, I genuinely just enjoy being on the island and spending time with Paul and Katie Burke who are kind enough to invite me into their home.

Despite all the other reasons, the main event is still the pro athletes for me - it is why I am going to The Big Island. Nobody talks about the weather this week, it is always about who will win this race. As I said before, I am enamored of my peers. I know how hard each has worked to get there. The hours, the blood sweat and tears, the sacrifices made. Maybe I am just a super fan. I will say at one time the only thing I knew about Triathlon was Ironman - specifically the one they showed on TV with the great stories and the recap. It is the same show that highlights the sport to many other Americans who know nothing about triathlon or Ironman for that matter. It is the show that makes your co-workers, friends, family, boss, and customers think the same thing about you - "you sir are a badass." It is the race that put triathlon on the map, and I am thankful because this is a such wonderful sport.