Angela is a dear friend from Atlanta who I met through the triathlon circuit, who founded TeamEndured and races for Podium Multisport. She dove into the sport around the same time I did, but ventured deeper than me, even! No matter how crazy you are, there’s always someone crazier. For the 2016 season, she set out to race not one, not two, but THREE full Ironmans!! Which will make SIX iron-distance races in just TWO years in what she is calling the “six pack”–perhaps after the abs she’s developed from all this training, but more likely after the IPAs she’s come to love in the process.

I had the pleasure of seeing her at IMTX–when a storm rolled in dropping temperatures suddenly from 85 degrees to 40 and hailing. We then did Ironman Mont-Tremblant together in the pouring rain. Ugh. She stayed strong through them both, but the weather certainly hampered her performance. The day following IMMT, we sat in the hot tub sipping wine while her awesome husband went out to fetch steaks to cook us for dinner. She lamented the terrible weather cards she had been dealt this season and hoped and prayed that the Weather Gods would have mercy for her third and final Ironman of the season–Florida. She mentioned that Will wouldn’t be able to make it to that race and surprisingly few ATLians had registered this year. So I offered to fly down and be her Sherpa! Cause, I mean, why not?!

She may have regretted this decision because, despite my best efforts otherwise, I essentially unintentionally tried [luckily without avail] to sabotage her race… But let me explain!

Wednesday! Wednesday night I flew into Atlanta, and we indulged in Mellow Mushroom pizza [because I haven’t found good pizza in Boulder yet] and soaked in the awesome view from her rooftop. I also helped her make her “salty balls”, her nutrition during the bike. The consistency didn’t seem quite right, and I realized I forgot the protein powder from the very simple recipe! Strike one! I added it in, and Angela said they seemed like normal [I think she was trying to make me feel better…].

Thursday! We woke up the following morning and packed the car after playing a game of real-life tetris with her amazing european folding commuter bike. Not only did she have all of her race and weekend gear impeccably organized, but she even had bags [and bikes] packed for me with all of the necessities and luxuries a Sherpa could ask for!

We drove down to PCB straight to check-in. I caught up with my Boulder BFF, Kasia, and Marty of Found Memories Graphics, aka “The Mayor” of the expo. We then lunched at this Mermaid restaurant, which–judging by the length of time it took to be served–was unaccustomed to patrons during the “winter”. A Mermaid Makeup demo played on the TV, complete with strategies to use fishnet nylons to create scales… I took notes for Halloween next year.

Next, to the store for provisions for IronAngela! Walmart was the closest option and also had the other random supplies we needed–except for the Fix-a-Flat that we were unable to hunt down anywhere [Angela: “I don’t want to be one of those annoying people who races without repair stuff and relies on the kindness of strangers.” Whoops! I’m guilty as charged! Sorry to everyone out there…]. That evening I cooked salmon a bit more medium rare than the medium I aimed for. Strike two! Feeding her raw fish from Walmart 😀

Friday! She meticulously arranged her race gear. She’s so organized! She also unpacked the bag she brought for me: blue tooth speakers, yeti cooler, folding bike, external phone battery, etc. etc. I learned many tips that I’ll carry along with me. She’s creating a blog post with her tips, which I’ll post a link to whenever she finishes it!

We dropped off her bike and then out of pure altruistic kindness, I agreed to oblige her ritual of pre-race pedicures. Perhaps the greatest sacrifice I made that weekend.

I have the brilliant idea to see a movie to relax and conserve energy for Race Day. After reviewing our options, I ultimately [and uncharacteristically] made the decision to see Hacksaw Ridge. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s a WWII flick about a pacifist who enlists in the military as a medic who refuses to bear arms, yet serves on the front lines. Perhaps the movie itself was that moving or perhaps I’ve been harboring some un-dealt-with emotions from working at Atlanta’s level I trauma center, but I BAWLED throughout the entire film! I mean, I’ll regularly well up during movies and sometimes shed a tear. But this was an all new level–I was straight up sobbing. Probably audibly had it not been from the loud war noises.

I left the theater feeling totally drained. Whoops! Perhaps that wasn’t the most restful pre-race activity after all! Strike three…

Immediately after, I had to deal with quite possibly the worst customer service from my apartment folks in Boulder. Unfortunately for that chick, I was still emotionally charged from the movie. Angela had to talk me off the cliff and did so very graciously. I thought I was here to help her!

Naturally, ice cream would solve all of these issues. So we returned to the Pink Pelican ice cream shop that saved my life when I went to PCB a few years ago to spectate Ironman before I even did a triathlon. I was afraid the life-saving part of it would have falsely colored my opinion. Nope! The ice cream and it’s portions lived up to my high expectations!

I went for much-needed jog while Angela, being a saint, cooked dinner! [Or maybe she was afraid I’d serve her somewhat-raw food again :D]. We laughed a whole lot, drank IPAs and had a blast. Then bedtime!

Saturday aka RACE DAY!!! We woke up early, and I dropped Angela off at the start. I returned home, made another cup of coffee and walked the 1.5 miles back to the start–a commute I’d make many, many times that day. I eventually found Angela camped out on the boardwalk and we played music to liven up the mood.

