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Countdown To Kona: Free Wheelin’ (2000)

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With the Ironman World Championship set to take place nine days from today, we take a look at back at each race from the past three decades. Today, we go back to 2000 and the year David Bailey finally took a victory in his division. All of the following photos and text are taken from the book, “30 Years of The Ironman Triathlon World Championship” by Bob Babbitt.

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It was late afternoon, and the sun had just started its daily drift toward the horizon. The wind suddenly calmed and the clouds overhead seemed to slow down to take in the action. David Bailey sat stone still on the Queen Kaahumanu Highway at the mouth of the Natural Energy Lab.

He was wrestling. No abdominal claw on Goldberg or a chair to the back of The Rock’s noggin. Bailey was mind wrestling, trying to figure out that age-old question: Do I or don’t I? It was Tuesday of Ironweek. A little late in the game to be adding over four miles to his last major push before race day.

To show how far the wheelers have come, wheelchair division course record holder Carlos Moeda’s 10:55 winning time from last year would have won the first two Ironman events back in 1978 and 1979 overall and his marathon time of 2:17 in 1998 helped establish that black ribbon of highway that runs through the lava fields as his turf.

For the last two years in Kona, Bailey was schooled and tooled by Moleda. For the last two years, the former motorcross champion lingered in the shadow cast by Moleda’s broad shoulders. Moleda was looking at this as his last Ironman – and he wanted to go out with a bang.

“I’ve only gone about 80-85 percent here,” admits the former Navy Seal who was paralyzed after getting shot in the back during a military operation in Central America. “I’m going to go as hard as I can for as long as I can.” He paused and smiled. “No holding back this time.”

Hence Bailey’s trip to the Natural Energy Lab.

“I thought, ‘I really don’t want to go that far, but the Ironman could come down to this,” remembers Bailey. “If I go down there, then I know I am really committed to winning this race. I want to know the feel. I want to know what the light is like at this time of day. I want to know the wind. I want to visualize the race coming down to this… because it will come down to this.”

Bailey made a deal with himself before the race, and it paid off. “I decided that no matter how bad it gets out there, I’m just going to shake hands with it,” says Bailey. “I was comfortable with the idea that it was going to hurt.”

Bailey smiles as he plays with his finishers medal.

“The fact that it hurts is what makes it special. That’s what makes it an Ironman.”