While most consider rolling off the couch to manually change TV channels a severe hardship, a unique subculture that thrives on brutally pushing their bodies to the verge of collapse visits Tempe this weekend. They'll compete hoping to break the tape -- or simply finish -- in Arizona's inaugural Ironman event. This grueling athletic competition that starts with a 2.4-mile swim and finishes with a 26-mile foot race, with a 112-mile bike ride sandwiched in between, is the legacy of macho-fueled debate between Navy officers in Hawaii more than 25 years ago. Groups of long-distance swimmers, bikers and runners argued over who was the fittest, and the result is the now-famous Ironman Triathlon. Cheer on, or simply behold in wonderment, as extreme athletes of both sexes dive into chilly Tempe Town Lake at 7 a.m. Saturday, April 9. Don't worry if you oversleep -- the competitors have until midnight to complete the course. See www.ironmanarizona.com. -- Douglas Towne
Hike Papago Park for a good cause
Take a "Walk on the Wild Side" with 3,000 other amblers on Saturday, April 9, to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The five-mile walk begins at 7:30 a.m. and winds through the colorful and scenic Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Garden, so you can stroll past monkeys and mourning doves en masse while raising funds for medical research. There's an optional three-mile trail on the route, so walkers of all ability levels and ages can participate. The vibrant trek starts at Salt River Project, 1600 North Priest in Phoenix, with parking across the street at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. To register, call 480-968-2488. -- Niki D'Andrea
Saguaro Cup runneth over
They'll need to order extra jockstraps for the 2005 Saguaro Cup Sports Festival softball tournament, taking place Saturday, April 9, and Sunday, April 10, at five Valley venues. "We have a record number of teams this year -- 93 total," says Shelby Blanton, publicity director for the festival. "I think that makes us the second-largest gay games, behind the Gay Softball World Series." Teams are put into divisions according to their skill levels, which range from beginner to "almost pro." It's free to watch all of the games except those at the Victory Lane field, which charges a $2 entry fee. For social sport, there's a pre-tournament "Cactus Bash" at the Hilton Suites, 10 East Thomas, on Friday, April 8, with drag performers Barbra Seville and Sisterzz Twisted, a DJ, and a cash bar. Admission is free. Call 602-287-9573 or visit www.saguarocup.com for game schedules and locations. -- Niki D'Andrea
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