November 21, 2011 on 3:45 pm | In Employee Adventures, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Uncategorized | 4 Comments
Do you remember the first time you watched an Ironman? Did you get goose bumps at the swim start, shed a tear as you watched athletes cross the line, and get up early the next day to sign yourself up for next year’s race? That is how most people end up doing an Ironman. I, on the other hand, signed up for my first Ironman on a whim one day at work, without ever witnessing one. With a long list of sponsored athletes, coworkers, and friends racing Ironman Arizona, I figured I should go see what this Ironman thing is really all about.
I arrived about 45 minutes prior to the swim start giving me enough time to park, swing by Starbucks, soak in the energy, and head to the bridge. The energy throughout Tempe was like Christmas morning, with everyone bubbling with the anticipation of the long day to come. Watching 2,500 people tread water below the bridge was incredible, and as the cannon went off and the athletes started their day, I tried to picture myself on the beach in Idaho.
After a quick breakfast and more caffeine, I found myself on a curb about ¼ of a mile from the bike course turn around. The day was perfect for racing, with temperatures in the mid 70’s, mild wind, and 0% chance of perception. Here I was able to get a good picture of how our athletes were doing. Torsten Abel looked calm and confident in the chase group (12th place), which was quit a few minutes (about 8-10) down from the lead pack. I knew the day was still young and Torsten has a killer run, so I wasn’t worried. Leanda Cave came out of the water in 4th but experienced a crash and some mechanical problems and looked pretty frazzled as she exited T1 in 8th. I was worried, but by the time she finished lap 1 of the bike she looked focused and back on her game. Woohoo! Seton was cruising right along, enjoying the cheers, and hamming it up as he rode in 3rd place in the men’s 35-39 age group.
As the pro’s took to the run course, I made my way to the best aid station at Ironman Arizona – Aid station #7 under the Mill Ave. bridge, which is staffed by the employees and customers of TriSports.com and headed up by our Vice President, Debbie. My goal on the run was to make people smile and with the help of my trusty hot pink sign, I think I accomplished just that.
The run consists of 4 loops; with each lap I watched Leanda’s lead increase and Torsten run his way up through the ranks. As they passed through the TriSports.com aid station for the last time I made my way over to the finish line just in time to see this happen…
Then came Thomas Gerlach. Thomas received his pro card about a month ago and this was his professional Ironman debut. 8:57, not too shabby!
Not too long after Thomas crossed the line, Leanda passed under the Ford arch with the biggest smile I have ever seen from the mild mannered and reserved Brit. A few month ago Leanda was in the shop and said, “I want to win one of those,” referring to an Ironman. With numerous 70.3, ITU and coveted race wins (Alcatraz, Wildflower), it was only a matter of time until she won one. It was incredible to watch one of the most decorated athletes in our sport finally cross the line first at this distance.
Just 18 minutes after Leanda, TriSports.com CEO, Seton Claggett, came running down the shoot to win the men’s 35-39 age group, finishing 50th overall and 8th amateur. Imagine what he could do if he didn’t have 2 small kids and a company to run?!
Charisa Wernick hung tough and rounded out the top 10 for the pro women after a Tour de Porta-Potty during the second half of the marathon.
For Billy Oliver, the day didn’t go quit as planned. After a 2 minute swim PR, Billy crashed on the 2nd loop of the bike. He only suffered some minor road rash, so he dusted himself off and got back into the race, willing himself to the finish only 3 minutes slower then his IMAZ PR. Bad ass.
Could I have asked for a better first Ironman to watch? I don’t think so. Multiple podium finishes from friends, watching Team TriSports athletes dig deep and push through the pain, all while spending a lovely day in Tempe, Arizona. Congratulations to all those who competed yesterday; you are an Ironman!