I’m now back from Tempe. I had a blast this weekend at Ironman Arizona, and it was inspiring, too. In addition to the challenge of swimming 2.4 miles, riding 112 miles and running 26.2 miles, the athletes endured wind and heat as well. When the race started at 7am it was beautiful. Sunny and calm. By 10am, which is well into the bike ride, the wind peaked at 22mph, and remained in double digits through the late afternoon. You could tell that pushing against the wind was stressing some of the riders. Just as the wind was settling down the heat came on. The high for the day was 94 degrees, which is danged hot when you’re exerting yourself at this level. I feel for all of the people that had been training in the north. We saw several racers drop in agony, and very few were smiling. We later found out that 17% of the entrants dropped out of the race, the third highest percentage in the history of the sport. This event was unforgiving at the very least, and brutal if you weren’t prepared for it.
Liz and Joe both did great. Liz didn’t get enough fluids throughout the day, during the run it hit her so she walked for about 4 miles while she ate and drank everything she could get her hands on. The plan worked because she finished. She was dehydrated and exhausted, but she did finish. In the end she didn’t meet the time goal that she had set for herself, but considering the wind and heat its hard to get disappointed, she did great. Joe looked strong all day long. Every time I saw him he had great form and looked as if he had just started 10 minutes before. Even at the finish line.
The really cool part is that so many people completed the event. At the beginning of the race the announcer stated that the oldest participant is 79. I have no idea if he completed the event, but he was out there. We saw a few handicapped people competing in wheelchairs. There were even some rather large people out there competing, too. We referred to one guy as Santa, because those were his approximate proportions and a beard, too. We weren’t mean about it, we thought it was cool that he was out there. He was pedaling as hard as anyone else. There really are no excuses, if you want to be an Ironman, go do it. Chances are you’ll be in good company regardless of age, size or whatever other story you’re telling yourself.
Another thing impressed me, my girlfriend’s triathlon team is amazing. The coaches Maurice and Chrissie did a great job of preparing this group for the event. 25 people from the team competed, and out of those 24 finished. Two of them qualified for the World Championship in Kona later this year. One of them was the fastest amateur of the day, he beat a number of professional athletes. One of the team members just completed her first Ironman, and she is celebrating her 50th birthday this week. And even though triathlons are an individual sport, they worked as a team. They coached each other through completing the course. No one was alone, and everyone had support. The one team member that wasn’t able to finish went back out and cheered for everyone. He was one of the last people to leave, in fact.
At one point Maurice, who was also competing, saw a team member and asked how the race was going. The racer commented that it was really hot and the race was tough. Without even thinking, the coach replied “you can change the race if you change your mind.” That’s awesome to me, I’ve already repeated that line to a number of friends. I mean, what area of life doesn’t that apply to? Next time you’re having a bad day don’t be surprised if you hear that from me.
At the end of the race, after completing the course, several team members waited at the finish line for all of their team mates to finish. They wanted to be there to celebrate when their friends crossed the finish line. One by one everyone came in, and each time they celebrated. How on earth can you quit if you know that your friends are waiting for you with cold pizza?
The whole event was just awesome. We had a lot of fun cheering for the athletes, and I think I had the best snow cone I’ve had since I was 3. I drooled over a lot of bikes, too. Guru, Litespeed, Kuota, Felt, Cervelo, they were all out en force. Most were carbon, but I saw some nice titanium, too. I looked everywhere for a sparkly new Lynskey, but I guess they haven’t been on the market long enough. Maybe next year.
I can’t say for sure if I’ll take up the sport. After seeing Santa out there I have no doubt that I could, but actually doing it is another matter. I can say for sure that if I ever do I’m going to train with T3. The coaches take a personal interest in making sure each person is ready, and the team works with them in encouraging one another. I’m convinced that there is no better coaching available, and the community among the group is inspiring.