The worst moment of the 2013 Ironman Arizona Mayor’s Media Challenge was the first one, when the competitors entered the murky waters known as Tempe Town Lake at 7 a.m. My kicks — a burned-out pair of running shoes — filled with the brown substance expeditiously, and I never fully adapted to the cold.
It wasn’t the most auspicious beginning, and the end result was a short but long slog through the chilly but somehow unseasonably warm liquid.
We, the media representatives and two Tempe city council members who opted to hop into the water, signed on to participate in the annual challenge issued by Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell. The challenge first came a decade ago during the tenure of his predecessor, Hugh Hallman, and comes in conjunction with the Ironman Arizona race the city will host this weekend.
This wasn’t the real McCoy, but a condensed version equal to a hundredth of the distance of a triathlon’s three events: 24 yards swimming, a pleasant 1.12 mile bike ride, and a .26-mile run as the grand finale. The motivation, besides a bit of early morning exercise, was a $1,000 donation to the winner’s charity of choice: mine would have gone to Cardon Children’s Medical Center.
So into the murky depths we fell, with the 12 of us — including Tribune intern Jessica Boehm — spending the few moments before the starting horn blared failing to acclimate to our aquatic surroundings.
On paper, 24 yards doesn’t appear all that difficult, but the seemingly short distance proved difficult as the sneakers continued to flood with water and the mass of competitors trying to swim around the marker congested. I did save a few seconds to say good morning to the man manning the turnaround point, but the traffic jam and my mediocre swimming skills — picture a drunken otter — put me in second to last heading into the bike ride.
I was able to mount the bike quickly and ahead of a few competitors, but, unfortunately, my cycling talents are somehow worse than swimming skills. I came fairly close to riding into a tent within the first 10 seconds, and my inability to circle tightly while pulling the U-turn at the midway point cost me valuable time.
Fortunately, I’m a much, much better runner than I am a swimmer or cyclist, and I had just enough left in the proverbial tank to pass three people and finish closer to the middle of the pack than expected. Coming in first was Tempe City Council member Joel Navarro, who competed on behalf of the Tempe Community Council.
To wrap this up in sitcom fashion, the 10 or so minutes of activity increased my respect for anyone who participates in a full triathlon and the smaller iterations, and it emphasized that I really need to re-learn how to ride a bike.
Mostly, though, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to try this thing again next year; despite the physical drain and prolonged chilliness, the competition was way too much fun to turn down a second chance.
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