Sports & Recreation

Salt River Triathletes Rachel Seepie, Michelle Roan, Doran Dalton and Caroline Sekaquaptewa volunteer in the Kids Ironman Triathlon held days before their big day in the Ford Ironman Triathlon. Not pictured: Tamar Gonzalez.

Salt River Triathletes

By Richie Corrales
Au-Authm Action News

The Salt River Tri-athletes have been training for the Ford Ironman Arizona Triathlon, which will take place on November 20. Over these last couple of years the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community formed the Salt River Tri-athletes, which started off with a few individuals and has grown into three groups of athletes who will each compete in one leg of the triathlon. The Ford Ironman Triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run.

The three members on each team will complete the courses in relay style, with one individual starting and the next waiting at their finish line for the team timing chip, which is an ankle bracelet. Then the next person will start their event, and so on.

Several of the Salt River Tri-athletes took time to share their experiences so far in their training.

Paul Martinez, who is from the Tohono O’odham Nation and an architect in training for the SRPMIC Engineering and Construction Services Department, will be doing the 112-mile bike portion of the triathlon. “I hope to motivate many,” said Martinez. “As Native people, we don’t get a lot of exposure to new things.”
He explained how hard it is to realize that certain types of exercise can be fun, whether it’s competitive or recreational.

“It’s all up to you in regards to how far you take it. I wish I would have started in this sport a long time ago; I love to cycle,” said Martinez. Through cycling, he has improved his health and fitness and has visited many wonderful places to ride in events, places that he never thought he’d visit. “Last year, I traveled to Death Valley, California and Ruidoso, New Mexico for century rides (100 miles). The routes and scenery were amazing.”

Training for Martinez has been tough this year, “because it’s been hard to squeeze into my schedule. I am a new father, and baby duty takes a big chunk of time.” His goal is to complete his portion of the marathon in less than seven hours.

In the 2009 triathlon, he finished the bicycling leg in 6:15. “I have come a long way since then, so let’s see what happens. I would like to thank all the people and organizations who have supported the Salt River triathlon group over the last few years. We would not have come this far without the help of the good people at Camelback Coaching, Triple Sports, Multisports and Ironcare. It has been so much fun and a tremendously enjoyable ride. It’s amazing to see everyone’s fitness levels increase as their body-mass indexes decrease.”

Salt River Elementary School Early Childhood teacher Caroline Sekaquaptewa, who is Hopi, will be starting off with the swim portion of the triathlon.

“In preparation for Ironman Arizona 2012, I decided to do the swim to overcome a ‘fear’ I have of the swim in a triathlon,” said Sekaquaptewa. “This is one of my challenges for the year. I have done a bunch of ‘firsts’ this year: a first marathon (P.F. Chang’s), my first 70-mile bike ride (Tour de Scottsdale), my first half-Ironman (Soma), my first ultra run (50K Paatuwaqatsi Run), and now my first 2.4-mile swim.”

She hired a tri-coach and a swim coach to assist her with her swimming technique and received a lot of feedback from them. “I have been practicing open-water swim with the splash-and-dash events and have completed much training with the Salt River Tri-athletes,” said Sekaquaptewa.

Sekaquaptewa’s goal is to finish the swim in under 01:50 minutes.

“Anything is possible when you set your mind to it,” she said. “I am 37 years old and just realizing how strong my mind and my body are. I am very grateful to the Salt River Tri-athletes for introducing me to endurance sports, and for providing the resources that we need. I am thankful for the SRPMIC Community for providing the opportunity to the Salt River Tri-athletes to participate in the relays.

Ironman Arizona is the only race where relay teams from the Community are allowed to participate, and it is a great opportunity for us to get the experience of an Ironman.”

Michelle Roan, Navajo, employed with Youth Services After School Program, will be competing in the 26.2-mile run.

“I have always wanted to partake in the Ironman triathlon since I was a teenager watching the Ironman Hawaii race for the first time. Not many people can say they have participated in the Ironman; it’s a privilege,” said Roan.

This is going to be Roan’s first marathon run. “I have completed half marathons in less than two hours, but since this is twice as long, I am giving myself under four hours to complete my run,” she said. “Although, I’ll be so ecstatic if I run under 3 hours and 45 minutes.”

Roan said her training is going well and that sometimes there are lazy days, but those are easily overcome by the thoughts of crossing the finish line knowing you have accomplished something significant.

“I believe we have an amazing group of athletes who are practicing, training and working hard at doing what they love to do, which is be healthy athletes for themselves and [their] loved ones,” said Roan.

She continued, “I would like to thank the Salt River Tri-athletes for giving me this opportunity to participate in this highly renowned race. I also would like to thank my spouse for supporting, encouraging and believing in me on my lazy days of training. I look forward to seeing Community support and cheers on Sunday, November 20.”

