From the sidelines.

Ironman is tough. As a competitor you have to swim far, bike really far and run a whole stupid marathon. But I’m not even talking about competing in an Ironman, I’m talking spectating. It’s exhausting.

After the inferno that was Ironman Coeur D’Alene, friend and training foe Christine signed up for IM Arizona. After 9 years of long distance triathlon, if there’s one thing I know about myself it’s I’m no late season athlete. It pretty much gets to August and I’m ready to put my feet up for a while, even if it means I can feel my hips jiggle as I walk. Besides, the race was sold out.

Adding a new dynamic to our friendship, training buddy, racing rival relationship, SMO entrusted me to coach her to this Ironman finish line. There are some great lessons learned about yourself when you coach someone so close to your own speed and training mindset. Enough to learn that I probably won’t attempt another race season self-coached again, but that’s probably a whole other post.

Back to Arizona and my very long day. Alarm at 4:23am. Make coffee and head to the start line with nervous athletes. I did what I could to help calm nerves and give a last minute pep talk, said my good-lucks and headed to the bridge to watch the start.

You gotta love an Ironman swim start. Especially when you get to view it from a dry bridge holding another coffee.

The day continued as an IM viewing day could be expected: watch some bikes, yell at people you recognize, run into internet friends, take a nap, watch some more bikes. I’d like to take this line to mention a wonderful invention to cyclists and triathletes: chain lube. There were a large number of people with thousands of dollars of gear and drive chains that sound like Chewbacca. That can’t be fast.

Once my people were getting close to being on the run, I knew I was bound to be no more than a block from the race until the end. I get this nagging guilt being too far away from athletes working this hard. I stood in the pouring rain walking back and forth along the run course to hopefully provide a few seconds of reprieve of the internal dialogue. It was a bit of a dreary day, which is too bad, but after the other two IMs I attended this season this was a mere hiccup. I’ll take your 17C (68 F) over my 4C (38F) at Whistler any day and I’m sure it was much more manageable than the 44C (108F) in CDA. Without weather, however, what else would we complain about? Oh, right; mechanicals.

Luckily for me, my crew is speedy. After only 9:35 I was at the finish chute watching Christine Fletcher arrive for 11th place. I collected her and watched the updates closely waiting for SMO. I came around a corner with just enough time to see her cruise down the chute in a 10 min PB of 10:56. With the sun already set, there were no sunglasses to hide the tears. I’m an admitted Iron-cryer; there’s just something about that finish line that makes this crusty, sarcastic tom-boy get all welled up.

So that was at about 6pm. I finally found her after the race at 7pm. In the pre-race leadup we had made zero post-race plan. I must have run around that compound 17 times, checking medical, massage, food, gear, the car and even calling the hotel in a panic. It was like I had lost my dog at a county fair.

After some tacos and a few beers, I was exhausted and ready for bed. It was 9pm. I’m sorry to those folks that were still out there, but I’ll need to start training for the 17 hour spectating day.

My thoughts on Ironman Arizona? This is not a race on my list. The contrast between this race and Ironman Canada in Whistler is shocking. My run on the course in AZ took me along a 10 lane freeway, in Whistler I was dodging the toads around a mountain lake. The beauty of Whistler makes up for its reputation as a “hard” course and I would recommend anyone looking for a wildly stunning race sign up for IMC. If you need a coach that knows the area, give me a shout, I’d love to join your team and no matter what time, I promise to be at that finish line.

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3 thoughts on “From the sidelines.

  1. I have raced 3 Ironman events and spectated/volunteered at 5 Ironman events…I’ve decided spectating/volunteering is SO.MUCH.HARDER than racing!! Congrats on surviving 🙂

  2. Great to see you in AZ! Totally agree with you about the crazy difference between that race and Canada… I’d race Whistler again in a second! But, why did I register for AZ?! 😉 ha! Hope to see you soon for Mexi Cokes!

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