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Last Ironman finisher is the real winner

Posted Nov 27 2010 8:17pm
Last Ironman finisher is the real winner

When people ask my why I love triathlon, a big part of my answer is, the people.  I love how the age groupers, like me, can race in the same event with professionals.  I mean, where else could I chit-chat with Dave Scott before a race?  Just another example here...

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Last Ironman finisher is the real winner

By Bob Young, The Arizona Republic

Rather than watch the Cardinals lose - again - on Sunday, we decided it might be fun to watch a winner in town at Ford Ironman Arizona.

Chrissie Wellington is dominating long-course triathlon like Roger Federer, Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong dominated their sport at the top of their game.

Wellington covered the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run in 8 hours, 36 minutes, 13 seconds, the fastest time ever by a woman in an Ironman branded race.


She's never lost at the distance, won three consecutive world championships before illness kept her from starting this year, crushed the world record and routinely "chicks" the male professionals.

That's what they call it if you're a man and a woman goes by so fast she blows your chili-huggers off.
Anyway, the last person to finish is every bit the Ironman as the first-place finisher, maybe more so considering they're on the course about twice as long.

So we hung around to watch Chandler's Michele Maassen cross under the Ironman clock as the final official finisher - 17 seconds before the midnight deadline.

For Maassen, a business manager for Revlon, it was a 16-hour, 59-minute, 43-second day that ended with Wellington jumping out of the crowd to join the 35-year-old single mom for the final yards.

"That was so great," Maassen said. "I didn't really know what was going on. There was this woman next to me and everything was so crazy I didn't even realize who it was."

Maassen's 6 ½-year-old son, Aaron, was there, too, although he bonked and was in a deep sleep, the glow of green and pink fluorescent loops around his neck fading right along with him.

Maassen went to watch the event last year, heard the crowd when she was a half-mile away and decided right then to sign up.

It meant fitting training around Aaron and a career, often riding her bike on an indoor stationary trainer late at night while watching episodes of "The Biggest Loser."

She squeezed in runs at lunchtime or when traveling and got help from friends and family with Aaron on weekends to do long training efforts.

She hoped it would be enough to get her past all the cut-off times.

An Ironman race day begins at 7 a.m. and athletes must exit the water by 9:15 a.m. Maassen made it by less than 11 minutes. They must be off the bike by 5:30 p.m. She had about 16 minutes to spare. And they have till midnight to complete the run.

After a "25 minute pit stop" at a toilet during the run, she began her final lap around Tempe Town Lake thinking she might not make it in time.

"I saw my family and I was in tears at that point," she said. "I asked if I was OK (on time) and, of course, they said yes.

"When I got to the bottom of the Scottsdale Road bridge with 1.2 miles to go they told me I really had to pick it up. There was a guy from Ironman and this nice girl running in jeans and boots with a cowbell."

"Cowbell" was Karen Hardy, marketing manager of Active Network's team sports division.

"I walked down from the hotel to watch the finish, saw her and started running with her," Hardy said. "The others had stopped running with her, so I kept going. I really wanted to see her make it."

And she did.

"I dug deeper on that last mile than I ever have before," Maassen said. "I definitely pushed myself beyond what I thought I could, mentally and physically. For me, that was a success.

"And when I came around the last curve and saw the end, I felt no pain whatsoever."
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