Several Ironman-distance triathlons have a solid case to be made that they are the toughest triathlons on the planet. Ironman Hawaii has heat, humidity, wind, the inherent heat of the lava fields and red hot competition. Ironman Lanzarote has massive volcanic hills, wicked winds and arid, desert heat. Ironman UK has unrelenting hills. Gerardmer has 10,000 feet of climbing as well. And Silverman just as much climbing and the potential for 100-plus degrees Fahrenheit temperatures to mix with desert winds.
I am sure there are other very tough Ironman-distance tests. But Israman seems to have put its hat in the world's toughest ring with its epic bike course which sports 3,000 meters of climbing, nasty winds, and a leg-annihilating downhill on the run. Located in Eilat, the Israeli resort located at the Red Sea at the southernmost tip of the Negev desert, the venue is already well known as an ITU Olympic distance site. But other than the Eilat dateline, the two courses have little in common other than the passion of the Israeli hosts and fans.
Israman's posters ask "Tough Enough?' This year over a thousand hardy competitors can answer an emphatic "Yes!"
All photographs © Timothy Carlson
Michal Cohen (F30-34) climbs the big hill
The 6:15 AM swim started largely in the dark.
Swimmers enter lap two.
Swimmers charging up to T1.
Riders struggling up the first climb that rises 2,000 feet over 10 kilometers.
Keren Meretz finished 3rd woman in the Full Israman.
Riding along the Israel-Egypt border midway through the rugged, hilly bike. Women's Full Israman winner Dora Heller says that a recent border raid by terrorists prompted IsraeI authorities to build a much more fortified border fence.
Nitai Zacharya charges one of the steep downhills.
Looking at the Egyptian emplacement across the border - just 100 meters from the race road.
Fixing a flat on the desolate road.
Best friends Osnat Edelman (859) and Daniela Zandanis (863) ride together.
Anders Stampe runs a mile to T2 with a broken chain. The 31-year-old Danish triathlete finished just 5:57 back of the Half Israman winner Lior Zach Maor.
Yoram Levav (M50-54) rides into T2. Note the armed Israeli soldier at the concrete barrier at the top right of the picture.
Nina Pekerman was intense as she swept quickly through T2. Pekerman, a former Full Israman and Half Israman winner, took the women's Half Israman crown this year in a time of 5:43:45.
The rugged bike course took its toll on everyone. This man's friend offers her blank-eyed hero a kiss.
Tough course makes for allies in the struggle. Here Half Israman competitors Merav Mor (F30-34), Eran Shachari (M45-49), Oz Shachari (M18-24) and another runner tackle the steep downhill together.
Lilach Bar-Natan finished 3rd woman overall in the Half Israman.
Amir Nachum (M45-49) runs past the Eilat Marina.
A man is joined by his daughter in the finish chute.
Itay Hirsch (M35-39) just beat the 12 hour mark for the Full Israman.