The triathlon world has been tossing the question around since Lance Armstrong's FIRST retirement from professional cycling of whether he's had his eyes on the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon.
Funny thing -- Lance was a triathlete before he was a bike racer. And he was pretty damn good, too. As a brash seventeen year old, he was mixing it up with the top pros of the day: Mark Allen, Mike Pigg, Jeff Devlin. I remember reading about he and Chuch Vuylupek (Chuckie V, known for fast riding on a Softride, and a spiked mohawk, won the only half-Ironman race I ever did) when they went to the training camp for the national cycling team... They'd get in trouble for sneaking out of the camp for a swim or run after the team training, when they were supposed to be resting.
Anyway, the speculation kept on, in spite of several comments from Lance himself to the contrary, that he was going to do Kona, that his sights were on the Big Daddy of triathlon.
When he did the New York Marathon in 2006 at three hours, the triathlon world again sat up and took notice. But his three hour time... They thought he'd lost his running legs during his pro cycling career. When he came back the next year and took over 13 minutes off his New York time, it became a different question: Can he do that off the bike?
I mean, we KNOW he can ride.
He entered a couple off-road triathlons.
And then word leaked out that he was doing Ironman Panama 70.3... I'll spare my rant about the whole numbering system used on the WTC races (a subject for another post entirely). The buzz again was that he had his sights on Hawaii.
Well, yesterday he served notice: Game on, he's on his way.
Sure, Ironman Panama 70.3 is at an odd time of year, and the pro field wasn't all that deep. Most of the pros are looking toward the summer season in the northern hemisphere. Lance's swim kept him near the front, and he rode smart, leaving him the strength to run at his best. Only Chris Lieto (one of the fastest bikers in the sport) bested his ride time, and that only put him five seconds ahead going into the second transition. His 1:17 half marathon was very solid, and speaks well for the smart effort. The only person who could run Lance down was Bevan Docherty, arguably one of the fastest runners in triathlon.
Not a bad debut. Or re-debut, more appropriately.
So the question has been answered. Yep, that old guy really CAN run.