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The Ultimate Swim, Bike, Run: Kona Ironman World Championship 2011

The official Ironman logo.

If you've ever done a triathlon, then you can appreciate something as powerful as an Ironman—the ultimate competition of some of the world's fittest people. What I consider fit may be different than what others consider fit, but there's no denying that this 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26. 2-mile run (yes, a marathon) is a beast of a competition and one of the most physically and mentally demanding challenges you will experience. Training for a race like this takes much experience, determination and commitment, not to mention willpower, to get through those many miles and long hours of constantly pushing yourself.

Having competed in a couple Olympic-distance triathlons (that's a mile swim, 25-mile bike and 6.2-mile run), I can tell you that training is intense: Long hours spent before work, after work and on weekends getting in the practice in the pool, on your bike and on the road. Sometimes, doing all three in one day. But if you've ever done one of these competitions, or have thought about it, then you also know how seriously fun they can be. Combining three sports in one breaks up the monotony of a regular marathon or a long bike ride. Plus, if you're semi-"Type A" or uber competitive like me, then you might enjoy the challenge, and accomplishment, of completing each leg of the race and checking it off your list as you rush to the next challenge—swim, bike, run. To be able to train for an Ironman takes an understanding of how this sport works, including learning the proper nutrition and how to stay fueled throughout the entire race.

When I got the most amazing opportunity to watch the World Championship in Kona, Hawaii on October 8th, I literally jumped for joy! Instantly upon arriving in Kona, I developed a much bigger appreciation for what these athletes accomplished just by being there.

And, they're off! Official swim start.

Much to my surprise, it wasn't just the elite athletes, who blew my away—it was the oldest competitor, an 81-year-old man from Oregon, and the 60-something-year-old breast cancer survivor, and Scott Rigsby, the man with two prosthetic legs who crossed that finish line before the 17-hour time limit that brought tears to my eyes. To be fit and healthy is something that anybody can practice and aim for, no matter the obstacles pitted against you—and these athletes are proof of that. Just like the three amazing people mentioned above, everybody racing has a story worth telling.

Being in Kona made me realize there are no excuses for why you can't go for a walk around the block, run a few miles or pop in an exercise DVD. I even bumped into my friend Tara Costa, season 7 contestant on The Biggest Loser, who was competing on behalf on Anytime Fitness to raise money for her charity the Inspire Change Foundation! How incredible is she? From a weight-loss reality show to competing in an Ironman, nothing is more inspiring than that. Maybe we all can't be Ironman finishers, but we can choose to have a healthy lifestyle and meeting these many amazing athletes while I was in Kona made that very real for me.

Loved seeing this long stretch of cyclists for miles upon miles!

I was immersed in a lifestyle that many triathletes eat, sleep and breath while tagging along with the amazing crew over at K-Swiss, from their sports marketing team to their professional athletes. The K-Swiss team not only talks the talk, they live it too; and to see the Kona Ironman's top sponsor come alive during World Championship weekend was a powerful way to see how a brand goes from the pages of our magazines to being part of one of the toughest race courses in the world.

I was lucky enough to test out the gear—like the K-Ruuz 1.5 racing shoes of 2010 World Championship winner and this year's second place finisher, Mirinda Carfrae—and run down the famous Alii Drive during my own 18-mile marathon training run (this is the last mile stretch before the athletes cross the finish line). My time spent taking in the mother of all World Championships inspired me to sign up for my own first half-Ironman: The Timberman 70.3 in New Hampshire in August 2012! If they can do it, then so can I.

Stay tuned tomorrow for triathlon tips and insider details during our one-on-one interview with Mirinda Carfrae.

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