Tim and Tony Take the 2001 IRONMAN California
Story and photos by Kristen McFarland
ISSUE #11, June/July 2001 – Tim and Tony have ridden together in an IRONMAN before. It was not surprising to see them there again. But in the past, Tim has had the faster marathon by far. Tony always was assumed to be better at the Olympic distance, with previous wins at important races like Mrs. T’s and St. Anthony’s. Tim is two years younger than Tony, but started in Triathlon a year earlier. Tony was busy with Ranger School after having graduated from West Point.
In what may turn out to be the second and last Isuzu IRONMAN California (for the time being at least), the two would chase dark horse Craig Walton of Australia on the bike all morning and pass him during the run segment to be the first pair of brothers to ever finish first and second in an IRONMAN race. That statistic will likely go unrepeated for quite some time, or at least until the two do an IRONMAN together again….
“It’s a dream to be able to race like this with him,” Tim said after the race. “We’ve talked about it for years. We talked about it this morning.”
To top it off, Nicole DeBoom, third in the inaugural event last year (her very first IRONMAN distance race) and twelfth in her first Hawaii race last year, was competing as well. She led nearly the entire race last year, only to be passed by Heather Fuhr after 8 hours or so and Jan Wanklyn at the very end.
Chuck Veylupek (Boulder), 1999 IRONMAN Canada winner, was also a serious contender in the race and had just proven he was very fit and fast by finishing fifth in Wildflower earlier in the month.
Tim had originally planned to open his season with IRONMAN Australia, but things went very wrong for him that morning. The water was apparently very warm, and early in the swim he over heated in his wetsuit so badly that he fell unconscious and was pulled from the water by an alert lifeguard. The press played up him racing for the first time after that incident, but the confident athlete was truly more concerned about the complexities of training schedules in a situation of peaking, not being able to race, and trying to be at peak again six weeks later.
“I had every question in the world coming into it,” he said after the race, “but overheating in 65 degree water wasn’t one of them.”
He had done well staying on top for a month and a half, but it took everything he had.
“The day wasn’t perfect for me. I didn’t feel great all day.”
The morning started out grey and much of the day was partly cloudy. All three legs of the race were two loops. The swim was held in a cove designed for boats, so the water was cold but calm. As the swimmers came in towards the lap marker boat, the ‘Moonbeam’, to start the second half, Craig Walton was way off the front. All three DeBooms and Chuckie V. were right there at the front of the main group, though.
After a good swim that had Tony and Tim leaving the water together in fourth and fifth, they quickly moved to the front of those chasing Walton. Chuckie Veylupek came out two minutes back and Nicole DeBoom was right behind him.
When two hours had passed Craig Walton was still in front by 2:40 but Tony and Tim were staying together and keeping plenty of heat on the leader. They were averaging 24.1 mph. At that point, Nicole had passed Jill Savage and Beth Zinkand for the lead. It wouldn’t last. Zinkand passed her back shortly. Right about then world champion Natasha Badmann powered her way up through the field and finished eating up her nearly six minute deficit out of the water. Chuckie V. wasn’t having a strong a day and would soon give up the race.
The athletes passed through the transition area by the beach and climbed back up the hill towards the back half of the bike course in the foothills of the Camp Pendleton Marine Base. As Tony turned the corner before he headed out, he flashed the thumbs up sign to indicate that he was feeling good so far. Nicole started lap two in third place behind Natasha Badmann and Beth Zinkand, smiling wide as she passed the knowledgeable cheering crowd. Many had been here last year for her stunning debut at long-distance racing. She had slipped back to 5:26 behind Badmann, but was still in third place. The second lap would bring her bike mechanical frustration as she kept dropping her chain and finally had to get some assistance from the B&L bike shop volunteers.
The brothers would go through the second transition only 2:30 behind. Tony was worried about the pace that Tim was setting as they began the run.
“That whole first lap I kept telling myself, We’re going too fast, we’re going too fast.”
But Tim was pushing his brother to a new IRONMAN marathon p.r. of 2:49:21, not to mention a new ironman PR all together of 8:27:13.
“It helped me a lot,”Tony said after the race. “I run with him at home, so I think it was just a mental breakthrough for me to be able to do it in a race.”
Nicole started the run with Paula Newby-Fraser right behind her. She was reporting that her legs were cramping badly immediately. She was fading fast and a few competitors would soon pass her. Some time was all she needed though, and she loosened up and picked up her pace as she got more comfortable. The day was more of a struggle for her than last year, but she would place fifth overall and take home some prize money.
At six hours and twenty-five minutes into the race, Tim and Tony passed Walton. They had run side by side for the whole run so far, and would continue to do so until around mile 18 when Tim started edging in to the lead.
“I found a little bit of my stride that I was looking for throughout the day.”
“He didn’t¹t look back,” said Tony. “He was probably thinking, ‘C’mon Tony, get your ass up here!’,” he joked.
“My goal was to hang with him as long as I could.”
He couldn’t stay with him, but he stayed ahead of Walton. The sight of the two brothers embracing at the finish line was an historic moment in the sport and a moving one for all those witnessing it.
Said Tony after the race,”We’ve been talking about it for years…I could quit now and be happy.”
The rest of us will be hoping for a time when we get to see them have to sprint each other for the finish line.