3.8km swim, 180km bike, 42.2km run.
The Ironman is regarded as the toughest one-day sporting event in the world. And in perfect conditions, over 1600 brave athletes took on the 3.8km swim around the Frankston pier, a 180km bike ride along Melbourne's Eastlink toll road and a 42.2km marathon from Frankston to the St. Kilda Baths. The challenge seems almost impossible as the athletes enter the water at 7am, but many hours later all the training and will-power pays off. Eight hours for the winner, and over 16 hours for Damian Breen, the race's last competitor.
The hotmix road surface and lack of wind made for a lightning fast bike course. A lead bunch formed early, but despite the potential record bike splits, the group took things easy. This tactic meant the athletes were rested, ready for a record run leg. Alexander ran an amazing 2hr 38min marathon after more than 5hrs of swimming and biking. The run pushed him under 8hrs for the race, finishing in 7hr 57min.
If the men's pack were content in taking the bike easy, the same could not be said for Steffen in the women's race. She rode only 10mins slower than the men in 4hr 35min for the 180kms. Running around 3hrs for the marathon meant she was unchallenged as champion.
But, the great beauty of the Ironman triathlon is not the leaders, but the 1600 other battlers who take on the challenge. Most are out after dark and struggle against cramps, exhaustion and self-doubt. Even at 9pm at night the St. Kilda area was packed with supporters cheering the final competitors home.