Monday, September 8, 2008


Congratulations are in order for Karen Melliar-Smith's top 10 finish, and to first time Kona World Championship qualifier Brendan Murphy, whose race time of 9:51.58 made the cut for the Ironman Hawaii.

Katherine and I drove out to Madison and joined brother Matt, Katy and family to watch them compete among 2500 others who did the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile marathon ultra-endurance event held this past Sunday, September 8th.

The cannon and the roar of the spectators at sunrise started the mass-wave in chilly (50F) air temperature. It was quite a spectacle seeing over 2000 swimmers churning through the lake from the same start. After 52 minutes, Karen was the second female out of the water. Amazing! Brendan followed a short time later, ranked 20th overall.

After a quick transition through the Frank Lloyd Wright's Monona Terrace, it was on to the bicycle course. At mile 40, Brendan met some adversity with a flat. There are no support vehicles in Ironman; if you flat, you're on your own. And as anyone who rides tubular tires knows, fixing this type of tire is tricky. Adding that to the stress of fixing it in the middle of a race can ruin a day's performance. But he handled the challenge well and was back on the attack within ten minutes. Even with the flat, he completed the 112 mile bike course in five hours and 21 minutes (21 mph pace).

From there, it was on to a run course that looked more like a medical chart's ventricular fibrillation than a marathon course. While it was punishing to the athletes already 114 miles into the Ironman, the double out and back through downtown Madison made for great spectating among the many cafes dotting State Street. While we spectators felt a slight twinge of guilt munching down pasta for lunch and Ben and Jerry's for dessert, Brendan and Karen held to their paces in the Marathon - Brendan running his second best Marathon ever in 3:28.12; Karen in an amazing 3:37:39.

I can only imagine the joy and relief in seeing the finish at such an event. I've heard that some people trudge through the 140 miles only to experience the final 1000 feet to the finish line. But let me be the first to tell you: they both not only finished it, but they finished the race well. Karen powered into a top ten finish; Brendan with a sprinter's kick and high-fives for the spectators. It was exhilarating. Seeing this accomplishment was a privilege and a memory I won't forget. And judging by how fresh they looked afterward, you'd never know what they just went through. They made it look easy.

Final Results here for Karen and Brendan.

Congratulations again, and see you in Kona on October 10th, 2009. You are an Ironman!!


  1. very cool stuff. the best part of my best marathon was the last mile, knowing I felt awesome and had plenty of time to get in under the Boston cut. I imagine that feeling is magnified by 10 or 20 at the end of an Ironman.

  2. Thanks for the great write-up Brady. It was great having all of you there to cheer me on to get the Kona slot!!!