Sports & Recreation

Bronson Velarde one of the cyclists of the Salt River Triathletes rides down Beeline Highway during his 112 mile ride in the Ironman Arizona.

Photos by Kasey Kauakahi

Salt River Triathletes Participate in the Ford Ironman Arizona

By Richie Corrales
Au-Authm Action News

On Sunday morning, November 17, brave men and women from all over the United States, Arizona and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community participated in the Ford Ironman Arizona event. The popular ultra distance triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim in Tempe Town Lake, a 112-mile bike ride from the lake through the Community, and a full marathon race (26.2 miles) around the Tempe Town Lake area.

The Community always shows its support by having a tent at one of the blocked driveways alongside Beeline Highway to watch the competitors on the bicycle leg ride by multiple times. Many hope to get a glimpse of popular athletes and participants from the Community’s Salt River Triathletes running club. Entrants either complete the entire triathlon individually, or they enter as part of a relay team, participating in one leg.

One of those joining a relay team was Gary Bohnee, the SRPMIC special assistant for legislative affairs. “First, I want to thank the Salt River Triathletes for the opportunity to participate on a relay team,” said Bohnee. “I was really excited to take part in the Ironman event. Cycling is the strongest of the three events for me. I was looking forward to 112-mile course.”

Not having to do the swim or run, Bohnee was able to concentrate on just going as fast as he could on the bike for 112 miles.

“Yes, it sounds crazy to want to ride a bike for 112 miles, as fast as you can, without stopping; but with good training and plenty of miles under your belt, it is rather manageable,” said Bohnee.

Having completed the Tempe Ironman last year in 13 hours, with a bike time of 6 hours, 10 minutes, Bohnee wanted to see how much improvement he made during the last year. He also has started to ramp up his overall training to be ready to compete in the Ironman New Zealand in March 2014.

“On race day, it was exciting to see the competitors jump into Tempe Town Lake to start the 2.4-mile swim and wish my teammate Wayne Sekaquaptewa well,” said Bohnee.

Waiting just over one hour for Sekaquaptewa to finish the swim, Bohnee was a little nervous about making sure he had all his food in order, was properly warmed up and was mentally ready to go.

“When I got on the bike and out on the course, I had to make sure I settled into a tempo that I could sustain for over five hours, make sure I ate and drank enough to keep my energy up, watch for any debris on the road, and stay out of any crashes,” said Bohnee. “Mission accomplished. I think all the spectators along the route cheering on the cyclists, not to mention the Salt River tent on the Beeline Highway, provided a lot of energy to keep the pedals turning.”
According to Bohnee’s cycling computer, he averaged 21.4 mph for 112 miles and finished in approximately 5 hours, 15 minutes.

“At the finish I was glad to be done and hand off the timing to chip to my teammate Felicia [Sekaquaptewa] to do the run,” said Bohnee.

Community member Tamar Gonzales participated on another relay team, as the marathon runner, which is the last leg in the Ironman triathlon. Her teammates were Trent Taylor (swim) and Bronson Velarde (bike).

“It was a blessing being able to take part in the 2013 Ironman event,” Gonzales said. “I had 10 weeks to train, and it was a challenge finding time to train in between two jobs, but I was determined to find time.”

On the day of the race, Gonzales said she was an emotional mess. “I was excited, scared and nervous. I didn’t know if my training was enough to carry me across the finish line, but I relied on my trust and faith in the Lord and believed he’d give me the physical and mental strength I needed to cross the finish line.”
She described the event as a once-in-a-lifetime experience being surrounded by so many determined athletes and witnessing their strength.

“Crossing the finish line was an emotional experience—to know [that] with the Lord, I was able to do it. Seeing my mom and friends waiting for me, cheering me on, made me cry,” said Gonzales.

She said she was thankful to be part of a great team with Taylor and Velarde. “I’m so proud of their accomplishments and the time and dedication they put into training,” Gonzales said. “It was exciting getting to watch them out on the course, and I enjoyed being part of a team with such talented athletes.”

Gonzales would like to thank the SRPMIC, Ford Ironman, the Salt River Fitness Center, her two teammates, Rachel Seepie, Michelle Long, her family and friends, the Salt River Assembly of God church and the Lord.

Caroline Sekaquatewa was really excited to be a part of the female relay team with Amber Manuelito and Michelle Roan this year. Never having participated in the Arizona Ironman event before, she was excited to get out and run the marathon portion of the race.

“I have been doing events all year, and I ran the Salt River half marathon at the end of October,” said Sekaquatewa. “My run was challenging; I was hurting from the fourth mile. It was my slowest marathon, but I enjoyed being out there. I talked to people, enjoyed the crowds, and enjoyed the energy that the Ironman races seem to bring. It hurt, but it was fun. I was grateful to finish.”

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