Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ironman Arizona Roadtrip - Part 1

My progression as a triathlete has finally worked its way to the Ironman dream. 2011 will by the year of my Ironman and for a few reasons I have chosen Ironman Arizona (in Tempe) to be my first Ironman. This race is quite popular (and I can understand why now). As an Ironman is a significant investment in time (and money) I thought it best to go to this year’s race and see what it’s all about. My friends Kelly and Shannon, also triathletes wanting to sign up for 2011 so we planned a caravan. Going to IMAZ would also allow me to see some amazing pros and age groupers race, as well as meet some twitter friends. So we had a ROAD TRIP!

Nicole, Kelly, Shannon, and Darby pre-trip photo
Friday, Nov 19th
We leave Shannon’s house after work, around 5pm. I’m riding with Kelly. Shannon and Darby are in the other car. Darby is Shannon’s roommate and friend who came along to volunteer at the race.

It’s 6 hours to Albuquerque, which isn’t quite half-way. The drive is uneventful, some nice conversations and anticipation about the weekend ahead. I suppose the only “adventure” from this part of the drive was when we stopped in Trinidad for dinner. The Safeway deli didn’t seem to have their sandwich counter open, and Starbucks in the store had just closed (7pm) so we found a Subway. A group of Cubans in cowboy hats and lots of bling (maybe even a gold grill, can't remember) asked us where I-25 was. It was right above us, but some construction made the access a little more complicated. We attempted to explain they just needed to follow the signs, and they went on their way.

Shortly after 11pm we found a Best Western Plus/Executive Suites in ABQ near the I-25/I-40 interchange and got a room to crash for a few hours. The goals was to have breakfast at 6am when the breakfast bar opened and be on the road by 6:30. Nice room for a quick crash.

desert landscape
Saturday, Nov 20th
We got up as planned, had a nice breakfast (by free hotel breakfast standards) and hit the road. The desert landscape made for a beautiful sunrise. More driving, more conversation. More and more cactus filled our view. I-40 was ridiculously windy. We made a lunch stop about 30 miles from Tempe at an outlet mall. Food court! After lunch I hopped into Shannon’s car so we could get to our hotel and Kelly could get to the airport to pick up her dad. We found the hotel - Best Western Papago Inn… reminded me of Arizona pictures from 1950s movies. Ashtrays outside the rooms, a pool in the center of the complex. It was calm and peaceful in there and just enough room for the 3 of us. Once we settled in we went down to the race expo to scope out the scene and check out the layout for tomorrow.
Steve and Nicole
On the way down we ran into Steve V from the Pikes Peak Tri Club. He was all set and heading back to his hotel. At the expo site I was able to meet up with Nina (@ncjack) and her husband Dana (@bigdnla). I haven’t seen them since the USAT Art & Science of Triathlon symposium last February. Dana would be racing. I also got to meet Hank and his girlfirend Julie. Hank is one of Nina’s clients who was racing. He’s a stuntman who recently broke some ribs and collar bone, and had the flu, but he wanted to race anyway. Non-ideal to be entering an Ironman, but they say we triathletes are crazy (and they are right). We strolled down Mill Street in Tempe, which is right near the Arizona State University campus and saw there would be plenty of places to grab a bite to eat and sit down if we needed a break during the long day tomorrow would be. We learned the layout of transition. This is going to be very spectator friendly race. We checked out the over-priced Ironman shop. But you know, they do pretty good business!

gear bags lined up and ready to go
Our evening was relaxing. We grabbed some to-go gyros at the Nile CafĂ© and went down the road to Ron (@PunkRockRunner), Sonja (@goSonja) and Michelle's (@michelleford6p) hotel to chill out at the pool. I’d never met Ron but via twitter and his blog meet him I felt like I already had. Nice to put a real person to the face! He's also sent me some really cool Punk Rock Racing gear that you've seen me wear in my recent races. Sonja and Michelle live in the Denver area, and I’d met them a few times at other races. They would be racing so I was looking forward to seeing them in action (they are endurance sport Bada$$es). I even learned what the 6p stood for in Michelle's twitter name. Their support crew was there and Sonja coordinated the twitter update plan for tomorrow. She also passed out these portable solar chargers from Goal0. These small units can charge portable electronic devices. Since taking pictures and tweeting sucks up cell phone batteries, this would be nice to try.
Finally met the legendary Punk Rock Runner
At about 7:30 or so we all called it a night. Shannon, Darby and I stopped by a grocery store to pick up some snacks for the rest of the weekend on our way back to the hotel. By 9:30 we were all in bed, and for some reason with a few pre-race nerves, even though we weren't racing!

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