Published: October 11, 2011
The Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, is one of the most grueling one-day sporting events in the world, with 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking and 26.2 miles of running.
On Saturday, more than 1,800 competitors tackled the triathlon. Three men from Winston-Salem — Jeff Ickes, Ken Bush and David Daggett — were just crazy enough to be among them.
“The Kona Ironman is the Super Bowl of triathlons,” said Daggett, a managing partner at Daggett Shuler Attorneys at Law. “It’s one of the few sports events where an everyday athlete can work their way here and compete with the best in the world.”
Don’t let him kid you.
Daggett, Ickes and Bush are not everyday athletes. They qualified for the World Championship by doing well in other Ironman-distance competitions. Plus, they had to hold down jobs and train for many, many hours while pursuing their passion for competition.
Bush, for example, trained about 20 hours a week to be ready for his first World Championship, though he had competed in other ironman-distance competitions. The work apparently paid off, particularly in the last 10 kilometers (about 6 miles).
“You can do all the training in the world. It comes down to mental strength as well as physical,” said Bush, a physician assistant. “In the last 10k, you have to put yourself in a place mentally. I thought of all the sacrifices my family and friends have made to get me here. It made me capable of sustaining the pain, to really push on.”
Bush finished the race in less than 10 hours, a smoking-fast time, according to Chris Vaughan, a trainer who knows the three ironmen through TRICOWS, or Triathlon Club of Winston-Salem.
“For Winston-Salem to have three guys qualify — it’s pretty amazing that we have guys of this caliber,” Vaughan said.
Describing the course, Ickes said he got a taste of everything, referring to the harsh conditions for which Kailua-Kona is known.
The road, for example, stretches along a lava desert, and the heat coming off the pavement is known among competitors to sometimes rise above 130 degrees.
The wind is no friend to these triathletes, either. Gusts whip at 40 mph, forceful enough to push competitors laterally across the road during the cycling portion of the event.
The swim, because it comes first, can lead to a congested stew of flailing limbs, something that Ickes described as a water polo match.
Of course, he’d do it all again.
“It’s just a really inspiring achievement,” said Ickes, owner of Salem Sports Inc. “The sport keeps me coming back, even when you go out and have a good day. It’s an analogy for life — a long day, so much happens. Like life itself, it’s all about how you respond to it.”