Ironman World Champ Loses Virtual Race When Husband Unplugs Smartbike

Over the past few weeks we’ve shared stories of the wide variety of ways that outdoor endurance athletes are continuing to stay fit and healthy while under quarantine. In some cases, that has involved running laps around the kitchen table or even the backyard. In other cases, we’ve seen a rise in the number of virtual events taking place, with amateur and professional athletes both taking part in online competitions. But recently, one former Ironman world champion was doing just that, when she fell victim to a bumbling husband who meant well, but ended up costing her the a potential podium finish.

Last week, Australian Mirinda Carfrae was taking part in the Ironman VR1, an all-virtual race designed to allow Ironman triathletes to continue to train and compete while stuck at home. As with other virtual events, their progress is tracked using technology such as GPS watches, indoor bike trainers and treadmills connected to computers, and other high-tech methods. During the VR1, Carfrae was in the bike stage and running in second place, when her husband—pro triathlete Tim O’Donnell—decided to bring some of her past trophies and medals into the room to serve as motivation. While doing so, he accidentally tripped over the power cord running to Carfrae’s bike, unplugging her trainer from the wall and dropping the data that it was feeding to the race organizers. As a result, she tumbled down the ranks and ended up losing the race.

Carfrae, who won the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii in 2010, 2013, and 2014, was none too happy with her husband’s blunder, as you can probably imagine. But, he’s scheduled to compete in a race this coming week and she vows not to make the same mistake during his event. I’d have to say, she’s a bigger person than I am, as I’d probably be tempted to get a bit of vengeance for such a big mistake. The incident does underscore the challenges that competing in these virtual events brings however, as they are reliant on technology working properly, including having a reliable and speedy Internet connection. Still, in these strange times, a virtual competition is better than none at all.

Would you be as forgiving if someone unplugged your device mid-race?

Kraig Becker