Hawaii Ironman World Championship
By Kristen McFarland
October 19, 2002 (Kona, Hawaii) – It was pre-dawn race morning and it was raining. Everyone was saying that this had never happened, that nobody could remember it in the history of the event. Kailua Bay was looking rather angry, with a hefty chop on top of big, slow swells. Athletes were herded into the King Kamehameha Hotel for the body numbering that normally happens on Alii Drive outside. The slightly chaotic scene served to set everyone on edge. This in addition to the normal tensions before the World Championship.
Tim DeBoom flying down the Queen KNot only was it raining, but rumors were flying. An important announcement was to be made by race officials soon. Make sure you don’t miss it, they said over and over. Someone heard that there was flooding out on the course, that there were going to be changes. Others heard that the swim would be shortened, to prevent a tragedy like what had happened at Ironman Utah last June. Changing the course would change the race. People were very worried. Finally, it was announced that there would be no course changes or any shortening of the race, only some speed safety precautions (with violation penalties attached) at a particularly dangerous downhill turn. With all of that settled there was a sigh of relief.
Now for the swim in that unusually grey and churning water. The swells were so big that the athletes had trouble spotting the buoys. “We were off course most of the time,” said Tim DeBoom after the race. “In and out, and went around that second boat and everybody, McCormack and whoever else I was with, they headed towards shore basically. I said ‘we’re goin’ the wrong way.’ So I kind of made my own line and got us back on track.”
“I think the buoys were getting pushed around quite a bit. It was kind of tough to see them out there.”
Out of the water, Ironman newcomer Chris McCormack bolted into a lead on the bike and was followed by the strong German cyclists. McCormack is one of the best Olympic distance athletes in the world and was hyped in the press before the race as a contender. He was going off the front hard.
DeBoom and Cam Widoff were out of the first transition in 4th and eighth and settled into a chase group that had no plans to try to catch the leaders, but they didn’t want to let them get too far away.
Tim wasn’t just worried about the rookie McCormack. “I was concerned with everybody up there, not just Chris. I mean Thomas (Hellriegel), Norman (Stadler), Jurgen (Zack), are also fantastic runners. To give all of them nine minutes was not in my plan at all. That was very dangerous. I didn’t want to, I just couldn’t ride that fast.”
Peter Reid, Cameron Brown, and Cameron Widoff stayed right with Tim at the front of the chase group for most of the way back from Hawi, but Tim stayed in the lead of them. “I felt more comfortable being up front the whole way back,” making sure the pace didn’t slow down. They had lost a lot of time to the leaders already.
“I was tired, but I felt in control the whole way. I was just hoping to get in to transition and have a decent run.”
The run leg had barely started when the bike speed demons started dropping off. The rainy, overcast skies had given way to a blazing sun that started sending all of that water straight into the air. The humidity soared, and the leaders wilted away.
Soon, the more conservative group that included last year’s top three finishers were gaining on them, running side-by-side. At mile nine they were just three minutes back.
By mile 14, Tim had taken the lead, but he would struggle the whole way with Peter Reid very close behind. “I was running from aid station to aid station it was so hot for me,” he admitted. Reid pulled to within a minute and a half behind at one point in the Energy Lab, a true role reversal of the 2000 race when Tim chased him through the same part of the course.
This year the gap between the first and second place prize money was $70,000, and Peter was hot on his heels. “The last couple of miles I was thinking about it ,” he said laughing.
He held on to defend his title, which turned out to be the 7th closest margin of victory in the race’s history (his second place finish behind Reid in 200 was the fourth closest).
“I think it’s definitely harder to defend your title. To win it once is amazing, but the second time around there was a lot of eyes on me. Winning it two times in a row, it’s better than the first time around.”
The Mr. Consistency title goes to Cam Widoff. In one of his strongest races ever, he biked with the leaders, left T2 in eighth and stayed there to the finish. It would be the seventh time he would place in the top fifteen at the World Championship.
Tim Luchinske of Lafayette struggled a bit on the bike but showed off his running power with the fifth fastest run split of the day. He pulled past the crowd to finish 13th, moving up from his 25th place last year.
Nicole DeBoom was ready for a great race this year after working with coach Roch Frey all season. She exited T1 6th after being the 3rd woman out of the water. She stayed in the top ten group of women for the first half of the bike and then dropped back during a portion of the second half of the ride.
By the time she reached the second transition she pulled up to seventh place, but was 21 minutes back of the leader Natasha Badmann. Recording PR’s in both the bike and the swim this year, she also beat her best Hawaii time by a half an hour. Unfortunately, it was probably the most competitive women’s field ever, and it was only good enough for a frustrating 14th place (out of the prize money), actually moving back one position from last year’s race.
Susan Bartholomew Williams was racing her first Ironman-distance race ever after many years of successes on the U.S. national team in ITU World Cup races. A strong swimmer, she was unfazed by the rough waters and left T1 in fourth place. She was as high as third position on the bike at one point, but came off the bike 17th. She ran strong and only let a couple women pass her, placing 19th in the end.