It's a magical number at Ironman Hawaii: Competitors have just 17 hours to cross the finish line and famously be labeled an Ironman by announcer Mike Reilly.
Fitting, then, that a book detailing some of the event's greatest competitors is titled 17 Hours to Glory: Extraordinary Stories from the Heart of Triathlon.
Written by Mathias M?ller with Timothy Carlson, the book is a 264-page look at Ironman's most memorable performers and performances at Kona, home of the Ironman World Championships since 1978.
Triathlon has a brief but interesting past, and this book is a much-needed history lesson for fans of the rapidly growing sport.
The book isn't an edge-of-your-seat narrative, but it does use extensive interviews and research to tell the story of how 17 athletes made their way into the Ironman spotlight. While several of the featured competitors are the superstars of the sport--Mark Allen, Paula Newby-Fraser, Greg Welch, Chrissie Wellington--the book also shares inspiring stories of competitors who starred in other ways. Like Sister Madonna Buder, who beat the 17-hour cutoff at the age of 79, or Andreas Niedrig's story of beating drug addiction and becoming a top 10 finisher, or the remarkable Dick and Rick Hoyt, the father-son team who compete together despite Rick confined to a wheelchair with cerebral palsy.
What's most interesting is the insight that the athletes provide. In a couple of instances, the competitors mention how they knew their lead was dwindling when the helicopters and TV crews started gathering around them. You almost feel like you're baking when they describe their suffering in the lava fields of the Big Island. And you can surely imagine the joy when Reilly shouts "You are an Ironman!" to the ones who overcame staggering odds.
In addition to the athlete profiles, 17 Hours to Glory also gives a brief year-by-year look at Ironman Hawaii, and even lists each winner, their splits and other tidbits. It gives the book the feel of an Ironman Hawaii almanac.
M?ller has the credibility to tell this story. He competed in Ironman Hawaii three times, and has finished eight Ironman races overall. He teamed up with Carlson, a longtime endurance sports writer, to put together Ironman's ultimate textbook.
If you're a serious triathlete already, this book gives great insight into how the sport's biggest stars reached the top. If you're new to triathlon, consider this a great aid to learning about the sport at its highest level.
Either way, 17 Hours to Glory is an interesting read for triathletes at all levels.