52 Weeks til IMAZ 2014

IMAZ 2013
This weekend I drove out with Tom to Tempe, AZ to volunteer at Ironman Arizona in order to secure a spot in the 2014 race. This was it, the final step in committing to a year of becoming an ironman. Race morning we headed out early to watch the swimmers come in and cyclists head out.  It was really great to see how everything goes down logistically. As you exit the water, someone unzips your wetsuit off for you, then you run to an area where your swim to bike bags are held. A volunteer is magically jumping up and down holding your bag to pass off to you. You head to the changing tent where many do a complete wardrobe change before the 112 mile bike. As you ride out on your bike, a volunteer slathers sunscreen on your body, and you are off. It’s all very methodic, and actually a lot slower than I expected. We chatted with a woman in the swim to bike gear area and she said that unless you are an elite athlete, you want to take your time to make sure you are comfortable and ready to tackle the next leg. We watched as the last swimmer came in. His family was crying because he obviously had some sort of trouble out there, as he was wrapped in mylar and was shaking. We watched people ask if the numbers on the bags that were left in the transition belonged to the athlete they were cheering on. To train so hard and be forced to give up on the first leg would be such a huge bummer. Note to self: Swim Fast.

Our volunteer shift wasn’t until 9pm, so we had a full day to chill before getting to our post. All day long we kept looking at our watches saying “we would still be on our bikes right now….we would STILL be on our bikes right now…we would just start running a marathon now.” Agonizing thoughts really. We arrived early and parked at our volunteer location (Run station #9) and walked over to the finish line to cheer on the finishing athletes. It was amazing. Every person that made their way to the finish would hear the announcer call out their names and exclaim that they were an Ironman. We walked a fair bit of the run route and tried to familiarize ourselves with the course we would be tackling next year. During that time, I thought a lot about what I was signing up to do. When you are watching the faces of people who have swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles, and are on their 20th mile of running, you are looking at some beaten up faces. These people are digging deep.  Wayyy DEEP.

Volunteering at the run station was a very rewarding experience. These people were at mile 22, almost done, and they were not giving up on those last few miles. Since we were on the late night crew, we were aiding triathletes who had been out on the course for 16+ hours. The last runner came through with a SAG vehicle behind her. It was heartbreaking to think that there were people behind that were being picked up and couldn’t finish. We all cheered her on as she ran through our station.

And that was it. We helped wrap up the station, got our speed pass bracelets that would kick us to the front of the sign up line in the morning, and we were off.

I’ve already been dreaming of the race. Mainly imagining the announcer calling out my name and exclaiming “Steph, you are an Ironman!”  One year.  One year.