Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Extremely Late Spectator's Report - IMAZ 2009

Yes, that's right. 2009. Eeegads I'm a procrastinator.

Spectating is a bit of a sport (and an art) as I learned while watching Ironman Arizona in 2009. Some thoughts, then a great story and some cool photos. The story is most excellent, if I do say so.

First: Arizona can be COLD in the pre-dawn hours. Really, really cold. Two shirts, two jackets, jeans and knee-high compression socks (I know, I know, I'm a dork), hat and gloves don't do enough to keep you toasty while waiting for your Sugar to start his (or her) race.

Second: Ironman racers are super cool people, full stop. I spent all day yelling and screaming for people that I didn't know -- and all day I heard their messages of thanks (sometimes spoken, other times not -- particularly late in the race). If you haven't gone to spectate and Ironman, you really should -- it was eye-opening for me, and I felt like I could really help people have a better moment by encouraging them.

Third: Ironman AZ is great for spectators on the bike and the run. I lost SJV before the swim (so I never got to see him get in) but I was able to see him go into T1, come out of T1, during each of the three loops on the bike both coming and going (total of 6), during each loop on the run both coming and going (total of 6) and the finish. Not bad! I had good positioning, but the key was to find a good spot and stay put.

And now, the story.

*Ahem.* As I mentioned above, I lost John before the sw
im. *Sigh* So there I was, all alone, freezing my tail end off, looking around in the dark, trying to figure out what to do with this time before the race. I saw a semi-celebrity (Tara from the Biggest Loser), so I sculked around "celebrity watching" for a bit until I decided that was boring (and a bit silly), and then shuffled off to see if I could get a good spot to watch the swim. Tempe Town Lake has a nice path that you can walk along, and I started walking in the direction the swim would go, thinking I would find a break in the wall of people (great spectating minds think alike, obviously) and stop there to watch. It was packed pretty tight, so even after the gun went off, I kept walking down the shore.

The sun was coming up now, and the crowds were thinning a bit. Right then I saw a floating dock with about 20 people on it. I'm not normally a pushy type. Really, I'm not. But I'm (relatively) small, and there was plenty of room, so I just jumped down there and sortof nosed my way to the edge. Very politely, of course. Only one elbow was used... (I kid! I kid!)

Just then the swarm of swimmers was starting to come up and pass the dock, and a fellow swam to the side of the dock and frantically started pulling off his three swimcaps and neoprene cap (did I say that the water was 61 degrees?). He was obivously overheating and panicking, and there was a flurry of activity on the dock. One guy crouches down next to Unfortunate Panicky And Hot Swimmer and tries to help him put his official swimcap back on, but then doesn't for some reason (I don't truly recognize until later that the crouching guy only has one arm) and asks for help. Another woman comes forward, puts on the swimcap, and Unfortunate Panicky And Hot Swimmer swims off. We all, having witnessed and taken part in said panic, stand together, shaking our heads and saying "oooh - he's panicking. Not good." "Yea. That water's awful cold. Super murky, too. Smell that stench when they swim through? Ugh." "Tough swim, yeah?" And that's when I hear it.

The telltale Aussie accent.

I turned to my right. And. Standing. Right. Next. To. Me. Was. MACCA! OHMYGOD!

"Macca!!" I blurted, hands now covering my mouth, eyes the size of dinner plates.

"Yeah!" Big grin from Macca. I fumbled for my camera and asked for a photo, which he kindly obliged.

I turned to see that none of the other people on the dock seemed to recognize that they were standing feet from an honest to goodness celebrity! (He had not yet made the Wheaties box, but he was still a champion!) Good grief.

As it turns out, I had an audience with not one - but TWO celebrities. The man with one arm goes by One Arm Willie (photo of Willie and I up top) - a paraolympian and amazing triathlete, who has bested Macca at Kona (which he told me in a hushed voice after saying "I should never say this out loud, but..."). He has a great gift for a story, and an infectious sense of fun. Plus, he's tough as nails, which I learned in our HALF HOUR of chatting! That's right! I got to chit chat with two triathlon greats for a good half hour. Amazing.

We talked about races, and places, and swim times, and Rudy, and prosthetic limbs, and challenged athletes, and Ironman and relationships (and how great my Sugar is at balancing the two) and One Arm Willie's wife (who is a doctor and was apparently in a bad mood for most of her residency), and about a med student friend of mine who hates med school, and about all the things you could imagine yourself talking about with a few cool people with similar interests and lifestyles. Soon after we started talking, Macca was recognized as Macca, and so he was pulled away to take photos and exchange pleasantries. But I continued chatting with One Arm Willie. And it was amazing. I wish I could have tape recorded it. Of course, the only thing that topped it was cheering SJV in that night.

Ultimately One Arm Willie and Macca had to leave and take their triathlon spectating somewhere else. So I was left on the floating dock by myself for a spell before heading out to find SJV at T1, basking in the fact that I had just hung out with some really amazing folks. It solidified my belief that the people that participate in this sport - present company entirely included - are pretty cool folks, and are just the kind of folks I want to surround myself with.

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Idgy the Cat

Idgy the Cat