Sunday is the Nice Ironman: an ultra-endurance race of insane proportions for mega-jocks, where they start the day by swimming 2.4 miles (3.8 km) in the open sea, then bike over mountains for 112 miles (180 km), and if that wasn’t enough, then they run, I’m not kidding, a full marathon of 26.2 miles (42 km).
And guess who was expected to win the Nice Ironman? Lance Armstrong! But in a shocking development last week, Lance, who took up Ironmans since retiring from bike racing (as one does), was categorically banned from all sports competitions until his doping allegations are resolved. So now the field is wide open!
Beyond the sports superstars, the Ironman is an amazing and inspiring event to behold, as thousands of people push themselves to levels beyond reasonable. Started in Hawaii in 1978 almost on a dare, 5 buddies decided to see who was the fittest by combining the three toughest races on the island, the Waikiki Roughwater Swim, the Around-Oahu Bike Race, and the Honolulu Marathon into one. Now competitions are held around the world (Nice is the official Ironman in France), and the top qualifiers win a place to compete in the legendary Hawaii Ironman in October (where the marathon portion is run through blazing black lava fields… can’t beat that for fun!)
So come down to the Prom on Sunday and prepare to be awed. Here’s my favorite part: If you can get up early enough, head down to the Prom (Plage des Centenaire, across from the Theatre de Verdure) around 6am to witness the dramatic and breathtakingly beautiful 6:25am splashing start against the backdrop of the pink-tinged dawn. It’s not long before they reemerge from the sea to jump onto their waiting bikes… a transition with the precision of a ballet. Several hours later they’re back on the Prom to trade bikes for running shoes, and then they run to the Airport and back… four times! The winner should be crossing the finish line around 3pm, but all the rest will arrive all evening long, and to be considered a finisher, the rules state that midnight’s the limit.
No mere mortals, these.
Photo by Patrice Lapoirie courtesy of the Nice-Matin