Vikki Thompson has an unusual claim to fame.
Thompson, from Monument, Colo., is the last unofficial finisher to complete the first Ironman 70.3 Kansas, the grueling 70.3-mile triathlon held June 15 at Clinton Lake.
Check out the official results, and there she is, No. 950 out of 950, credited with crossing the finish line in 6 hours, 53 minutes, 16 seconds, nearly three hours after pro Terenzo Bozzone officially won the event.
But Thompson's finish is deceptive: Officially, she, and close to half of the 1,100 competitors, didn't really finish. Even though she eventually did. Unofficially, of course.
Race organizers cut the race short, just under the seven-hour mark, due to the threat of severe weather. About half of the competitors still were on the course at that time, making the results a mishmash of swim-bike-runners who finished the full 70.3 miles and others who didn't.
"It was hard," race co-director Ryan Robinson said. "We left everybody on there for the results. People know what they did, whether or not they completed the whole course. We didn't want to eliminate somebody by accident. It's hard to judge on those times if somebody completed 11 miles or 13 miles. It's hard to judge, so we just left everybody on there."
Take Thompson's case.
Scroll up, say, 100 places in the final results and you'll find female competitors in the same age bracket with run times under an hour. Obviously, those runners did not complete the full half-marathon (13.1-mile) run. But that's the point at which they were pulled off the course, and their times were an hour less than Thompson's.
"You have no idea how your times compare to anybody else's," said Thompson's husband, James, who was credited with having finished seven spots ahead of his wife at 6:44:16, though they crossed the finish at the same time.
The Thompsons' convoluted tale doesn't end there.
James, an 18-year triathlon veteran, was about 11â2 miles from completing the full distance when he was told the race had been called. He said volunteers had told a handful of runners the same thing just before he came along, but those requests were ignored.
By the time James ran up, a police officer joined the stop patrol, and James felt compelled to comply.
So he stopped. And turned around to find Vikki, who still had about 61â2 miles to go.
Running the whole way, James found his wife, and together they decided to complete the run despite the fact the race officially was over.
Thus James Thompson, the first triathlete pulled from the course, completed close to 16 miles of a 13.1-mile run to finish the event with his wife.
"We decided to complete it on our own," Vikki Thompson, a 10-year triathlete who counted Ironman 70.3 Kansas as her first half-Ironman-distance event, said. "I couldn't imagine going all the way to Kansas and not finishing.
Robinson refers to folks like the Thompsons as the heart and soul of triathlon, which has seen a 23-percent increase annually between 2000 to 2006, according to USA Triathlon, and for which nearly 700,000 Americans train.
"They're the ones who are what Ironmans are all about," Robinson said, not specifically about the Thompsons but the non-elite competitors that make up all but the top fraction of a percentage of the field. "It's about the people who put this event on their calendar 11 months prior to the race. I say it's the best money you can spend. It's better than a gym membership. The thought of going to a gym isn't going to get you up in the morning. But when you have that event on the calendar, that's a great motivator. You can see how it transforms somebody's life."
And it's those people - especially the first-timers - for whom Robinson feels the decision to cut the race short hurt the most.
"That's mainly where we experienced the most disappointment," he said. "They transformed their lifestyle and exercise habits. Some of them lost a considerable amount of weight. This was supposed to be the day that it all came to fruition, but it didn't happen because it got cut short. But hopefully these people can see the big picture. It's all about the journey. Race day is just that - a race. It's all about the journey."
Testament to the quality of the first-time Kansas event is the fact that the Thompsons likely will make the journey to Lawrence again next year.
"Absolutely," said Vikki Thompson, who used the race as a tune-up for a full-Ironman - 140.6 miles (2.4 swim, 112 on the bike and a full 26.2-mile marathon) - in the fall. "It was a very interesting experience. We weren't aware of the hills you have in Lawrence. But it was a good surprise. It was a really, really good race and in such a beautiful place. As training for a full Ironman, I think it was the best race in the country at that point, a good challenge."