Juneau’s John Bursell knows what it means to be all alone in competition. His athletic events either have him standing atop a mountain, crouched low over a speeding bike, or smoothly cutting through open waters. That will change on Saturday.
On Saturday, Bursell will again be all alone, but only as the sole Alaskan, in the 2012 Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
Bursell joins 1900 athletes from around the globe and while none are from Alaska, they all have the unique honor of qualifying for the Ironman.
This is Bursell’s 4th time qualifying for the prestigious race, which consists of a 2.4-mile ocean swim, 112-mile bike race and 26.2-mile run. Competitors have 17 hours to finish and cutoff times are applied to each segment of the race.
In 2007 Bursell finished with a time of 10 hours and 56 minutes; in 2009 he went 12:04; and last year he finished in 10:25.
“I am feeling as strong as I ever have coming into the Hawaii Ironman,” Bursell said. “I am getting used to the heat and getting in at least two workouts a day on the Ironman course. The heat and wind are always factors in the race, but at this point they are both moderate compared to prior years.”
Bursell’s goal is to complete the race before the sun goes down, which will give him a finish time of approximately 11 hours.
The swim segment begins and ends at Kailua Pier. The bike race travels north on the Kona Coast through scorching lava fields and then along the Kohala Coast to the small village of Hawi, returning along the same route to transition. The marathon course travels through Kailua-Kona and on to the same highway, the Queen Ka’ahumanu, used for the bike course. Athletes then run back into Kailua-Kona, coming down Ali’i Drive to the cheers of thousands of spectators at the finish line.
The Ironman World Championships is the world’s most recognized endurance event and is considered to be the global benchmark for testing one’s personal limits.
Bursell qualified for this year’s Ironman with a New Zealand race. The weather was bad and the race was delayed one day. The distances were cropped in half for the race and Bursell finished with a time of 4:31. Bursell qualifed for his 2009 Ironman in New Zealand as well and posted his personal best time of 9:57.
IRONMAN enthusiasts can follow Bursell and all the live action on race day exclusively on ironman.com with IRONMANLive. Viewers can access the live webcast, live blog and athlete tracker via computer and for the first time via tablet or smart phone beginning at 8:00am Alaska time on Saturday. Professional athletes will start the race at 8:30am Alaska time and amateurs will follow at 9:00am.