SBD/October 11, 2013/People and Pop Culture

Weekend Plans With Andrew Messick: Ironman World Championship In Hawaii

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Messick's son William (c) competed in his first race while in Kona this week
Ironman & World Triathlon Corp. CEO ANDREW MESSICK has been in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, since last Saturday, but he is hardly enjoying a tropical vacation. Messick is prepping for the 35th annual GoPro Ironman World Championship, which has been held on the Big Island since ’81 and combines the 2.4-mile Waikiki Roughwater Swim, 112 miles of the Around-O’ahu Bike Race and the 26.2-mile Honolulu Marathon into one 140.6 mile journey. The championship race is on Saturday, but there are 15 other events -- including open swims, kids' races, a parade and social and hospitality functions -- that take place in the days leading up. Luckily for Messick, he had a 12-hour-plus flight from Ironman HQs in Tampa, Fla., to rest up and prepare for the most important week on Ironman’s calendar.

FOLLOW IN HIS FOOTSTEPS: My family is with me. My wife and my son, WILLIAM, are here. My son (participated in) the kids' race (Tuesday) afternoon. He turns six next month. I told him whatever happens, keep going. The most important thing isn’t to win. The most important thing is to try your hardest and to finish. That’s what Ironman teaches everybody and it’s what I hope to teach my son. I’m a three-time Ironman finisher and I finished ten 70.3 half ironman distance races.

EARLY TO BED, EARLY TO RISE: Friday is the final check-in, so our athletes check their bikes, they get everything ready and they all go to sleep about 7:00 at night. Our operational staff goes through their final checks and make sure everything is sorted. Some people sleep a little bit but then we’re all up between 3:30-4:00 on Saturday morning to check in, to help all the athletes do their final preparations, make sure that all the swim safety assets are in place, that the television coverage is in good shape, that our volunteers are organized and then we go straight through until midnight. For us it’s generally a 23-hour day. We’re going full blast until the last finisher comes across the line at midnight on Saturday.

SUPPORT GROUP: We’ll have 6,000 volunteers over the course of the day. We’ve got, I would say in terms of people working the event who aren’t volunteers, we’ve got probably 400. And we go through a couple semis full of Ironman Perform (sports drink); we have 50,000-60,000 pounds of ice, just the sheer logistics of the event are pretty amazing because it is a long, hard, endurance event in hot and windy conditions. So in terms of our investment and our expenditures on the things that are required to make and create a safe race for our athletes it’s pretty big. We hope that all the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed by the time the gun goes off at 7:00am on Saturday morning.

AND THEY'RE OFF: The part that I love the most is the swim start and watching the athletes really begin their journey of racing Kona. All of the anticipation gets translated into action when the cannon goes off. I will help the athletes get into the water before the swim starts, then get on a motorcycle and we’ll do a tour of the bike course. So I’ll go out to Havii, which is about 50 miles north of Kailua-Kona, and make sure that all of our eight stations are in good shape, make sure that all of our volunteers, all those assets are appropriately deployed. I’ll get back to Kona in time to spend about an hour or two inside the television compound doing interviews with various countries and their television broadcasts. ... I will then take a group of people out to dinner and will get back to the finish about 8:00 and will be at the finish line welcoming guests until the last finisher comes across at midnight. To be able to welcome those athletes in the last two hours of the race is a great privilege and one of the real highlights of my life in sports.

HITTING PAUSE: Sunday is all about rest, recover and celebrate. Everybody is pretty tired by the time Sunday rolls around. Athletes, volunteers, staff, everybody’s looking forward to an opportunity to sleep in. Then we have our awards banquet, which will take place Sunday night. That’s a giant celebration for all of our athletes. It’s important to recognize how hard it is to just get to this race. It’s extraordinarily competitive. Sunday night we’ll recognize our two professional champions and our 24 age group world champions and the podium -- the top five for men, the top five for women -- of every age group. And me too. Then we have another party on Monday night, which is a party that we throw for the 6,000 volunteers.
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