8 Things to Expect from the Ironman World Championship Special on NBC

We hit up the premiere in New York City to get the inside scoop on this year’s special.

Photo: Donald Miralle for IRONMAN

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The award-winning NBC Kona special airs this Saturday, Dec. 9 at 2:30 p.m. ET. We hit up the premiere in New York City to get the inside scoop on this year’s special. Presenting the top 8 things to expect when you settle in to watch the 2017 Ironman World Championship drama unfold.

Patrick Lange’s impressive run. In a post-premiere discussion, he admitted that he didn’t feel as smooth as he looked, but watching him glide past Lionel Sanders like he just started the race is exactly the kind of image that you want to pop into your head the next time you’re aiming to lay down the power in a race… or just feel lighter and smoother during your long run.

Reminders of what you really need to work on. The age groupers—elites in their class and all impressive in their own right—still tend to look like Bambi compared to the pros. When the scenes flip from the pros to the regular folks, you’ll be reminded of the 134 things on your “work on that this winter” list. (Not a bad thing.)

Close-ups of Lucy Charles and Lauren Brandon right on each other in the swim. Watch what you don’t always get to see up close: their arm speed, their pull, and their handling of the chop. And then watch them catch the back of the men’s pack that started 5 minutes ahead.

To be reminded that power and perseverance aren’t the whole game. Patience is the Ironman’s friend. Watch Daniela Ryf calmly make up time from the swim. See Lange wait till late to pass. Ironman isn’t over until it’s over, and the competitors talk about it and know it. But only race day reveals who actually believes it.

Athletes’ voices. You’ll get nicely placed clips of the pros’ hopes, dreams, and fears layered over the unfolding race. Part of the fun of the broadcast is seeing whose race played out like they expected, and how real life doesn’t always go as planned.

Liberal use of words like epic, cruel, fight, and triumph. Designed to build tension and goose bumps, this broadcast that’s won 16 Emmy Awards knows what it’s doing by now. You’ve heard this whole buildup before and yeah, it’s a little dramatic. But it works. Don’t be near the entry form of any race you can’t find a way to afford when this broadcast ends.

And the music behind the race-day-morning scenes? Be really glad they don’t really play that what’s-gonna-happen, tingle-inducing score at the actual race. Something big really is going to happen, and the producers aim to make you feel it.

Different stories, but the same need for tissues. It’s not an Ironman broadcast if you don’t tear up. Up-close age-grouper stories of victory over adversity, strength of the bonds of triathlon friendships, and the life-giving power of sport don’t disappoint.

Lots of grimaces. Lots of smiles. Because, Ironman.

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