This was an unusual year at the Ironman, at least in the professional field. There had been other races gaining significance on the world stage, especially the Nice International Triathlon. They had something that Hawaii did not…prize money. So the pros decided to do something never before seen.
We gathered as a group and crafted a letter that was sent to the organizers of Ironman. It explained how our bodies were our most valuable asset as well as our most limited resource. We were all trying to make a living through our racing.
Ironman took a huge toll on that valuable asset with very little return other than a great race experience. However, when having to earn money was a consideration, even though the experience of racing the IRONMAN World Championship was amazing, it compromised our longevity in the sport and our ability to bounce back and make a living at other events. With that in mind we made it clear that without prize money, we would skip Kona and race at the events that did have a purse.
This was an easy decision for me to make. The year before had been devastating physically. I had gotten so dehydrated during the marathon that not only had the fluid around my cells been sucked dry, but also the fluid inside each cell had gotten dangerously low. That fluid is difficult to replace and takes a very long time to replenish. My resting heart rate didn't drop below eighty beats per minute for over a month!
I thought I had done permanent damage to my body. I had a whole range of tests done after about two weeks because I was so concerned. The results showed that my heart was okay. It wasn’t damaged. They just showed that I had gotten extremely dehydrated deep within the cells. I was told time would heal that.
After about a month my rest heart rate did start to come down. First, it was seventy-five beats per minute, then seventy a week later, then in the mid sixties and finally back down to the low forties.
The whole process took almost two months. The return on my training time invested and the effort put forth in the 1984 Ironman ended up putting my life’s health at risk with nothing to show for it. I was fully behind the pro’s collective letter to Ironman a year later in 1985. No pay, no play.
Nothing changed by race day because of our efforts. Ironman remained an event with no prize purse. The pro field was sparsely attended. Other events with prize money had amazingly deep talented fields that same year. It became clear that the sport had really arrived as a viable profession for more than just the man and the woman who won the IRONMAN World Championship.
The result? The following year Ironman announced its first-ever prize purse. Needless to say, the field at the 1986 Ironman would be one of the toughest ever assembled!