“You've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya punk?” - Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry Callahan
Every year Ford Ironman World Championship competitors from the Big Island get together for a "team" photo for the newspaper. The athletes get a T-shirt that proclaims the year of the event, that they are a competitor in the event, and that they are a member of "Team Big Island."
Ironman, or World Triathlon Corporation- its owner, continued to drive a wedge between itself and Big Island athletes after announcing last week that beginning with next year's Rohto Ironman 70.3 Hawaii (Honu), all state and Big Island slots (20 for state and 24 for Big Island) for the Ford Ironman World Championship will no longer be awarded through competition, but will be distributed through a lottery. 28 slots will be awarded for winners of the age groups.
The local newspaper quoted Ironman officials saying how it will help athletes from Hawaii who, under the current system, would never qualify for the world championship will now have a chance and how the ones who have been qualifying will just have to step up their game and win the age group slots (my words, their meaning).
Ironman officials say that the new system will give those in highly competitive age groups a chance to "win" a slot. On one hand I agree with the lotto system. It would give some of those athletes a chance who are competing against top-notched age groupers from the Big Island. But on the other hand, there are those athletes who train 20 or more hours a week leading up to Honu who still can't compete with the best athletes in their age group, but can compete with the best athletes in their age group from the Big Island. For those athletes now, all those hours of training get them no more closer to an Ironman world championship spot than those athletes who train 5 or 10 hours a week and plan on only "completing" the half Ironman with a goal of only beating the cut-off time. To me, it's as if Ironman took the competiitveness out of Honu for Big Island and state athletes.
It also opens the door for those brand new to triathlon to qualify for a world championship slot. I would have loved that when I first started but how many times have we seen newbies do an Ironman and then get burned out and walk away from the sport rather than take their time, build up the mentality, endurance and experience before trying an Ironman, let a lone Kona?
If WTC really were concerned about fairness, maybe they should have just forked over new slots for a lottery. Or at least they could have set a limit on how many times, or years in a row, a Big Island or state resident could qualify for the world championship.
Oh, I got a glimpse at next year's T-shirt for the newspaper photo.
Go Team Lotto!!!
OK. enough kidding. At least the Ironman fiefdom is trying to make some changes that will encourage more people to give triathlons a try in hopes of making it to the big show. Here's to next year's Team Lotto. Hope you all are feeling lucky.
Oh, and by the way, if anyone knows how you train for luck let me know. My whole training strategy has to change for next year. Instead of carrying gels, gatorade and salt tabs, I'm stocking up on four-leaf clovers, rabbit foots, or is it feet?, heck, I'll carry the whole darn rabbit if that's what it takes, and eating Lucky Charms cereal every day.