From Medford, Oregon to Panama City, Florida is culture shock by itself; add in the Ironman Triathlon and it becomes culture earthquake. Athletes from all over converge on this city of a little over 36,000 inhabitants and it becomes a manic scene of hysterical dimensions.
The race consists of a 2.4 mile swim in the gulf, a 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run in succession that must be finished in 17 hours. The event has become a benchmark for testing a person’s mental and physical limits.
The day before the race dawns overcast, foggy, windy and rainy. The ocean is closed to swimmers so there will be no practice swims today. The pouring rain dampens the spirits as well as the sidewalks.
On the positive side, one of our special athletes discovered a tear in her wet suit that would have been disastrous on race day; a quick attempt at patching meant a new wet suit was in order, so there was time to get a replacement before the race. For these athletes equipment is the difference between success and failure. The wet suits run from $100 to thousands of dollars, with $500 being average.
Bikes for racing range from $1500 to $20,000 and the clothing costs anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. The dollar investment is not small, but the physical and mental investment is huge. The athletes we are here to cheer on have spent the last two years intensively training for this race.
The race will feature a quadriplegic athlete and an 85 year old man competing with younger and more physically capable athletes, but they all share the “Anything Is possible” philosophy.
What will tomorrow bring? The weatherman says clear skies and calm oceans with only one or two foot waves to handle. There will be clear skies, minimum winds and no rain.
That is the fervent prayer of the 3000 athletes who are gathered here with the families and friends who cheer them on. We will gather in the morning to watch the first swimmers brave the ocean and we will be here at midnight to cheer on the last athletes to cross the finish line.
Anything is possible and we can all be the best we can be.