Fast forward a little over a year and here we are in Tempe AZ. I flew in and took the shuttle over to my hotel, got checked in and was happy to find out that the hotel shuttle was running back and forth to the Tempe Beach Park all weekend. The park is the central hub for the Ironman Arizona event.
I had been here several months ago on a business trip and did a little recon for MK. It’s now two days before the event and the park looks nothing like it did when I checked it out back in April. The wide open park has become a small city within a city. Every bike shop in a 100 mile radius has a tent setup; there are also tents with swim gear, running gear, nutritional supplies and of course Ironman gear.
The park is packed with people! Some are what you would expect, super fit, elite-athlete, looking type people who have a negative body fat percentage and survive on protein powder, water and something called Gu. But the vast majority are what I would call the average joes. Unassuming people from all walks of life that have a secret most people would never guess, they have the ability to do something most could not even dream about.
MK and her hubby (RK) arrived yesterday and she had registration and a breakfast with the pros and a bunch of other stuff. I talked with her a few times online yesterday and her excitement is contagious. I met up with them after the athlete’s welcome party at the park.
Tomorrow is her practice swim, but tonight the three of us are just having dinner at a local restaurant enjoying the atmosphere of this incredible event.
Saturday morning I hit a local bike shop and rented a bike, it seemed silly to rent a car. Then I headed over to the park to meet up with MK and RK.
We checked on “Addie” (MK’s tri-bike) and she got ready for her practice swim. MK has this ability to find amazing people, they seem to be drawn to her, she had been chatting on-line with a couple of ladies who were also doing the IMAZ and they managed to find each other in the massive crowd. I was glad she had people there that had done this before and could help her out.
One of the most amazing things about this sport are the people, as I stood on the side of the lake and watched as people slowly but surely jump into the cold water to start their swim two ladies next to me started talking to me. One lives here in Tempe and has done full Ironman events before, but has been sidelined with an injury and is here to support a friend. The other was an older lady here with her son from CA, it was his second attempt; last year he did not make the cutoff for the bike. They asked about my story and I told them about MK and my hopes of completing Steelhead next year. They both seemed so excited for both MK and I. I have never met a more accepting group of athletes.
After the swim it was time to get Addie over to the bike corral area and get transition setup. RK and I cannot get into transition so I wondered around some. Mirinda Carfrae was at the “Got Chocolate Milk” tent. Mirinda is the reigning Ironman Women’s World Champion! It was amazing to see her!I took a couple pictures and headed to the IMAZ gear tent.
While waiting in line to pay for my stuff I met yet another perfect stranger who wanted to talk about Ironman. He was from back east, PA I think and he was here with his best friend. He told me that he would love to do this, but he didn’t know how to swim. I told him about my first day back in the pool and how I struggled just to get to the other end of the pool. We chatted about his friend’s journey from over-weight dad to Ironman and I told him more of my story. By the time we both checked out he was going to try to find a swim class back home. Who knows where his journey will take him, but I hope he gets in the pool and one day rocks an Ironman of his own.
After MK got Addie checked in and got transition setup we left the park. I headed back to the hotel. The Ironman World Championships were on TV. It was amazing to watch Mirinda Carfrae overcome a 14 minute deficit going into the run, what made it even better was the fact I had seen her in-person and hour before.
MK and RK picked me up for dinner and we hit a little local Italian place. I’m not 100% sure why we felt the need to order enough food to feed 15 people, but we did and it was amazing.
While having dinner I remembered an old friend lived in AZ, turns out he lives in Tempe! I sent him a message on FB and 20 minutes later he (BJB) was having dinner with us! After dinner we headed back to MK’s hotel where I had a surprise waiting for her.
A couple months ago I started getting in touch with MK’s friends on FB and co-workers and we started putting together a care package for her. IMAZ might be a great race, but it’s a long way away from home, so I wanted to give her something so she’s know that everyone back home was there in spirit supporting here. As it turned out another of MK’s friends (AB) has family in AZ and she was able to come out to the race as well. So we had some stuff shipped out and AB was my coconspirator. Her and her husband met us back at MK’s hotel where we gave her the care package.
There might have been a few death threats for us doing this, but it was a hell of a lot of fun to watch her open everything. Once she was done opening everything we left her to get some rest. I headed out with my old friend BJB for a couple drinks and ice cream! It was so great to see him after almost 10 years. And I convinced him to come out to the park tomorrow for the race! Add one more to the MK cheering section!!