This past weekend was Ironman Arizona. Last year, in all of the hype and glory of my ironman, I agreed to execute sherpa duties for my friend Jules in 2013. To that end, last week I found myself preparing for the 16 hour drive to Tempe for another Ironman experience.
This blog is titled “A Tale of Two Ironmen” because along with Jules, our good friend Tracy was making her third IM appearance. A solid IM competitor, Tracy’s performance would have been according to the book but for one exception. She had a screw put in her foot this summer and only had about 6 weeks to train. Ouch.
Anyway, these two stellar ladies were making their way to AZ to fight the grueling fight in hopes of hearing those amazing words “You Are An Ironman!” announced over the loud speaker. A feeling you never quite forget.
Jules called me before we left, and due to a series of unforeseen circumstances, she was going to do her IM and then drive back alone. Her husband wasn’t going. Her friend wasn’t going. Really!!!??? No blame here but after the enormous amount of support I had for my race, I was CRUSHED that Jules would have all that stress before hers. And drive back 16 hours….alone? No ma’am.
Stacey and I moved my entire schedule so I could drive home. Cause that’s how I roll!! I texted Jules and asked her what I could do…pick up nutrition…drive her home…force Channing Tatum to go with. She replied that she preferred Hugh Jackman. Hmmmm….ideas….
So I texted all our friends and asked them to do their best Wolverine imitation so I could say “well I couldn’t get Hugh Jackman, but I got Travis Jackman.” I got about 12 of the most hilarious pictures- here’s a few of the best.
Then I shot off to the store to pick up a bunch of Ironman (the super hero) stuff, as well as dvd’s of Wolverine and Magic Mike for the road trip. grrrrrrr….
Jules and the lovely Stef picked me up, and we began our trek to Tempe loaded in an SUV full of equipment, water, and snacks…delicious chocolately snacks.
NOTE: due to Jules’ feelings about cursing, the following substitutions will occur in this blog…fruitcup will be substituted for the f word…shirt for the s word…golly gee willickers for the GD word…and any and all references to anatomical parts will be made in the medically correct terms. I don’t want to make a gluteous maximus of myself, after all.
Anywho…we shot down the road at about 90 most of the way. The first two hours were rough. I think we all know that I am NOT a speed merchant. And both Jules and Stef are pretty freaking FAST. So being trapped in a car with people who say things like “the workout was a joke…they were running 7:20’s for their mile repeats…It wasn’t even a workout.” was absolutely horrifying. 7:20’s??? I’m not sure I could even do that on a fruitcupping motor cycle. Also, I’m not really twerky about racing, so to have people say “you know, I don’t race to just finish”- like “finishing” is akin to self flagellating (not to be confused with flatulation- which will be addressed later.) That is to say OH MY GOLLY GEE WILLICKERS I think I must be in the wrong car!!!!! Where is Tracy when I need her.
Well, there is NOTHING like Naked Channing Tatum to even the playing field? Right? So I put Magic Mike on and rode in silence for the next two hours. Bless those abs….they are magical.
We spent the first night at Jules’ brother’s house featuring two jack russell terriers with jingly collars who I swear to Gee willickers have been trained to be nocturnal! They have a doggie door and bark like maniacs all night- then jingle through the door down the hall. The next morning as we were loading up, they were sound asleep, the little rats. But, they were adorable so you couldn’t get too mad.
We made Tempe in record time and decided to meet Tracy and crew out for dinner at Oregano’s. That was nice because I had a chance to be verbally abusive to Tracy, Kerby, the McKaskey’s and Pat Schuster before the race. And you just don’t get enough of that, do you? Four of Five vodka sodas later and we were off to the room for some R&R before registration the next day. (Don’t judge, with the exception of Jules, every IM athlete there had a beer…or two)
Off we go to the Village and registration the next day. Ironman has some excellent people watching, and this served to solidify my soon to be irrational fondness for young Stef of the “I just won Bronda’s duathlon overall by seven minutes” fame. She is HILARIOUS! We cavorted around taking in the sausagey people crammed into compression socks (for which I could clearly qualify) and waited for shell shocked Jules to return from registration. I also cavorted with the newly acquainted Barbi of volunteer and future IM fame. Good peeps all the way round.
So Jules gets all registered up. Then we are off to the mall to get a new phone where we stand at the AT&T store and watch a bald guy basically do an entire magic act trying to pick up the girl behind the counter. Amazing! No, not the magic. The fact that anyone would put that much effort into a girl half his age who was clearly more interested in finalizing the phone deal that watching magic. Buy a more expensive phone, my man. You might have a chance.
