Before the storm

The Ironman is not like any other event. It is a highly visible, public championship race where the world's fittest athletes compete, taking place alongside two thousand very personal journeys: thousands of isolated experiences contested on the same course at the same time.

It's the Hot Corner. The athletes will pass by this corner 4 times during the day: twice on the bike and twice on the run. This is the most heavily populated spectator spot, with folks several deep all day long.

This is what Hot Corner looks like at 5:30 in the morning, just over an hour before the male pros enter the water.

This is Bike Out. After the racers exit the water and hop on the bikes this stretch is where they fumble, trying to put feet into shoes. The tower behind is where Mike Reilly sits, and later in the day Mike is facing the other direction, as runners come into the finish along Alii Drive. This is Palani Road, where the cyclists begin their ride. But right at that tower the road veers left 90 degrees to follow the coastline, and is renamed Alii Drive, where a competitor's final steps are run.

Motos are lined up like soldiers, awaiting photographers and officials, who'll sit as passengers.

Do you know who takes those underwater videos that make their way into the live coverage and onto the NBC show? Here he is.

Because I'm nominally a journalist I do have occasion to watch how the pros work. Here's a pro at work. Paul Phillips, one of triathlon's premier photojournalists.

And here's Rick Kent. Rick takes dramatic and storytelling pictures. His body has been laid low. Not so many people know that earlier in his life Rick was one of the world's great ultradistance cyclists and it was my privilege then to make him his bikes.

It's still pre-race, but the swim start is nearing. Here's Patrick Evoe, and I got to watch this drill for awhile. He was very clearly getting himself ready for early vertical forearm. He's not a front pack swimmer, so he prepares very carefully to do is best to keep with his proper swim pack.

If you read tweets from the Sports Illustrated journo, or updates in English, German, Japanese, Spanish, they all emanate from this room. The media room at the Hawaiian Ironman looks like this an hour before the race start.

Here's the same room halfway through the bike leg. Not quite so empty now.