For the most raw, honest critiques it often pays to approach not the winner, rather the athlete who entered the competition expecting to win and did not.
In the case of Ironman Kansas, which took place Sunday in Lawrence, that would be second-place finisher Craig Alexander of Australia.
Alexander is so quick he manages to dodge the elements of winter. This he does by living from October through April in Sydney, Australia, which is summer time there, and then spends the rest of the year in beautiful Boulder, Colo. His standards are high, both when it comes to cities and courses.
So, what did he think of Lawrence as a host city?
He loved it. The course. The town. The volunteers. He drove from Boulder to Lawrence with his wife, their daughter, and another competitor.
He did a little homework on the course, but to read about a course is not to know it.
"The only thing I expected was wind," he said. "I didn't know what to expect. I had read online there were going to be a few hills on the course. That was certainly the case. It was either uphill or downhill. It was certainly no flat race. It was a challenging course, an honest course."
The Alexanders arrived in Lawrence on Thursday night and stayed at the house of event director Ryan Robinson. On Friday night, Alexander was among the triathletes participating in "Athletes for Cure," a fundraiser that took place at Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop.
On Saturday night, he dined at Marisco's, where he ordered chicken fettucine with marinara sauce.
"It was beautiful," Alexander said. "That was really good food, really nice food. Nice town, really nice little town. Bit of a similar feel to Boulder, both university towns. And I really like the architecture downtown as well. It's a really cute little town."
Mostly, though, it was the way people made him feel so welcome that left him looking forward to returning to Lawrence.
"It was a great place to race," Alexander said. "We race in big cities, downtown Chicago, downtown LA. We used to have a race in downtown Boston. The thing about the outer areas, the people get behind it more. It seems to be more important to their town. In the big cities, the locals, it feels like it's an inconvenience to them, even though it's only one morning a year. Whereas you come to a town like this, the people really get behind it. We have great volunteers. They're all local people. There were 10 or 12 people at every aid station. The races that are sort of more regional compared to the ones in the big cities tend to be better organized. The volunteers tend to be more enthusiastic and get behind the race more and they cheer more. They just seem to go off better, more of an atmosphere around them."
He sensed that this was an area that knew his sport.
"A lot of people here knew me and were calling out my name," Alexander said. "I signed a few autographs for people. I think there are a lot of people who follow triathlon here. If having the race here inspires other people to get into it, that's great."
Alexander's final words: "See you next year."
He wants to come back to conquer the hills, wind and humidity and to soak in the atmosphere.
- Ironman Kansas Results (sorted by division)
- Athletes take the plunge (06-16-08)
- Iron to the core: Clinton Lake course tests pros' mettle (06-16-08)
- Ironman day has arrived (06-16-08)
- Expo sets tone for Ironman competition (06-14-08)
- Ironman set for early kickoff (06-12-08)
- Cardiologist prescribes test of endurance (06-09-08)
- Downtown street to close for Ironman party (06-04-08)
- Ironman Kansas