There is a side to the Ironman Triathlon that's not sunny side up.
Many of the finishers were loaded in wheelchairs feeling lucky.
Normally, an ambulance is seen as a savior. On this day, they felt like vultures, watching, waiting to pick up a carcass and carry it to the convention center.
Norton Healthcare treated 487 athletes in the medical tent.
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It doesn't feel like it at four in the morning in the middle of $10 million worth of bikes, but it's 140 miles from the inflation of the tires to the elation of the finish. Athletes from all over the map are here, speaking the same language:
2.4 mile swim.
112 mile bike.
26 mile run.
When athletes cover that much ground, the ground gets covered with athletes. There is a side to the Ironman Triathlon that's not sunny side up. It's scrambled, boiled, poached and fried. Promoters don't like to talk about it. Participants don't do interviews about it. DNF: Did Not Finish. Ironman Louisville has the highest DNF rate of all North American Ironman distance triathlons, as high as 16 percent. They logged 400 DNFs a couple years ago and 226 this year.
"It takes a lot of time, lot of effort, training, family support and a lot of electrolytes," said Ironman finisher Adam Willis.
There was plenty of fuel available, from unleaded to premium, but at some point they can't perform anymore.
"You do what you can do, and then you have to give yourself a break," said volunteer Sheri Lyle. "But they're out here trying. I'm serving water so no judgment on my part."
Normally, an ambulance is seen as a savior. On this day, they felt like vultures, watching, waiting to pick up a carcass and carry it to the Kentucky International Convention Center where Norton Healthcare has set up the medical tent. But the ambulances couldn't find a parking place because Norton Healthcare medical team at KICC treated 487 athletes.
"I've DNF'd. Everybody's DNFs," said Willis. "They come back, train harder, work on a nutrition plan. Hopefully, it'll be a little cooler and they'll try it again."
Many of the finishers were loaded in wheelchairs feeling lucky. They made it farther than hundreds of their brothers and sisters, who were out there on the course somewhere, reflecting, regurgitating, and refusing to take no for an answer.