'Bike angel' flies cross-country to reunite with new friend
Tiffany Hall waits anxiously for her new friend. She doesn't wait too long to greet Annette Snedaker at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. It's been two weeks since the women have seen each other.
"I told my husband, 'I don't know if I'll know who she is,'" Snedaker said.
The women first met in Snedaker's hometown of Orlando, Florida in an encounter that lasted only about five minutes.
"It was basically as quickly as we could change shoes and exchange numbers," Hall said.
The Alaskan traveled to central Florida in October to compete in her first Ironman triathlon; swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running 26.2 miles.
"I was like, 'I never want to train for one of these again,' so it's not like next year could be better, this was it," Hall said.
Snedaker competed in a shorter, sprint version of the race. When she came upon a fork in the road during the bike portion, she chose the wrong path.
Bad for her, but good for Hall, who had her own problems on the course.
"My pedal came off," Hall recalled about the race. "I couldn't believe it. In fact, I didn't believe it for awhile. I kept thinking I could shove it back on, kept trying to ride."
But no go.
"I was incredibly upset," Hall said.
Enter Snedaker to the rescue.
"Tiffany rolls off the course, I didn't know who she was. She was upset and crying on the side of the road," Snedaker said. "Her and I are the exact same size, and in probably that moment of understanding how distressed she was not being able to finish her race, I offered her my bike to her, my racing bike, which is worth several thousands of dollars."
In a blog post Snedaker wrote about the race, she recalled taking down a phone number with a race official's pen and sending Hall off, saying, "Listen, my race is done. Now go finish yours."
Hall couldn't have been more grateful.
"After I initially accepted, I thought, 'You're not going to get this bicycle back for nine hours. I have a long way to go! Are you sure about this?'" she said.
In the blog post, Snedaker wrote:
"I'll never forget how at one point during that afternoon, her father texted me that she had severe cramps and still a lap to go on the bike (40 miles!). I immediately began praying that my bike take her through those miles, that her legs be strong and her heart be full. I prayed she would rest, but not quit. I was praying for a stranger. Yet, over this shared passion of triathlons, I felt like I knew how badly she wanted to finish. She and my bike were in the middle of a journey I someday hope to take. And her, on my bike, took me out of my own sadness."
Hall finished the race and came home to Anchorage, which is where she was when the story about the generosity of a stranger took off on social media.
Hall's friends told her she had to bring Snedaker to Alaska. Thanks to some frequent flier miles, she did.
The two are reunited and Snedaker says she would do it all over again.
"It bonds people, doing something tough," she said. "I just feel like I know her, even though I don't."
But Snedaker doesn't to have worry. She has all weekend to get to know her new friend.
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