Valley pediatrician to take part in weekend ironman competition in Tempe

TEMPE, Ariz. (KSAZ) -- It's a competition that brings some of the best athletes in the world.

Ironman Arizona is a grueling 140mi (~225.31km) journey that consists of a marathon, bike ride, and a swim, and a pediatrician at the Phoenix Children's Hospital is taking part, for the first time.

Gary Kirkilas is a doctor by day, but at night, he is in training to become an official ironman.

"It actually began as a dare in college," said Dr. Kirkilas, recounting how he got into triathlons. "A friend of mine said, 'hey, there's a triathlon coming. Do it.' I had you're crazy, we're not tri-athletes, why would I ever want to do that?"

Fast forward 10 years later, Dr. Kirkilas is no ordinary doctor either, having traded the traditional brick and mortar doctor's office for one with four wheels.

"To be able to wake up everyday, to drive an RV, a medical RV, to go to different shelters, to provide care to people who otherwise wouldn't be able to get them, it's like a dream come true for me," said Dr. Kirkilas.

Dr. Kirkilas specializes in treating homeless children through the Crews'n Healthmobile outreach program at Phoenix Children's Hospital. He drives a 40-foot (~12.2m) medical RV to shelters, and provides free medical care for them.

"We have the ability to get blood pressure, take temperatures," said Dr. Kirkilas, who has heard stories of physical abuse, even sexual abuse of children, as well as drug use of parents.

"You hear that eight hours a day," said Dr. Kirkilas. "As a doctor, you got a keep on going. You can't stop. You can't break down and cry because these kids do have medical issues that need to be addressed."

Instead, Dr. Kirkilas uses his triathlon training as a way of therapy, training for at least an hour a day.

"I kind of have that time for myself. It's very rejuvenating for the mind and spirit," said Dr. Kirkilas.

As for Ironman Arizona, Dr. Kirkilas said he is ready.

"I did a couple test runs these past couple weeks, and I feel very healthy," said Dr. Kirkilas. "It's been the first time that I've felt this way."

Ironman Arizona is set to take place on Sunday. As for the outreach program Dr. Kirkilas takes part in, the Crews'n Healthmobile program, it provides a lot of free health services for children in need, relying mostly on donations to keep the trucks moving.

Crews'n Healthmobile