The quest for personal ‘achievement of excellence’ is a self fulfilling journey which no one but yourself can gage. This ‘Personal Quest’ was evidenced by 3 amazing athletes and a few brave other triathletes and cyclists making the epic attempt.
Yesterday a gritty handful of triathletes signed up to compete; and complete, what is one of the most challenging Endurance Triathlon races in North America.
Project DM is an Extreme Triathlon IM distance charity race in Arizona created by Dirk Ross to be as challenging as the Norseman race!
He nailed it!
For the three finishers the answer to the challenge was thoughtful preparation, a test of time and overcoming the notorious psychological demons. The other racers had to make the unfortunate ‘safety’ call and stop short of realizing their dreams. Although thier mental spirit and determination was there, Mother Nature stepped in and they made ‘the call’.
The course overview is as follows:
The course is very scenic as it passes though the different climates zones in the vast state of Arizona. The race starts at Roosevelt Lake with an Elevation of 2100 ft. and after 17,000 ft of ascent over 155 miles, finishes at Humphrey’s Peak (the highest point in Arizona) at 12,633 ft.
Sounds pleasantly “doable”…..however what the real challenge is what time of year and where this takes place… end of June, in Arizona…. with record breaking temperatures the week prior to the start, PHX Intl Airport closed on 3 separate days that week and expected triple digit temps on race day!!
We witnessed such resilience and overall psychological grit to meet the unexpected weather, it was inspiring yet baffling to witness. The comeraderie of the athletes was beautiful to watch as they all knew they were attempting something having broader shoulders than imaginable, and potentially life threatening and defeating outcomes.
All athletes showed the determination of winners and had made some very very difficult, and safe decisions throughout the day. 3rd attempts at the course by a few, with dreams taken away by physical failure and Mother Nature.
However, they all showed what it takes to be an Ironman of EPIC proportions.
At the end of the day there were 3 who completed the 2.4 mile swim, 128 mile bike (10,000′ climbing), 22 mile run from Lake Mary to SnowBowl, and 4 mile hike to the summit of Mt. Humpreys, elev. 12,000+. Other than the obvious heat and wind, there was driving rain, thunder, and hail on the run.
Finishers- Simon Holzapfel 1st 15:14 (first attempt)
Allison Merlo 2nd 17:38( first attempt and first female finisher-ever!)
Alec Tripp 3rd 18:20 (2nd time)
We met; for the first time, one of the participating Project DM athletes; Allison Merlo, at a local bicycle shop a few evenings before the race. She shared with Team MOXi she would be using HydraMag® on the course and that this is going to be her first Ironman Distance type of race! She also commented that she wanted to be the first woman to finish this event. We were stoked and had to witness how she would do, so we loaded up the dogs and headed to Flagstaff.
After a 2.4 mile swim 4:19am start in the dark,,,and brutal winds, continuous climb and heat, she looked amazing after the 126mile bike! To top it off she had a sub 1:00 swim!
After providing some HydraMag® to the other athletes rolling in, we jumped in the RV and drove the course and found her with her support runners, climbing Mt Humphry’s about 5 miles before reaching Snow Bowl. She requested more HydraMag® and off she went. The rest is history.
We hope to get a chance to speak to Allison in the near future about her experience with a follow up blog to share.
Congratulations Allison on being the first woman to complete Project DM…. and we are confident this is not the last of EPIC SHIT you will accomplish! Allison Merlo……..”You are a Dirkman!”