Categorized | Multi-sport, Sports

Ironman champions jerseys debut at awards banquet

The Ironman champions jerseys (Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7)

By Jennifer Ward Barber | Ironman

Mike Reilly opened this year’s awards banquet with such enthusiasm that it seemed he hadn’t turned it off since the night before.

Sharing some opening statistics, such as this year’s very high finish rate (despite tough conditions), Reilly kicked off the evening’s proceedings riding the wave of positivity brought in by thousands of proud finishers.

It was an evening of accolades and appreciation. Event director Diana Bertsch said of Reilly, “Mike, we are who we are because of you.”

Following her, WTC CEO Andrew Messick showed his appreciation for the age group field, saying,“You guys are an inspiration and embodiment of what makes our sport so strong.”

No matter who was speaking, Bertsch’s words that Ironman is “more than a race — it’s a state of mind, it’s a lifestyle, it’s a culture” rung true.

After veteran in the sport Bob Babbitt gave some of his own observations (Natascha Badmann’s 5:06 bike split and Kenny Glah’s 29th Ironman), the age group awards got well under way.

From the fresh-faced 18-24 year-olds to the 80-plus age group that drew especially enthusiastic applause, every group champion was “crowned” with their new champions’ jerseys.

Last to grace the stage were the top-ten male and female professional athletes, with winners Leanda Cave and Pete Jacobs giving speeches.

Cave, in her graceful yet uniquely candid style, went through almost the whole podium, remarking on her friendship with the other pro women, their characters, and how privileged she’s been to race against them.

Here are some of the highlights from her speech:

“I’ve talked about myself a lot over the last seven days,” she said. “Back in 2007 when I did my first Ironman here in Hawaii, I made a big announcement on NBC that I’d win this event one day. And it kinda took a little longer than I thought to get to this point. So here I am, six years later, finally winning this thing. And what an honor. This is one of the biggest moment of my life.”

“I really underestimated how hard this would be. This is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, racing this Ironman event. You don’t see me out there racing a whole lot during the year because I really think this is one of the toughest things we put our bodies and minds through across the board.”

“I was very naive. I came from Olympic-distance, and thought all I had to do was do that distance back-to-back four times we’re good to go. Uh, no. I’ve made a ton of mistakes, and standing here right now I can say I’ve made every single one of them. And that’s how I like it, to be honest.”

Lastly she spoke of how inspiring the age group field is, who manage life along with their training, and devoting their lives to this sport. She thanked the volunteers (“putting Vaseline in places you wouldn’t imagine”), her friends and family, and her coach Siri Lindley, who she called her “rock.”

Pete Jacobs opened his speech by telling the audience that on his wedding day two years ago, he cried and his wife didn’t.

“She’s in tears right now so I don’t know where I’m going to end up,” he joked.

By the end of his speech, it was clear to those who don’t know Jacobs that he’s not only an emotional racer, as he mentioned in his speech, but an emotional person in general.

His openness and warmth drew all ears as he narrated the race, and thanked loved ones, dissolving into tears at the end when he turned his gratitude on his wife and the sacrifices she’s made.

At the very end he barely managed to eek out a thank you to his parents: “This is your son up here winning.”

Here are some of the highlights from his speech:

“(Craig Alexander and Chris McCormack) are the ultimate professionals. I hope this is not the changing of the guard. I hope they come back and fight for it. I’m thankful for everyone that I’ve raced, for making our sport and our job as rewarding an enjoyable as it is, and for pushing me to use more of my potential.”

“I race with love. That was the mantra that I held on race day […] I asked my friends and families and sponsors to say something about love when they saw me on the race course, to remind me why I’m out there. To remind me that it’s not a bad thing to be hurting. That I’m here because I want to hurt, I enjoy the pain, I enjoy the challenge, I enjoy finding more out about myself. As we all do, as Ironman athletes, that what we’re here for.”

“I was really fortunate the way the race panned out, and the way that Luke McKenzie broke it up and I could go off the front. It opened up some opportunities to break away from the pack and go with my gut. So I pushed, probably a lot more than I should have. […] Everybody, just for future reference, ignore the numbers: you’re much faster than you think you are.”

“Before I knew it I was leading the race up to Hawi and I’m smiling to myself. I thought ‘I’m not a bike rider I’m a runner, I don’t lead the bike race, what’s going on?’ So that gave me more confidence and I kept pushing.”

“(Once on the run) Marino’s an amazing athlete and I was writing an accetpance speech in my head, saying that the better man won on the day. But then I said ‘Don’t worry Pete, you love this, you love running, what are you doing?’ Don’t question it.’ Then I thought ‘maybe this is why Chrissie’s always smiling.’ I just kept telling myself you love this.”

“I took my vitamins, I ate my vegetables, I slept when I was tired, and took plenty of naps. And I ate a lot. I think a lot of people come here a bit too skinny. I ate as much as I could the last two weeks.”

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