The 2003 Ironman Triathlon World Championship marked the 25th anniversary of the Ironman, now practically a household name (at least among fitness enthusiasts). The DVD program, originally made for television broadcast using NBC's footage of the race along with interviews with participants, offers viewers a nice retrospective and overview of the race, making the program a hybrid of documentary and race coverage.
The Ironman: it combines a 2.4 mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride, and a full marathon into one grueling day. One thing that's clear in the 25th Anniversary Retrospective is that the Hawaii Ironman, with its brutal course through the island's lava fields, is really two races in one: the race to be first, by the professional triathletes, and claim the title of Ironman World Champion, and the race to finish the course within the time limit, to claim the title of "Ironman." The program follows participants from both categories, showing both their progress through the race and segments on their personal stories. The background information is interesting, putting a human face and personality behind the racers, and giving context to the battles among the pros for the top places. (I did notice a couple of rather obvious product-placement segments stuck into the program, trying to masquerade as information about the competitors' training regimens, but fortunately most of the background material is straightforward.)
For this program, there's also an interesting look back at the development of the Ironman, from small beginnings to its current world-class status. As a result, this program is much more open to new viewers who are unfamiliar with triathlons or the Ironman in general, and provides a useful background for those who are interested in watching other triathlons.
The one weak point in the 2003 edition is that the races themselves are not all that interesting. There's really no give-and-take or real drama in either the men's or the women's pro races, at least not in the fairly limited amount of actual race footage that we see. It's nicely done as a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Ironman, but as a race DVD it's a bit lacking, though still quite enjoyable to watch.
The 2003 Ironman program is presented in a non-anamorphic widescreen format, at 1.85:1. The image is handled reasonably well, considering that a lot of the material is from on-the-spot television footage; it's clean and bright, and pleasing to the eye.
The basic Dolby soundtrack handles the demands of the race well. The voiceover narrator and all the interviewees, as well as the race action, sounds clear and clean.
And you thought "bare-bones" meant "not even a trailer." Here it means that there's not even a menu; the program starts up when you put the DVD in the player, and kicks you out when it's over.
While the race portion of the program is not that exciting, the 2003 Ironman 25th Anniversary Retrospective and Race offers a well-made and interesting overview of this famous race. It's a good place for newcomers to the sport to start, as it provides a nice sense of context and introduces the big names of the sport. Recommended.