The Race Within: A Look Inside the 1982 Ultraman

Despite his frustration, Weisman sympathized with Valerie and worked out an impromptu deal with the Budweiser crew. They could film the race, but the Wide World film crew had first priority on coverage and the commercial team had to stay out of any shots. Everyone felt things had been settled until about midway through the race, when Weisman confronted Valerie with more bad news. The Budweiser team was not holding up their end of the bargain. They were getting in the line of the ABC cameras and ruining multiple shots. Worse, their team was helping some of the athletes by giving them water. With the aid stations now on the course, the rules stated that athletes could not receive outside assistance.

Weisman took his aggravation out on Valerie by putting her on the spot in front of the camera. They began interviewing her about the developments on the course. At one point the commentator told her that the Budweiser crew had been spotted giving wet sponges to Scott Tinley. He asked her directly how she felt about front-runners being given illegal aid and whether it influenced the fairness of the race. Terrified as she was, she maintained grace under fire. "I said, 'Well, I suppose it gives them less advantage than the ABC crew gives the lead athlete by letting him draft his bike behind their camera van.' The guy with the microphone turned to the cameraman and said, 'Cut. We're done.' And that was it. So that kept it from getting aired," she says.

It was a small victory in a battle she knew she'd ultimately lose. Out on the course, Rodney Jacobs was poisoning the financial lifeblood of Ironman. Valerie could only sit and wait at race headquarters to find out how fatal the damage would be.

That evening, after the winners had crossed the finish line, Weisman took Valerie aside to one of the ABC vehicles. He began admonishing her that the Budweiser crew had ruined all their footage and that he doubted they had anything usable for the annual telecast. Beneath her stoic appearance, Valerie felt the bottom drop out of her world. It became almost impossible to even look strong in the face of Weisman's criticism. He began showing her footage, pointing out how each shot had the Budweiser crew in it. She was fighting back tears when suddenly there was a commotion outside. Valerie remembers one of the ABC crew members knocking on the van and telling him he needed to get back outside.

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"'You need to see this,' the guy told him. Brice just said 'Yeah, sure,' and kept showing me tape," she says. Another few minutes later there was another chorus of shouts. The crew member returned, pleading for Weisman to stop what he was doing and get outside. Weisman brushed off the crewman a second time. Then the shouting began again, this time without stopping. Valerie remembers that the crewman came in upset, pleading with Weisman to get out of the van.

He left and Valerie stayed behind, her only company the faint light of the television screen and the images of an unraveling future. Still, she held back the tears and eventually brought herself to step out of the van. Diana Nyad, a world-record-setting long-distance swimmer, spotted her and put her arm around Valerie. "She looked at me and said, 'Don't let those guys get to you, Val.' I nearly broke down, but I was able to hold it back." It didn't matter to Valerie if they got to her. What they had gotten to was what mattered most. For all she knew, they'd destroyed the Ironman. But she only knew part of the story. Back at the finish line, history was being made.

Julie Moss was a 24-year-old college student who had signed up for the Ironman as a unique way to complete her thesis work in exercise physiology. By her own account, she had not trained to be seriously competitive. Yet almost 11 hours into the race she found herself in the lead coming down the final stretch of the run. The effort had completely exhausted her and she was severely dehydrated. She was reduced to walking by the last mile, even as her closest competitor, Kathleen McCartney, closed the gap. The drama increased as Julie collapsed within 200 yards of the finish line. For a brief moment she lay back on the asphalt and appeared incapable of going on.

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About the Author

Jim Gourley

Jim Gourley is a four-time Ironman finisher and part of a four-man division that finished the Race Across America. He earned a degree in astronautical engineering from the United States Air Force Academy and has written on science and technology in triathlon for four years. He is author of the book Faster: Demystifying the Science of Triathlon Speed.
Jim Gourley is a four-time Ironman finisher and part of a four-man division that finished the Race Across America. He earned a degree in astronautical engineering from the United States Air Force Academy and has written on science and technology in triathlon for four years. He is author of the book Faster: Demystifying the Science of Triathlon Speed.

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