A handful of enrolled members as well as employees of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community participated in the 2015 Ford Ironman Triathlon. 10 individuals participate in the competition which included one Community member to participate in the full triathlon and nine in relay teams.
The Native athletes took part in either the 2.4-mile swim, 112 mile bike ride or a 26.2-mile full marathon. A few members from the relay teams gave us a taste of their experience being a part of the all-day event which lasts way into the evening. Vanessa Ozoran, Wayne Sekaquaptewa, Cliff Lopez, Melissa Rave, Felicia Sekaquaptewa, Ernesto Lopez, Shashani Marcus, Gary Bohnee and Andrea Noline all took part in the relay teams for the Community as well as one Community member Tamar Gonzales who was the sponsored participant to compete in the whole triathlon.
“Earlier this year I was honored to be asked and happily volunteered to a part of one of the Salt River relay teams,” said Gary Bohnee who is the Special Assistant in the Congressional & Legislative Affairs. “I love to ride my bike and I thought a relatively flat 112 mile bike ride with a few thousand other maniacs (yes, we are all crazy) would be a nice day of exercise, little did I know with lots of travel for work, less than ideal training preparation and a whole day of rain on race day it turned out to be quite the event. Needless to say after finishing cold and wet I was glad I did not have to run a marathon. However, as it is often said if something is not hard it is probably not worth doing and our team, Rez 1, did a great job and I was happy to be a part of another IMAZ!.”
Swimmer Melissa Rave competed for the second time in the Salt River Community Ironman Arizona Relay, “I have enjoyed it very much I trained for only about two months total due to health setbacks along the way but I was happy to finish in 2 hours and 15 mins,” said Rave.
On the weather and event Rave said the water was very cold and the entire distance was a challenge physically but more mentally challenging. “Training for the swim portion physically consisted of weight training balanced with long swims in the nearby lakes for endurance,” she said. “As with many activities and sports it can be difficult to balance home life, work and workouts but I love the opportunity to participate in something such as Ironman Arizona because our Community is afforded great opportunities at many turns and it would be a waste if community members didn’t take the opportunities and do something great. I am really proud of all those that participated in Ironman Arizona this year as it takes everything you have in you to finish.”
Another relay participant Community member Clifford Lopez participated in the marathon portion on the triathlon, “Running in this year’s Ironman triathlon was an awesome experience,” said Lopez. “26.2 miles was no joke, but that’s where the training comes in along with all of the support of family, friends, other athletes and even the spectators, strangers! People I’ve never even met, out there in the cold and rainy weather cheering giving us that positive energy to motivate all of us out there doing work.”
“I’m not a full Ironman yet,” said Lopez. “Next year I plan on doing the swimming portion of the relay and bike the year after. Then in 2018 my goal is to complete in the entire triathlon. Then I will be able to call myself an ‘Ironman.’ I want to encourage all of the people in the Community to get active and healthy it’s never too late to put your body and mind to work and don’t ever let anyone tell you “you can’t.”
Back in 2011 Lopez got into a motorcycle accident and broke his ankle. “The doctors told me I would never be able to run more than three miles at the most, and well 26.2 miles proved them wrong… And I’ll do it again.”
Community member Tamar Gonzales trained for six months leading up to Arizona Ironman, “This was my first time participating the whole race I’ve been on the Salt River Relay team the past three years as the relay runner and this was my first time doing it by myself which was exciting,” said Gonzales.
She expressed how the training was intense having to swim, bike and run. “Unfortunately I wasn’t able to complete the race, I finished the swim and was able to make it to the first bike loop but was unable to advance onto the rest of the race due to getting sick from inhaling water on the swim from a mishap with my swimming cap in the Tempe Town Lake, I was disappointed not being able to complete the race it has always been a personal goal of mine to become an Ironman finisher but I look at this disappointment as an opportunity for me to continue to train and chase after my goal next year.”
On chasing a goal “There’s never a limit to chasing after your goals in life,” insisted Gonzales. “Each mile on the race course was an amazing experience to be side by side with so many great athletes of all ages. I’m truly thankful to the Community and AZ Ironman committee for the sponsorship and allowing me to participle. Special thanks to my Lord and Savior for blessing me with this opportunity, Michelle and Rach from the Salt River Fitness Center, Judy Stower from AZ Ironman Committee, Tribe Sports, Salt River Triathletes Groups and to my friends and family for all their support throughout my training.”