When Blaine Mathison told friends he would attempt today’s inaugural Ironman Arizona, he didn’t have time to ask their thoughts before the opinions started flying.
"They just say I’m crazy," said Mathison, 33, of Tempe.
Mathison is one of 1,830 athletes expected to toe the line this morning at Tempe Beach Park and embark on what either is the ultimate test of endurance or sanity — or both.
Competitors will start with a 2.4-mile swim around Tempe Town Lake. Athletes have 2 hours, 20 minutes to complete the swim or they will be pulled from the event.
Once out of their wet suits, competitors must complete a 112-mile bike ride which consists of three loops from downtown Tempe up the Beeline Highway to Gilbert Road and back. If their bodies (and minds) are still functioning after all that, a 26.2-mile run (a marathon) awaits.
Alan Romania, a firefighter and paramedic from Chandler, also has some friends and co-workers who are wondering if he has all his marbles because he is tackling today’s Ironman.
"Most of the firefighters that I work with think that if you’re doing 20 minutes of cardiovascular training, you’re doing too much," said Romania, 29, who unlike Mathison already has completed an Ironman — in 15 hours, 28 minutes. "It’s doing three events in one. Most of them are either amazed or think that I probably need to be committed somewhere."
While athletes normally train hard for weeks on end to prepare for what may be the most grueling sporting event, not all of today’s competitors will finish. There can be cramps while swimming that could knock you out, a bike crash or a leg injury or just plain, old fatigue.
Romania can relate to all of that. In his first attempt at an Ironman, sore feet in the marathon knocked him out.
"It still makes me mad," he said.
Mathison, who has completed a half-Ironman, expects to experience plenty of emotions from start to finish.
"It changes every 10 minutes," he said, "from excited to nervous. In the race, you’ll be happy, excited, upset, everything."
PROS AFTER MONEY
An expected 64 professional triathletes will compete today for $75,000 in prize
money. Both the men’s and women’s top finishers will receive $12,000.
On the men’s side, top pros include: Michael Lovato of Boulder, Colo.; Chris Lieto of Danville, Calif.; Petr Vabrousek of the Czech Republic; Tom Evans of Canada; and Faria Al-Sultan of Germany. Top female pros include: Heather Gollnick of Hartford, Wisc.; Kate Major of Australia and Joanna Zeiger of Boulder, Colo.
Pros will begin the Ironman at 6:45 a.m. and everyone else at 7 a.m. The top male should cross the finish line around 3:15 p.m. and the top female an hour later.
All competitors will have until midnight to complete the Ironman before the course will be closed.