World Famous IRONMAN Competition Holds First Virtual Race Amid Lockdown
Over 11,000 athletes from across 115 countries registered for IRONMAN VR1.
The COVID-19 lockdown has resulted in the temporary suspension and—in some cases—permanent cancellation of numerous professional sports leagues across the globe. While many fans will have to wait at least a couple of months before they can expect to see their favorite teams and athletes return to competition, several organizations have been providing their own unique alternatives to help keep their fans satisfied during this coronavirus induced dry spell.
Take NASCAR, for instance. After the US-based auto-racing organization announced the postponement of all races through May 3rd, they began conducting a series of virtual races in which professional NASCAR drivers competed remotely from their homes using the popular PC-based racing simulator iRacing.
This weekend the legendary IRONMAN Triathlon took a similar approach, conducting a virtual racing series in which over 11,000 athletes from across 115 countries registered to compete from the comfort of their homes. The IRONMAN VIRTUAL CLUB kicked off this past Friday with both public and professional competitions. Amateur competitors in the IRONMAN VR1 league were required to perform a 5km run, 90km bike, and 21km run by the end of the race on Sunday while wearing an approved fitness tracking device capable of monitoring their pulse, heart rate, etc. According to event organizers, 6,623 of the 11,077 registered competitors completed all the events.
In the professional division, four women and four men, some of which former IRONMAN World Champions, duked-it-out in the Ironman VR Pro Challenge, which consisted of a virtual IRONMAN 70.3 Boulder bike course using an indoor cycling system provided by virtual cycling platform ROUVY. Athletes raced against each others avatars for the best overall time, with Jocelyn McCauley and two-time IRONMAN World Champion Patrick Lange taking home gold in the women’s and men’s divisions respectively. Apparently, three-time IRONMAN World Champion Mirinda Carfrae was performing well, until her husband accidentally tripped over the power cord to her cycling device, disconnecting her from the race.
IRONMAN’s live coverage of the professional competitions included two hosts conducting interviews with professional athletes via Skype and regular check-ins with the VR1 race. The organization even matched any public donation made to its official IRONMAN COVID-19 Support Fund (up to $10,000).
“The COVID-19 virus has touched us all in challenging ways,” said professional triathlete Angela Naeth. “More than ever, I believe it’s important to encourage everyone to be active, be healthy, and continue moving forward – all with respect to local protocols and social distancing measures.
“Not only is this pertinent for our physical health, but for our mental state, and general well-being. And so, I’m excited to be jumping into the IRONMAN VR1 Pro Challenge. This new initiative by IRONMAN is an opportunity to get a little closer to what we all love – pushing our boundaries, racing, and enjoying the camaraderie of our triathlon community.”
While it’s true no VR or AR technology was used during the event, it’s clear the power VR and AR technology could have on events such as these moving forward. Imagine the level of realism we could achieve by marrying VR technology with these preexisting virtual events? Not to mention the potential benefits for spectators looking to immerse themselves deeper in the competition. The aforementioned racing simulation iRacing already features support for most PC VR headsets, making it a no-brainer for racing leagues looking to step up their remote competitions.
Feature Image Credit: IRONMAN