TEMPE, Ariz. -- Folks lined up along, over and around Tempe Town Lake Sunday morning ready to cheer on the most elite athletes.
Sherrie Mauzy came in from Tampa, Fla. She was one of nearly 3,000 athletes who jumped into the lake to kick off the first leg of Ironman Arizona -- a 2.4-mile swim in 60-plus-degree waters.
Thirty-nine countries were represented in this year's grueling triathlon.
It wasn't long before the competitors were done with the swim and off to what some say is the toughest part of the race -- a 112-mile bike ride.
The average athlete takes six months to train for an event like this.
"If you think about it, our athletes have a full-time job, they have family obligations and kids to take care of, in addition to that they're training on average 10 to 20 hours per week and finally culminating in about a 20-hour training week at the end of their training season," said Dave Deschenes with the Ironman Foundation.
The athletes range in age from 18 to 80 years old.
For a few athletes, something happened in the lake and they never got to their bikes. But for the rest, they have 17 hours to finish the swim, the bike ride and the last leg, which is running 26 miles -- a full marathon -- making these tough guys and gals truly inspirational as they aim to complete the Ironman competition.
The top 50 go on to the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.
Spain's Victor Del Corral won the men's division, his second Ironman win in two weeks. It took him just over eight hours to finish.
Julia Gajer, of Germany, won for the women. She beat out America's own Meredith Kessler by only three minutes.