IronMan arizona

“Abby Kokolski, you. are. an IronMan.”

“Kelly Kokolski, you. are. an IronMan.”

at just after 7:00pm on sunday november 21st, after months and months of intense training, these are the words that were heard over the speakers at tempe beach park in tempe, arizona. yup, it is true. my sister and brother-in-law are amazing. they are elite athletes and amazing competitors. what they accomplished is incredible.

and no, there wasn’t a dry eye amongst us!

an IronMan consists of a swim, bike, and run done in that order, one after another. the difference between a triathlon and and ironman is the distance of the events.

swim- 3.8 km
bike- 180 km
run- 42 km (that is a marathon!)

for my birthday in september my parents bought drew, bree, and i a trip down to scottsdale so that we could cheer abby and kelly on. second best birthday present ever (f.y.i. my first best present was my engagement ring!!). we had a fantastic holiday (more pics of that to come!) but the highlight was most definitely the IronMan. i tried my best to capture the event and tell the story of the day. easier said than done, let me tell you! i was super jealous of the official race day photographers- riding on the backs of motorcycles right on the course, laying on their stomachs on the course, front and center at the finish line. so cool. i did my best though and am thrilled with the results.

other fans from edmonton who came down to cheer abby and kelly on were my parents, colin and susan (of course), my aunt and uncle valerie and bob, and kelly’s parents, garry and bernie. it was so fun to hang out with everyone throughout the day and all share the excitement together!

here we go… enjoy.

Abby and Kelly arrived at the race location at around 5:00am!!! my dad drove them and then drove back to the hotel to pick us up so we could sleep-in (ya right!) a little. we arrive at about 6:30am and quickly scored a space on the bridge looking at all the competitors as they entered into the water. below is the scene we saw. you can see the over 2000 racers and all of their bikes and gear in the background. it was a site to see.

during this time there was wicked “pump-you-up” music being played over the speakers and the crowd was getting really into it!!

after standing around for only about 5 or so minutes we spotted abby and kelly amongst the racers. it was so cool to see them and they spotted us too. they were making their way to the waters edge to jump in!

ahhhh, and they are off. at exactly 7:00am the race started. there were two bridges… look at all the spectators on the other bridge. our bridge was just as packed and down along the canal were hundreds more fans and supporters.

once we saw the swim start we went to go secure a spot along the beginning of the course to see them right after they transitioned. we knew we had over an hour so drew and bob went to get everyone hot drinks. it took SO long so drew wasn’t too impressed (that and being up at 5:00am. drew hasn’t been awake and alert that early since who knows when!). don’t get me wrong… he was thrilled to be at the event to cheer them on just not so thrilled about waiting for an hour for coffee!!!

ahhhh!!!!! there she is. we spot her because of her blue arm-bands (and that is my mom’s arm in the way! everyone had cameras out to capture their friends and family)!!

i love this shot. this is about 8:30am i think.

yay! and there is kelly. he is easy to spot because of his super awesome orange shades.

go 222 :-)

ok, so now we are off to secure a location on the actual bike course where we will be able to see them 3 times. this ironman route is supposed to be the most spectator friendly because they do loops so we can see them a number of different times. the bike course is three, 60km loops. we find a great spot, lay out our blankets, and hunker down.

we are SO SO SO excited when we spot kelly so we all jump out onto the road to scream and yell and cheer for him.

a while later there is ab! she looks to be in high spirits as she is waving at us!

after we see them for the first time we decide to head out for lunch. it was so cool. everywhere you went there were ironman fans. we ate quickly, bree had an outfit change and then were back to the race. after seeing them again on the bike we make our move to find a great location to watch them start the run.

bree is very interested in the race. she is her aunt and uncle’s #1 fan!

we were all amazed at how well bree handled being outside from 6:30am-9:00pm. she was our little IronBaby!!!

after moving around a couple times we found the perfect spot and here comes abby. unfortunately, i missed kelly the first loop of his run (i was waiting for abby to finish the bike but ended up missing her too). there abby goes waving again and looking super fabulous to have just finished a 180 km bike ride. this was about mile 6.

yay! i spot kelly on his second loop. those glasses are not hard to miss. doesn’t it looks like running is totally effortless to him!

and there is miss abby again on the second loop. she is still smiling!!!

now it is getting dark and us spectators are mighty hungry and cold (but feel like we can’t complain cause we have only been *watching* the event!) so we head to a nearby restaurant to grab a bite for supper and time it so when we are done we will see their last loop and then head to the finish line.

well, it doesn’t go exactly as planned and this is the last shot i get of abby or kelly at the race. after our supper we head right to the finish line where it was really raining and i couldn’t risk having my camera out :-(

i really wish i could have captured images from the finish line and of their amazing finishes. it was truly magical. i am linking to two awesome youtube videos done by other spectators at the event. if you have a couple minutes you should really watch them to get the full picture of the event.  click here and here! so motivational and moving.

i love hearing abby and kelly talk about their experience and share my experience as a spectator with anyone who asks. in case you are interested i asked them both what the best and worst parts of the actual race were…

Abby- Bib #2082- time 12:12:19

Best part? I can’t narrow it down to one. Seeing Kelly at various points throughout the race—during the swim, four times on the bike, and once on the run. Having so many people there to cheer us on; it gave me extra gusto each time I saw our family. High-fiving countless people while running through the finishing chute. Racing ‘with’ Chrissie Wellington and being a part of the race where she broke her own world record.

