Ironman Arizona 2014 slideshow


by Paul Fiarkoski

I was so enamored with the Ironman competition after my first experience as a spectator in 2013, that I had to go back for more this year. For the unitiated, an Ironman Triathlon is consists of a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.2-mile (42.2 km) run, raced in that order and without a break. It is widely considered one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world.

This year’s edition was noticeably cooler than 2013 and it appeared to affect the athletes, especially in the swim to bike transition. Many of them looked like frozen penguins after shucking off their wet suits. I was happy to hear that many of the finishers were from my old stomping grounds in the Denver-Boulder area of Colorado.

2014 Ironman Competition – Tempe, AZ

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In case you’re wondering, like my wife is, whether I have my sights set on doing the Ironman of my own some day, the answer for now is an emphatic “No”. The run portion would be the death of me. 🙂 My personal fitness goal is to hike 12 miles to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and up the other side, then back to wear I started, sometime before my 50th birthday – October of 2017.

Until then, I hope you enjoy the slideshow above and posts from my various hikes.

3 reasons why MLB Opening Day should NOT be a national holiday


I have seen numerous pleas by Major League Baseball on social media asking fans to sign a petition that would make Opening Day a national holiday. As much as I love baseball, there are three good reasons why I feel opening day should not be a national holiday.

1.  Ballpark attendance will not increase

Ask any fan of their city’s Major League Baseball team what the biggest challenge is with Opening Day and they will tell you it is getting tickets. Most MLB teams require fans to sign up on a waiting list about six months before the regular season begins in hopes that their name will be drawn from the lottery to buy tickets for opening day.

In other words, every team that has a solid fan base is currently selling out their stadium on Opening Day. Sold out is sold out, and declaring a national holiday won’t change that.

2.  Viewership will not increase

In most MLB markets the local media creates more hype and it generates greater anticipation around Opening Day than any other game during the year. Of course, there is at least one local station in each market that is likely to broadcast the game. So many of the people who were unable to buy tickets will be watching on TV. Even if they are working, in this day of cable sports TV and digital recorder’s most real fans can watch the game at their convenience after work.

3.  More people will suffer than benefit
In America, a national holiday usually means that federal offices, banks and in many cases schools will be closed. While it seems that this may be a benefit to Major League Baseball since more people are free from other distractions to focus on the nation’s pastime, my hunch is that more people will be affected negatively than will benefit. Think of the people that you know that work at any of the institutions that normally close on national holidays and how their income is affected when they cannot work. And think of how many business transactions cannot take place when banks are closed. Now you see what I mean.

Don’t get me wrong. I love baseball and I wish I could be off every year on Opening Day to take part in the festivities. However, we should keep in mind as a people that Major League Baseball is a business and they will continue to do just fine without Opening Day being declared a national holiday. Our government should not declare a holiday for the benefit of one industry at the expense of the general population.

Play ball!

Reflections on my hike of Cholla Trail on Camelback Mountain


I’ve been prepping myself for a 3-day hike in the Grand Canyon in May 2014 by taking on some of the more strenuous trails around Phoenix. Camelback Mountain has a reputation for setting the legs on fire, so when I saw that my church had organized a hike up the humps the first weekend of December, I couldn’t pass it up. Below is a quick summary of my experience.

At the time of our hike, the only way to access the top was via Cholla Trail (pronounced choy-ya) which rises up from the east side. In the picture below, envision hiking a trail cut just on the other side of the spine of the camel that runs from the right (or rear) to the left.

Image

Quick stats:

  • Destination: Camelback Summit – the top of the tallest hump in pic above
  • Distance: about 3 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 1,300 feet
  • Time: 3.5 hours; time of day: early morning
  • Weather: sunny with calm air and temps in the mid-50s

Likes:

  • Free admission
  • Views from the top and other vantage points
  • Desert landscape
  • That burn in the legs

Dislikes:

  • Parts of trail require scaling rock walls and navigating back down them
  • Concern of bee attacks as advised by signs (bees killed a few people on Camelback in 2013)
  • Volume of other hikers on the weekend resulted in congestion
  • Parking a half mile from the trail head on a residential street

Conclusion
I’m glad I hiked Camelback so that I can say that I’ve done it, but I won’t be rushing back anytime soon. The single biggest turnoff was the volume of people. Friends have recommended other trails that will help prep me for my Grand Canyon hike, so I’ll place priority on those trails in the future.

If you have hiked Camelback, I would like to hear your thoughts in the comment box below. Questions? Fire away and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Some more pics from my hike (click to enlarge)…

Tempe, Arizona Ironman Triathlon 2013


I heard that the Ironman Triathlon competition was being held in nearby Tempe today, so I had to have a look.

I remember watching highlights from the Ironman in Hawaii on ABC’s Wide World of Sports when I was a kid. The graphic images stick with me today of people crossing the finish line and having virtually no control over their muscles after a day of grueling exercise consisting of a 2-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride, followed by a 26.2 run (i.e. marathon). Today I witnessed it in person.

The Tempe course is great for spectators because you can see the athletes at numerous points in their journey, such as the start and end of the swim and bike ride, plus the run portion at the 4-, 12- and 26 mile points. Hat’s off to these amazingly driven individuals.

Here are some photos I took. Plenty more of professional quality at http://www.ironman.com.

Best reality TV out there: Boat ramp follies on YouTube


I’m a man with simple entertainment needs. Give me a bag of chips and a few thousand 90-second clips of people making fools of themselves at the boat ramp and I’m set.

Boat Ramp Follies was first recommended to me by YouTube after I searched for videos of Lake Havasu, to which we were planning a family vacation. Good call!

As it turns out, “Boat Ramp Follies” is not just a video, but more of a genre; not unlike the categories of Action, Thriller or Drama that we generally find movies organized by. A YouTube search for “boat ramp follies” resulted in over 28,000 videos.

Far better than any other types of sports follies videos that became popular with the advent of VHS tape players, boat ramp follies is reality tv at its finest. These people aren’t there to perform. They just want to have a nice day on the water.

Getting there is half the fun, right? Or half the battle – depending on how you look at it. Mix in steep, wet surfaces, poor driving skills and a little alcohol and you have the perfect recipe for drama.

So intriguing are boat ramp follies that crowds of people are known to line edges of the Site 6 boat ramp at Lake Havasu to watch the spectacle. Thankfully for me, they also post much of the comedy to YouTube.

If I had to pick a favorite, it would have to be the redneck in Missouri who didn’t even make it to the lake. He jack-knifed his rig on a dirt road when trying to avoid a puddle of water. The truck ended up in one ditch and the boat in the other.

I can’t stop watching these boat ramp folly videos and just wanted to open your eyes to a whole new entertainment experience. Here is one video for starters (PG-13 warning for profanity):

But please, don’t stop there. If you experience the same internal chemical reaction I did, try searching YouTube for phrases using any mixture of these words: boat, ramp, launch, idiot, comedy, drunk, folly blooper, etc. You won’t be let down, I promise.

Bodyboarding is a spectator sport


I’m back on the grid after four days of rehearsing for retirement on the beaches of Cali. At 45, I’m starting to realize body boarding is a spectator sport. Those waves look so peaceful, but they threw me around like a rag doll. More Advil, please.
True story: on day one, a lifeguard came down and warned me against trying to ride the breaker waves. Something about risk of a broken neck or back. Wonder how he knew I had no clue what I was doing. Maybe it was the wrist leash I had strapped to my ankle. Lol!
body boarders

Full disclosure: I am not in this picture. If I were, you would see a board in the air and my arms and legs protruding from the whitewater. 🙂