We tried to find Tony, who was Sherpa-ing for a first-time Ironman athlete (and second-time triathlete), but didn’t spot him until after his friend’s wave went off. But I did find Dan Arnett of Endurance Concepts, and together we watched the swimmers do their thang.

Can you find Angela?!

Tony had the sunglasses that his friend had somehow forgotten to put in his transition bag. Tony’s mission was to find that friend at the swim exit or bike out to hand them off. We missed him both times, but we did see Angela and several other friends mount their bikes, which was fun.

All smiles in T1!!

Although starving, I made Tony stop by Walmart so I could get a costume to wear before we feasted on brunch. I returned to our condo, went for a jog along the bike course to cheer on athletes and met Dan and Company at the excellently-placed EC tent dressed as Mrs. Claus, because Walmart abounded with Christmas decorations during the first week in November. #mericuh and I figured I could get a few wears out of the investment before the year ended.

Photobombed by the shark!

The folding commuter bike was so clutch! I rode back and forth along the course, which enabled me to see so many people! Like Team in Training badasses/heroes Jane and John and Karen and company. New friends like Susan Haag, who was completing her 100th ironman that day. Stacy Simms of Dynamo Multisport raced and had a fantastic day, but I don’t remember seeing her until after she finished.

The athlete tracker wasn’t working properly. With all of the money in WTC’s pockets, you’d think they’d provide a better solution. Well, I suppose that would take one or two pennies out of those pockets, and that would be unacceptable for WTC…

According to the tracker, Angela’s pace on the bike was tanking and she would have had 45min to go 30 miles. Gah! There’s no way! After asking many people (my serious tone greatly contrasted my ridiculous outfit haunched on the foldable bike) I figured out where Ironman corrals bike DNFers and headed that way hoping she wasn’t there.

But then…! Tony texted me that he saw Angela go by on the run!!! Yay she had made it!!! With plenty of time, actually. I turned around and huffed it back to the run course and caught her before mile 3. She was in great spirits, though she lamented the tons of jellyfish that peppered the choppy swim. She deserved a good day, so I wished her well!!

I returned to the EC tent where Tony had devolved into a TRex. A couple folks had dressed up as sharks, which made for excellent athlete-chasing. Dan wore his iconic bright orange wig. Music played. Beers were consumed. I split my time between that tent and riding around on the bike.

Eventually I went to pick up Angela’s bike from transition so that we wouldn’t have to worry about it post-race. I tried riding the commuter bike while pushing her tri bike beside like a badass. And could have done it, too, had I been on a smooth surface! A couple close calls with cracks in the side walk later, I hopped off the ‘muter and walked all the way to our condo with a bike in each hand. Seems like an appropriate ratio! #n+1

I returned to the course and the tracker had her out on the run still with a ways to go. I figured I’d go straight to the finish. Instead, I rode the last 6ish miles of the course. I rode past the girls dressed up as naughty cops who had tapped me with their whips literally every time I went by. Again I passed the guys playing guitars who invariably and immediately switched mid-song to a Christmas carol as I passed. I love festive people! And, again, I found Susan, which was a delight as always. But no Angela!! Ugh!!

I worried that she was on the side of the road somewhere. But with Angela, that would mean that she was totally incapacitated because that girl has more grit and determination than anyone I know!

Why did I even trust the tracker?! It couldn’t have been right. So I huffed it back to the finish. Tony texted where she was, and I found her, but only after I chewed out a couple Ironman officials about the problems shitty trackers cause. Had we not had it, we would have created a detailed meetup plan, but didn’t even think to given this resource. Do it right or not at all!

Angela’s only request for the day was to save her a beer for after her finish. The logistics of a cooler didn’t work out well that day, but I made sure to tote one with me during the whole Angela-hunt. So despite 1) ruining her Salty Balls, 2) feeding her raw fish, 3) making her watch a draining and disturbing movie, I DID manage to bring her a beer! Albeit a bit warm by that point… perhaps this would absolve me of my transgressions?

We found Tony’s friend and together we watched the always-majestic Midnight Finish! As much as I hate the corporate BS of WTC, I must say that they do many things right! I cried a bit as the last athlete came through the chute with seconds to spare and cheered on a few more who completed the course after the cutoff. Finishing an Ironman period is a spectacular feat no matter how you slice it. I have more admiration, though, for those that finish last after 16 and 17 hours than those that finish first in 8. I mean, I’ve never done ANYTHING for 17 hours, much less exercise continuously.

Oh, I also found time to make Angela a cheesy sign.

High on laughter, exhaustion and Race Day endorphins, Tony, Angela and I stayed up laughing and talking. We eventually went to sleep, and Angela and I spent the following day relaxing at the beach! And visiting the Merchandise Tent, of course. We also did what one must when in PCB–mini golf! The place was as cheesy as it was delapidated and not the most challenging of courses. But I must say that my game was ON POINT that day! I kind of crushed her, but I’ll just say that she was handicapped by her race the following day 😀 The day rounded out with a long walk on the beach and an excellent steak and wine dinner!!

Mmmm. Steak. Not sure I earned this as much as Angela, but happy to support her recovery!

You would have thought we’d have nothing more to say to each other, but we chatted all the way back to Atlanta–a sign of a true friend. I hopped on the airplane back to Denver in Angela and race withdrawal.

Now I need to coerce her into signing up for another mutual race so we can repeat the fun!