“This will be my first full marathon and I’m hoping to finish it in less than five hours,” said Tamar Gonzalez, who is a SRPMIC Community member and works in the Community Relations Office. “My personal goal is just to complete it.
“Training has been a challenge, but overall a great experience. I’ve learned to push myself harder during my training sessions. I’d like to thank the Salt River Fitness Center for letting me use the facility to train, and also my personal trainer, Rachel Seepie, for helping me get ready for Arizona Ironman.”

Doran Dalton, Hopi/Pima, will be competing in the bicycle leg of the race.

“I’m doing it because I really wanted to buy a carbon road bike, and I thought that participating in the Ironman was a great way to justify it and convince my wife that I needed to get one … I’m just kidding.

“I did it two years ago and I had fun, I really liked it. I like the challenge and I appreciate all the will and determination that these athletes put into their sport,” said Dalton. “It’s very motivating and exciting to be around and to be a part of.”
Dalton said his training is going great and believes he is leaps and bounds ahead of where he was the first time he took part in the marathon.

“This year I would like to try to finish in under seven hours, and I’m pretty sure I could do it,” Dalton said. “But, in all honesty, I just want to finish so that I can give my runner a chance to get on the course and do her thing. If I’m able to give her a bit of a head start, that would be even better.”

Dalton has many people to thank. “I, first of all, would like to thank God for blessing me with the opportunity and the ability to attempt this challenge. I also would like to thank my support system: my wife Jessika, my mom Letitia, my brothers and sister, and my family and friends. I would like to thank the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community president, vice-president and Community Council for being supportive of this event. Last but not least, I would like to thank my relay team, and the Salt River Tri-Athletes for giving me a reason to strive to be the best that I can be.

“The Ironman event is a great way to not only showcase our Community and the beauty of our land, but it also shows to other people that we do have individuals here that are strong, competitive, and have the will to work hard to achieve a goal,” said Dalton. “I think it’s important for us to be good examples to our Community, not just as athletes, but as leaders and decision-makers, and supporting and participating in an event like Ironman Arizona is just one way of showing how we can be good role models.”

Salt River Community member Rachel Seepie will be participating in the Arizona Ironman as an individual entry for the second time, after having done the Ford Ironman Arizona in 2009.

“I have also been on the relay teams in 2008 and 2010 as the swimmer,” she said.

“I would like to encourage other Community members to think about participating in the sport of triathlon, even if is not the distance of the Arizona Ironman. If you have been to a triathlon, you notice that the age range of participants varies. It is truly a ‘multisport’ [for all] ages,” said Seepie.

Seepie was inspired by her sister Michelle and brother-in-law Eric, who both got her interested in participating in triathlons.

She said that her training this year has been filled with a few small injuries, sore muscles and mental hurdles here and there, but overall it has been good for Seepie.

“I do my long swims, runs and bike rides on the weekends, but I also have been participating in marathons, half marathons and triathlons locally and out of state to get me ready for Arizona Ironman,” said Seepie. Over the past five months, Seepie has entered events such as Flagstaff’s Mountain Man Triathlon, the San Diego Marathon, open-water swim events, San Diego’s TriRock and the Red Rock Soma Half Ironman. She also competed in an open-water swim on November 5 and a half marathon on November 6.

“My goal is to finish at least 1 minute faster than I did two years ago in the 2009 Arizona Ironman. My time that year was 16:55:39. Small goals can be big accomplishments,” said Seepie, smiling. “I would like to thank my mom, who has been there to help with my children while I was out on long training days; that was a lot. She has been a great support to me. ‘Thank you, Mom.’ The benefit we receive for being a part of the Arizona Ironman event is the spirit of togetherness, encouragement and inspiration.”

Seepie would like to see someone younger or older who may want to participate in the Arizona Ironman, because it gives young and older Community members the encouragement to get moving, even if it is only walking. “Taking small steps can take you to bigger things. I know by experience. I used to huff and puff just to run 1 mile,” said Seepie.

“I have felt and seen the results with my type 2 diabetes, which is more under control, and I have also lost weight—not a significant amount, but enough to benefit from it. I would have never thought in my life that I would be doing triathlons. I remember seeing the World Champion Ironman on TV that takes place in Kona, Hawaii, but I never thought I would be doing triathlons.”

Triathlons have been addicting to Seepie since she participated in her first event.
“Personally, I have always been self-conscious and shy, but for some reason triathlons have helped me to believe in myself and that I am a strong person overall in mind and body,” said Seepie.

She would like to thank the Salt River Council for allowing the Arizona Ironman organization to use the roads in the Community for the bike route. Seepie commented on how inspiring it is to see all the athletes who come from all around the world going through our Community, up and down the Beeline Highway. She also said it is nice to see smiles and hear cheers of encouragement from Community members who come out to support Salt River participants, plus they also give encouragement to all the other participants.


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