2012 Ironman World Championship Photo Essay

Photos — Tony Svensson / More images are available for purchase at EnduraPix

The week before the race, posters of all previous Ironman winners are lining Alii Drive close to the finish line.

Thursday morning at 08:00 outside Michael McMichael's Pacific Vibrations store, the Underpants Run takes place, a spectacle that not only offers a T-shirt, but the opportunity to donate money for a good cause. Amply assisted by past Ironman winners Paula Newby-Fraser and Heather Fuhr, Head Underwearers Roch Frey and Paul Huddle have the runners recite the sacred Underpants Oath. This was by far the largest congregation of exhibitionist runners in history, a testament to Roch's and Huddle's considerable organizing talent and humor.

07:00 — On a morning in October, the gun goes off for the mass swim start of the Ironman. The top professional male athletes had already started thirty minutes earlier and the women five minutes after the top men. This year, close to 2,000 athletes competed.

07:20 — Again, Andy Potts is first out of the water.

07:31 — Amanda Stevens in the swim to bike transition giving the camera man his first workout of the day.

08:45 — Referee Jimmy Riccitello, notebook in hand, taking names (compare with the 2011 Photo Essay).

08:46 — Leanda Cave, on her way to a first win in Kona, has just passed Meredith Kessler near the 78-mile marker on the bike course.

08:49 — I could never figure out if these drainage pipes were designed for water or lava...

08:51 — Joanna Lawn and a mystery flute player in Madam Pele's land.

08:54 — The bike course between Kailua and Kawaihae is pretty desolate.

09:41 — It doesn't get much better between Kawaihae and the Hawi turnaround which is mostly uphill and into the wind.

10:02 — Mike Lovato at the Hawi turnaround, this year under cloud cover.

10:52 — Andreas Raelert, who would eventually finish second overall, cooling off with water on the way back from Kawaihae.

11:18 — Check out the caked salt on the back of Andy Potts's bike outfit.

11:52 — Caroline Steffen showing perfect cycling form near The Mounds.

12:00 — Some six minutes behind Caroline is the 2010 winner Mirinda "Rinny" Carfrae.

12:40 — First off the bike in the women's race is Mary Beth Ellis who would finish fifth. Caroline is on her heels.

12:43 — Caroline leaving the transition area.

12:49 — And almost nine minutes down, Rinny enters the bike to run transition area in hot pursuit.

13:22 — Marino Vanhoenecker has led the race for most of the bike and the first 15 km of the run. Here's a first sign of trouble on an otherwise stellar day of racing.

13:33 — Eleven minutes later, Pete Jacobs passes him at an aid station and never looks back. Marino later drops out.

13:53 — Pete has reached the Natural Energy Labs turnaround and heads back home towards his first win in Kona. Meeting him is Sebastian Kienle, currently in second place, who would cross the finish line in fourth.

13:54 — Andreas is a good five minutes behind Pete.

13:57 — In keeping with tradition (and what for many still works), bananas, oranges and peanut butter sandwiches are offered on the run course together with all the high tech stuff we didn't have in my day. The "last gasp kicker drink" of choice was defizzed coke...and still is.

14:33 — Rinny almost catches Leanda on the run, but gets no closer than this. Later, Leanda will pass Caroline about a mile from the finish and claim her first victory in Kona. Rinny is third behind Leanda and Caroline.

14:53 — Andreas in the finish line chute giving it all he has.

23:59 — Seventyseven-year-old Harriett Anderson is the last finisher of the day, coming in 26 seconds before the midnight cut-off. The place goes crazy. That midnight energy charges you up for days, weeks and months. Is there a truer celebration of life?