By Ray Stern
Jumping into the Tempe Town lake at 7 a.m. this morning wasn't the worst part of Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman's media challenge race.
The worst part was getting passed by the mayor on the third leg of the event, a .26-mile run.
(That's the mayor at left in an Arizona Republic photo from last year's event. He covered up all that manly chest hair this year with a racing-style tank top).
Hallman held similar small-scale, charity triathlons with the media in 2006 and 2007 to help preview Tempe's annual Ironman event , which kicks off this Sunday. I'm still not sure why I signed up for this jump-in-the-lake, et al, though it's true I had delusions of grandeur that maybe I'd come in first place and win a $1,000 check for the charity of my choice. Mostly, it just seemed like fun.
It was a helluva sprint. The lakewater was about 62 degrees, slightly warmer than the air. It felt good to my bare feet for about a half a minute as I walked in lake muck down a boat ramp with the other seven or eight competitors. I made good time on the ultra-short swim (everything was 1/100th of an Ironman) but was somewhat dazed by the effort and the cold as I struggled to shove my wet feet into my running shoes. For sure, I found a new admiration for the nutbars who are going to swim 2.4 miles in the lake this weekend. (Most, if not all, will wear wetsuits).
The bike part came next -- 1.1 miles. I saw the mayor and his coach pedaling ahead of me on the bike path and slunk by them before the turnaround point.
The decent lead on Hallman faded soon after I dropped my bike and started running. My legs felt like over-microwaved asparagus shoots. I heard footsteps crunching on the dirt path behind me. Then the mayor was at my side, and pulling ahead. Nothing I could do about it. But I did meet my three goals: Have a good time, don't be last, and don't get injured.
Tim Hacker, a photographer with the East Valley Tribune, took first place and said he would donate his $1,000 to the Arizona Heart Institute. I was feeling good about not being last until I saw that the guy who was last, Dino Stathakis of the College Times, got a check for his charity, too. As usual, it doesn't pay to be just average.
Well, there's always next year. Or not.