I’m standing in the Times Convention Center, New York City … positioned directly in front of the courtesy wine bar… waiting for the Premier viewing of NBC’s Ironman World Championship 2016 Broadcast to start. The event is jam packed with Ironman legends … world class pro athletes and age groupers….. then there is me.

I came to rub elbows with the elites in my sport… and of course to drain the wine bar dry which turned out to be a pretty nice plan for a Monday night. One of the VIP’s is Dave dave-orlowskiOrlowski, a Marine Corps Buddy of mine from Quantico Va. Dave is a legacy legend in the world of Ironman triathlon as he was the third place finisher in the 1st Hawaii Ironman back in 1978. Dave gets lots of love and photo requests from triathletes who appreciate what those crazy bastards did back in 78’ which lead to the epic event we all enjoy so much. My partner in crime for tonight is Jill Loveland a fellow triathlete Dave and I met at Ironman Lake Placid… our role is to support Dave… hold his wine, jacket, bag and mind the trophy….basically to be the boy and girl Friday’s… while his fans chit-chat and selfie him up…

I have never been one to worship VIP’s …I don’t know why but I just never have. I respect the hell out of some …to the point of admiring their ability and accomplishments but hero worship is just not me. So why am I here?… besides the wine and the premier? To be honest, I am curious, I wanted to meet the VIP’s and see for myself what all the fuss is about….. Oh.. I had a special request to get some Heather Jackson swag for a buddy back at work… as a pro that came through the mountain bike ranks she holds a special place with the bikers in my shop…. So let me start there…

Heather Jackson and Wattie Watkins…. New Hampshire native… from Exeter NH… 3rd wattie2place finisher this year at Kona and the only US female to podium. Looks like a Rock Star… Tattoo’s…Bleached white hair ..Smart…friendly, warm, honest and approachable.   I spent some time talking with her husband Sean “Wattie” Watkins…who strange as it might seem had the same role as Jill and I…taking care of our VIP. Wattie also runs the business Wattie Ink which is their line of punk style athletic gear… really cool stuff made in California… if you want to see some of their gear …the link is…https://www.wattieink.com/ Wattie is a real easy going guy …very down to earth, proud and very supportive of Heather. Cool guy to hang with overall.

Mirinda “Rinny” Carfrae and Tim “T.O.” O’Donnell….. This is another husband and mirinda-and-towife team for those of you that are not aware of Triathlon. As the story goes they met, dated and married while competing in Ironman events. Tim races for Team Red White and Blue (RWB) a national Veterans support race-team …I race with RWB also so by extension we are teammates…kinda…. Tim is a really funny, super great guy and you get the sense he is grounded. Rinny looks and acts like a champion… anyone who spends a second with her can sense the confidence and the killer spirit beneath. She and Tim make an all-star team and had the crowd laughing…

Mark Allen… is a six-time Ironman Triathlon World Champion, Kona legend now turned markallencoach…he coaches Tim O’Donnell. Mark appeared very low energy…could be from jet lag or east coast / west coast energy thing… I could not get a read on him…but he seemed pleasant overall.

 

Turia Pitt – On the inspirational side Turia Pitt engaged the crowd with her story and her turiahumor and engaging personality. In 2011, Turia was caught in a grass fire and suffered burns to 65% of her body Surviving against overwhelming odds she went on to surpass all expectations one of which is to become an Ironman.
Jeff and Johnny AGAR – Another inspiration story was about Team AGAR… Jeff’s son teamagarJohnny was born premature and has lived his entire life with cerebral palsy. Similar to Dick Hoyt… Jeff pulls Johnny in a boat during the swim and in a chariot during the bike and a chair for the run. Johnny’s goal is to stand up out of his chair and use a walker to make his way to the finish line for the final mile of the marathon, all in 17 hours.
After many glasses of wine and some serious schmoozing…the crowd moved into the Times Theater for the viewing  of NBC’s production of the 2016 Ironman World Championships.  I watched it live back in October via webcast on my computer which has let’s say …less than desirable broadcast quality, but this production is top quality….  The narrative brings you into the lush landscape. The Islands lore and the Ironman’s mystique capture your imagination and then it happens…Queue..tears, laughter, more tears now rolling down your face…tissues and the many, many more tears of joy…. your soul is nourished and your heart is full from the magic of the human spirit…. The VIP’s are part of the narrative but it is more their spirit and drive that permeates this place than their personalities… Then it becomes clear to me why people come to VIP Premiers… It’s that common bond or feeling you can share with a champion… you understand their effort, passion and vision… Granted it may be at different levels but we share it…it is not the sole province of the Pro’s…  When Mike Reilly (Ironman’s announcer) calls out that immortal phrase “You Are An Ironman” as you cross that finish line…. it is that moment we cease being boy or girl Friday’s…and become VIP’s…

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