It’s always great to see good sportsmanship out there on an IM race course. There is so much BAD sportsmanship, (i.e., drafting, “its-all-about-me” race tactics, etc) at most races that it sort-of restores your faith in humanity when you see examples of real sportsmen out there.
Example one: Fuel Belt Captain Vinu Malik. Vinu is the toughest IM competitor out there, yet never has a bad word for anyone unless they REALLY deserve it. Apparently a drafting peleton he passed between Keene and Jay (the flat part of the course) irritated him so much that he couldn’t help but shout a few choice words at them. The response of one of the paceline participants? “Watch your language please!”. Vinu executed his race perfectly like he almost always does. Hit his power number on the bike to the watt (as planned by his QT2 Coach Jesse K). Then got off and ran a IM marathon PR (at age 43 in his 31st IM on a very tough course) of 3:16. He moved from around 30th place to 13th, making sure to stop and kiss his baby daughters each time he passed. Alas, with over 500 people in his age group and only 10 slots, he is not going to Kona. Instead of bitching and moaning about anything and everything and making excuses, he simply summed it up with a smile and said that he’d been on the other side of winning the last Kona slot many times, so that’s just the way it goes. The guy who got the last slot in his age group, Sean Reilly, wrote Vinu a really nice email telling him what a class act and great ambassador for the sport he is. Right on. These guys both raced hard, put it all on the line, executed as well as they could, and let the chips fall. I hope some of the peleton riders see this and learn something.
Example two: Sean Watkins of Lava Magazine (the hot new tri mag – just hitting the stands – check it out!) and many-time national track cycling champion did his first IM at Placid. He had been here in Barrington for the Providence 70.3 with his SO Heather Jackson, and it was here that a bet was made. Vinu expected Wattie would crush him on the bike, but that he would have a good chance of running Wattie down. So, the wager was that if Vinu passed Wattie on the run before mile 25, Wattie must don a particularly sharp pair of Ironman Super Hero Under-Roos briefs. How exactly this would happen logistically was another question.
As it turned out, Wattie never did lead Vinu, as he rode conservatively, fearing the run. When I saw Wattie pass us at mile 11, I just so happened to have the briefs in question in my pocket, and took the opportunity to waive them in front of him as he climbed the hill. He immediately went from “blinders-on-zoned-out” to laughter and picked up his pace a little. Then, we got lucky. Vinu had finished and was already showered, eating pizza, drinking beer, holding his daughter, and cheering on the folks still out on the course. I realized I hadn’t seen Wattie pass by yet, but could have easily missed him in the crowd. Still, something told me he was near. I handed the briefs to Vinu, and sure enough, ten minutes later, here he comes trudging up the hill. The rest is better illustrated with pictures. Yes he ran the last two miles to the finish in 11 hours clad in under-roos. Now that is what I call good sportsmanship! Never let anyone say Sean Watkins welshes on a bet!