Sunday, November 24, 2013

Spectating at Ironman Arizona

Last weekend was Ironman Arizona and even though it's in my backyard, I've never went down to watch the action. This year my friends husband, Richard, was participating and I went down to cheer him on.  For those of you unaware of Ironman, it's a grueling 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and to top it off a full marathon, 26.2 miles.  All of this needs to be accomplished 17 hours after the 7am swim start finishing before the clock strikes midnight and the carriage turns back into the pumpkin.

If you have ever whined about how hard your race was, how tired you were then suck it up buttercup because we, as mere runners, have it easy.

Each section has a cutoff time and the swim cutoff is 2 hours and 20 minutes.  The elites are out of the water in 50 minutes but the real world is out there longer.  After seeing Richard transition from swim to bike (1:10 minutes),  we stood in the long line at Starbucks and talked to a couple in their 50's from Texas. They were coaches and Ironman themselves and encouraged us to go to the swim and cheer on the people still out there.  The swimmers can hear the cheers and get revived even though their heads are underwater and they have earplugs.

This 'stipper' must be a triathlete herself because she was getting the crowd into bringing in the swimmers
Having never been to a tri, I didn't know there were 'strippers', volunteers to peel off the wetsuits off the swimmers. It was quite entertaining.

This gal, #946, came out of the water with 5 minutes to spare.  She was so dang happy (I don't think I'd be able to stand let alone be happy after swimming) that I decided to stalk her the rest of the race. More on that later.

As with any competition with a cut-off, there is heartbreak too. At 9:20:20, the gentleman below came in. He missed the cutoff by 20 seconds and that was it.  His months of training, worry, stress, managing diet and fears all came to screeching halt when he couldn't continue on.  I heard he hung on to a kayak a little ways out and that could have easily been his 20 seconds. I can't even imagine his disappointment.

Removing of the time clock within 2 minutes of the swim cut-off

This is the second buy who came in and he was ready to go on until he was stopped by a volunteer. It was heartbreaking to watch.

After the swim cut-off we headed back over to the bike to watch for Richard.  The day before the race Richard joined Jacquie and I on our long run where I quizzed him about what he would be wearing. I was so thankful he met us out on the run and pointed out his funky colored shoes.  Out of all the bikers, most of them wearing all black, he's the only one with funky colored shoes and we were able to easily pick him out.
Richard coming through 1st loop

2nd loop
After his second loop I headed home to do my chores but I wasn't done spectating.  Once I got home I downloaded pictures and admired swimmer 946 determination.  The athlete tracker identified her as Stephanie from Tempe, AZ.  I tracked her on her bike and the start of the run. At 8:30pm I drove back to the race to cheer on the athletes still out there trudging through their final miles.

The athletes at this point are walking with a few runners. Some would run for a bit and then go back into walking. I cheered as loud as I could and woo hoo'd them loud enough other runners could hear it too.  I continued to track Stephanie on my phone and was disappointed I hadn't found her yet. I had missed her at each of my spectator spots.  I crossed the bridge to try another point and eventually this lady came along.  Her number was off to the side and so I asked what her number was.  #946.  I said you're Stephanie and I've been stalking you all day.  I think I'd be freaked out knowing I had a stalker but she just smiled and said really?  I walked/jogged with her for a bit talking to her and then left for the finish-line where I watched her cross.  The announcer cried out. Stephanie,  YOU ARE AN IRONMAN.

For those runners, if you have ever whined about how hard your race was, how tired you were then suck it up buttercup because we, as mere runners, have it easy.

I watched men and women athletes cross the finish line after competing for 16+ hours. Some had prosthetics, some were 70 years old, one was a heart transplant recipient. One lady was so cramped that her entire body was shaped like a C and yet she ran across the finish line in obvious pain. And then with 37 seconds to spare,we spectators watched the screen showing the finish line with hope and tears in our eyes as a truly energy deficient male athlete was assisted across the finish line.  YOU ARE AN IRONMAN.


Richard Allgire said...

Thanks for being there for all of us it means a lot.


Patty White said...

Loved that you went down there to support your friend! You did manage to capture those heart breaking moments of not being able to compete further. I have not done a tri but have gave it some serious consideration. With any race, there are a roller coaster of emotion!

Emily W said...

Does this make you want to try triathlon? :) I noticed your stalkee was wearing a Team LUNA Chix kit. You can keep on stalking her:

Beth said...

I loved your recount of IMAZ how amazing you followed the last swimmer all day. Your photos are amazing and heartbreaking. I will say as a runner turned Ironman that runners don't have it easy, every race from 5k to ironman to 100 mile trail race has it's own challenges.