WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
October 10, 2010
The post-race hamburger, french fries and frozen yogurt never tasted so good for Rich Nixon.
At 46, Nixon, who trains at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex, had his best finish ever at the grueling Ford Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, the granddaddy of all Ironmans.
Nixon, a fitness consultant, finished in a career-best 9 hours, 28 minutes and 33 seconds in his fifth Hawaii appearance. He was sixth in the 45-49 age group and 153rd overall among a field of more than 1,800 triathletes from throughout the world.
It was his first Top 10 finish. The past two times he has been 11th.
“I knew I was having a pretty decent race when I started passing the pro women on the bike and a pretty large pack of them at the beginning of the run,” Nixon said. “I started seeing some good Ironman triathletes and where they were at and where I was at. The closer you are to the front, the crowd starts thinning out.”
Nixon also posted all career-best splits: 1:05:01 for the 2.4-mile swim, 5:04:13 for the 112-mile bike and 3:12:39 for the 26.2-mile run. His transitions were equally impressive, 3:23 from swim to bike and 3:17 from bike to run.
His 3:12.39 marathon qualified him for the Boston Marathon.
Nixon braved rough and choppy water in the swim, nasty crosswinds on the bike and searing heat on the run.
“I am getting faster as I am getting older,” said Nixon, greeted at the finish line by his wife Toni and daughter Morgan, a South Florida Aquatic Club swimmer. Morgan Nixon got the chance to swim with her dad over part of the course before and after the race.
Nixon and his family arrived a week early to acclimate to the time change.
After a well-planned training regimen leading up to the race, particularly for the bike and run, Nixon followed his race plan to a tee.
“My goal for the day was to just go as hard as I could all day, to walk that fine line of having a great day and just blowing up,” Nixon said by phone from Kona before breakfast on Sunday. “I was pushing my limits all day long.”
Nixon, who has become an expert when it comes to training regimens since he first started racing years ago as a newbie, slightly altered his training for this race.
“I did a lot of work this year, training a little bit differently on the bike and run and it paid off,” Nixon said. “I was disappointed with my swim, I was hoping for a little bit faster. I got stuck in a crowd on the way back.”
Nixon wrote his own training plan for the first time and bounced ideas off a University of Michigan physiologist.
“I wouldn’t say I cut back on the duration of my workouts,” Nixon said. “I have added more quality into my workouts. I just think over the years I have been doing so much aerobic-based building that my body is able to absorb all the training. I recovered pretty quickly.”
The heat played havoc all day with athletes and spectactors. Along the Queen K temperatures rose to 104 degrees midway through the race. The pavement was 120 degrees.
The bike course for the 5-foot-11, 160-pound Nixon proved to be a formidable challenge especially around Hawi where cyclists were averaging between 35 and 40 miles per hour.
“Hawi was really bad with the wind,” Nixon said. “You were literally riding your bicycle on an angle. You could look ahead and see everyone on an angle, tilted over into the wind.”
Nixon said that well-known local triathlete Linda Neary Robb of Jupiter was coming down the bike course when a group of cyclists were pushed by the wind over into her. She was out of the race with a concussion.
“It was a pretty windy day,” Nixon said. “You are coming down from Hawi going 35 to 40 miles an hour with those winds and you are holding on for dear life and hoping that a real strong gust doesn’t put you across the street.”
Earlier in the week Nixon, who finished Ironman Florida in 9:11, swam half the course with his daughter Morgan and “smiled the whole way, that was fun. “She would eventually like to do this race and to me that would be so awesome to do the race with her on that day. It would be a cool daddy experience.”
As far as future Hawaii Ironmans, Nixon said “I am going to keep on doing them as long as I am enjoying them. I really love coming to Hawaii.”
Nixon has no long distance events scheduled yet, but has been invited to the Strongman event in April, the longest running triathlon in Japan.
In the pro race, it was an Aussie sweep on the Big Island.
Chris McCormack of Sydney won the title of toughest endurance athlete while Miranda Carfrae of Brisbane won the women’s division.
The men’s race was thrilling with McCormack, 37, a 12-time Ironman winner and 2007 Hawaii champion, winning in 8:10:37, just 1:40 minutes ahead of Germany’s Andreas Raelert. “Macca” overtook the lead during the run.
The women’s race was interesting when the whole dynamic changed after three-time world champion and overwhelming favorite Chrissie Wellington withdrew the day before with flu-like symptoms.
Carfrae, 29, finished in 8:58:36, fourth fastest time ever in Kona.
Former Olympian Andy Potts, 34, had about a 75-yard lead in the swim. He was out of the water in 48:48, 2:24 ahead of Dirk Munsbach of Luxemburg. Brit Rachel London was the first woman out of the water in 52:25. The fastest age group swim of the day was by 30-year-old Texan Andy Gardner in 52:05. The fastest women’s age group split was 54:39 posted by Haley Chura of Atlanta.
Chris Lieto turned in the fastest bike split of 4:23:18 followed by Maik Twelsiek in 4:26:01. McCormack was fifth fastest in 4:31:51. Julie Dibens was the fastest woman cyclist in 4:55:28.
McCormack turned in a 2:43:31 marathon. There were four sub-2:45 marathon runs and six sub-2:50s. Carfrae had a 2:53:32 marathon split.
MORE TRIATHLON NEWS
Beginning in 2011, the World Championship 70.3 Ironman is moving from Clearwater to Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, Nev., just minutes away from the Las Vegas Strip. The race 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and 13-1-mile run event is set for Sept. 11, 2011.
The Ironman brand will return to Clearwater with the inaugural 5150 Series event on Nov. 12, the last event in the series. The 5150 Series will launch in Miami in March. The 27-year-old St. Anthony’s Triathlon on May 1 will also be included in the 5150 Series. It is the second of a 16-race series for pro and elite athletes.
The series name reflects the total 51.5 kilometer distance of the race (1.5K swim, 40K bike and 10K run). For information, go to www.5150.com.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com