Back at the room, I get a text from Tracy saying can we go to dinner at the same place because So Pro wants to meet me. Stacey So Pro McKinney is a speedy vixen who I’ve only met via facebook. Earlier in the week, Tracy had sent me an email exchange wherein she told Stacey she couldn’t just “walk in and meet Betsy”- to which So Pro responded “Fruitcup off you filthy whore.” so I was kind of excited about meeting her. Unfortunately, she stood me up. Shirt. More vodka with Tracy would have to suffice. OH…and Stef earned her nickname “dimples”- which involved a dance in her underwear that had me and Jules on the floor!!! Be jelly boys, be jelly!!!
Saturday, Jules slipped into her wetsuit (see, I have to CRAM myself into my sausage casing wetsuit, where as tiny Jules can slip into hers) and made the practice swim. We checked her bike and went back to the room to await the BIG DAY!!!!!
Ironman Morning!!! Man is there any feeling. I could tell Jules was nervous. She was quiet and a little introverted, not her usual self. We loaded her gear- Stef and I trying to stay cool. See sherpaing is an art. When your athlete is nervous- you are cool. When your athlete is forgetful- you are detail oriented. You make EVERYTHING happen for them so they can worry about one thing- racing. And I have to say, even though I LOST the closely contested race for head sherpa to Stef- I was perhaps the greatest assistant sherpa in the history of IM-kind.
We made transition and the waiting began. Fortunately, I ran into Jason and Lezley Maloy holding GIANT heads of their athletes. I love those guys. I finally met So Pro- who squealed with delight. (who wouldn’t? Everyone loves Betsy after all) And we waited for Jules to head to the water for the ominous and exciting IM swim start.
Stef and I bolted to the bridge where I guilted two giant men to let me stand in front of them. Before I was even settled, the cannon went off and the churning spiderweb began to expand below the bridge. Jules and Tracy were on their way!!! I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was for both of them.
All of our athletes made the swim, and Stef and I ran to the bike course so everyone could see our smiling faces. Soon enough, the bikes were away, and we began to jockey for position on the run course.
Here’s the thing, I knew Tracy would swim and bike easily. My concern was that foot. How in the world was she going to make the cutoff with that painful foot. 26.2 is a long freaking way to walk.
I made the finish line just in time to see Pat Schuster- our resident studly pro- finish in a time which I knew would be disappointing to him. Do you know why I love this guy? Well, I once watched a pro- let’s call him Atrick Vevoe- quit and be kind of shitty when he was having a bad race. I get it- they have sponsors etc…but it’s not my thing. Schuster freaking pulled a Barishnikov worthy finish jaunting from side to side with a huge grin- ending with a “thank you and good night!” at the finish line. Made my heart smile.
I ran into Stef booty dancing at mile seven to “Bitches and Drinks” (sorry Jules that’s the name of the song), and we waited for Jules. She ran by looking VERY unhappy. GI issues. The toots to be exact. Painful gas cramps are NOT a positive for an IM marathon, I can assure you.
Jules: I need to toot.
Jules: I’m afraid I may poop myself.
Me: Poop yourself then! Won’t be the first time.
We stalked her for three or so miles and then found the Maloys, Kerby and Schuster to get an update on Tracy and a beer- which I frankly had to guilt Schuster into giving me because he had just done an Ironman blah blah blah. Which he finally threw at me and said “shut your face.” Ah, can you feel the respect?
I don’t know Kerby well, but I know this. I’ve never seen a man THAT concerned for his wife- that full of desire that she finish…that she not be suffering. It was amazing. Tracy’s foot was KILLING her and she too was having salt and cramping issues. But she was walking…moving. She was doing the one thing that is absolutely necessary in endurance racing. Not giving up.
At a little over 14.5 hours, Stef and I positioned ourselves at the top of the hill before the finisher’s chute. I saw Jules at the bottom of the hill. She was walking, but when she realized how close she was she started running. My eyes were watering like crazy (must have been an allergic reaction). I slapped her on her gluteous and said “Don’t you freaking walk again IRONMAN!!!”
Jules said,”I’m gonna cry…”
One down, one to go.
Tracy made mile seventeen. She had an hour and a half to get to 20 to beat the cut off. I tell you what. That Jason Maloy is amazing. He told her “Tracy, you have an hour and a half to make three miles. Walk. Just keep walking.” He was so steady and strong. With friends like the Maloys, Schuster, the McCaskey’s supporting her, I knew she would make it.
At midnight I had to take Stef to the airport. Jason sent me the video of Tracy, with Mike Reilly holding her hand, finishing with eleven minutes to spare.
I cried again.
“You go sister,” I said out loud to no one in particular in my car, as tears rolled down my cheeks.