Hardest part? Definitely the bike and especially the third and final loop. The winds coming back towards Tempe were insane (40mph gusts.) At one point, they actually almost knocked me off my bike. I unclicked my shoe last minute and had to wait for a good three minutes until the wind died down a bit.

Kelly- bib #222- time 12:26.14

Best part? two things come to mind. Treading water in the lake before the race started—the energy from Mike Reilly, the commentator; the other athletes; and the spectators; and the music was incredible. Getting off the bike was also a great feeling. I knew that whatever happened I would finish.

Hardest  part? Not being able to eat during the run. I just couldn’t force myself to take in proper fuel because everything made me feel sick.

Here they are right after they finished and my mom caught up to them (photo credit :: susan kerr :: my mom)

thank you mom and dad for allowing us to be there to watch abby and kelly accomplish something so amazing. abby and kelly, you two are an inspiration!!

and yes, i have been m.i.a. from my blog!! definitely not m.i.a. from my business though. i have been SO busy. every month i say things are going to slow down and every month i feel the same amount of busy. as soon as i think i am getting through my business to-do list 90 more things get added. lol. i pinky swear promise though i am going to do my best to not neglect the blog. i have SO many session to blog and share and more shoots coming up. check back soon!!

  • December 4, 2010 - 12:04 am

    mom susan - carla your photos and blog are amazing. it was great having you guys there with us and capturing all these great moments. abby & kelly are unbelievable athletes! ooops … i am misty again. you are an ‘ironphotographer’ and should be soooo proud of your accomplishments within such a short time!

  • December 4, 2010 - 11:06 am

    Melissa Vasilcin - Wow! I can’t believe anyone can do that much activity for over 12 hours! My lungs hurt just thinking about it! You said it – they are ELITE atheletes! Great shots, what an awesome treat to have this little documentary! Way to go Abby and Kelly!! (and Bree – what a little trooper ;) )

  • December 4, 2010 - 5:00 pm

    Jerilyn - ABBY AND KELLY! Congrats on this huge achievement. I am so impressed with their dedication to train and accomplish their goal. Terrific Job and unforgettable shots Carla.

  • December 5, 2010 - 3:29 pm

    Abby - Car- the photos are incredible, and we were so happy for you guys to share our experience. You captured amazing photos for us to remember this day.

  • December 5, 2010 - 10:43 pm

    Amanda - WOW! I am so proud of Abby and Kelly. Thanks for sharing the pictures and memories, Carla! The PR girls were sending all our love to those two from Edmonton!

  • December 6, 2010 - 12:37 am

    Erin Pote - Carla, I had goosebumps reading this posts and looking at your incredible pictures! WOW. What an amazing accomplishment! And how lucky are they to have the best sis in the world to take pics for them? GREAT job!

  • December 6, 2010 - 7:54 am

    Natalie - OMG, just amazing! The pics are great Car, you must be so proud of your sister and Kelly. FYI: Abby has incredible legs…so jealous :)

  • December 6, 2010 - 6:44 pm

    jenn - wow, single tear forsure!
    this is AMAZING. congrats to the greay abby & kelly. such an unreal accomplishment.
    awesome pictures you captured too carla

  • December 6, 2010 - 7:20 pm

    anne - once again, can’t get through these pics without tearing up! what is wrong with me?!!! congratulations to abby and kelly–you are to be commended for your dedication to helping each other to train for this unbelievable adventure! your family (and extended family too) are SO PROUD OF YOU!—carla, your pictures are absolutely the best and i know how proud you and drew and miss breezy are of abby and kelly and it was great that you had a nice vacation on top of it all!!

  • December 7, 2010 - 9:52 am

    Donna - Wow Carla, great shots as usual. I had tears for sure reading all of this – congratulations to your sister & brother-in-law. What an inspiration for everyone in the family & all of us actually. What a wonderfully talented family that “Little Bree” is in…….it will be exciting to see what she is going to become one day!! :-)

  • December 12, 2010 - 1:25 pm

    Lyn Cram - The pictures of Lindsay capture the essence of who she is and what she is all about – a very beautiful human being! Have yet to meet Bob but it’s looking like they are a great couple. Looking forward to December 31 – they will surely reduce us all to tears. Lyn

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