Becky Piper: Xterra Nats qualifier, savagely attacked, comatose & paralyzed, and back to Xterra again – at local Lory race

By Sasha Underwood

Several years ago Becky Piper was attacked while living in Guam by would be armed robbers, severely beaten with a gun and left to die. Local naval doctors immediately evacuated her to San Diego for treatment. She is now partially paralyzed. Yesterday she completed Xterra Lory. What happened in between is remarkable and brought tears to my eyes watching her finish knowing all that she went through to even compete.  You can read about her account HERE.

Prior to the attack, Becky was an ultra-marathon runner. A friend of hers had mentioned the Xterra in Guam and essentially challenged her by saying because he was a guy he would be faster than her and would beat her time – which ignited a small fire in her. She trained and completed the 2013 Xterra Guam, finishing 2nd in her age group and qualified for the Xterra National Championships.  Oh, and her friend, did not even start because he didn’t train.

Shortly after that she was attacked.  When she finally emerged from her coma weeks later and barely started talking, she asked the doctors if she could resume racing. They explained that her paralysis may be permanent – to which she replied, “Ok, well that’s why there’s a Para Athlete division!” After spending some time with her I can only imagine her saying that in a matter-of-fact, upbeat, genuine way with that huge Becky smile of hers!

She is now paralyzed on her right side and uses a brace to walk. Within the past three years, she has become a USAT Coach with Team MPI, and she completed two sprint triathlons last year. Check out her accomplishments on her Facebook page!

When we met last year, I asked if she would be doing Xterra’s again. She explained that she would like to but wasn’t sure of which one would be suitable for her. I immediately thought of Xterra Lory – it’s such a great course for beginners and experts alike. A flowy bike course with a great climb of a run.

She signed up for Xterra Lory at the beginning of this year. I mentioned how I love that race but I can’t run anymore since my hip surgery in November, to which she replied, “then walk! I’m doing it!” Of course I signed up after that. Originally I was going to race the swim and bike portion and have my mom do the run.

Becky was nervous about the bike portion. She pre-rode the course a couple times and a few days before the race I asked her if she would feel more confident if I rode behind her on the bike course. She loved that idea so I planned to stay with her the entire race.

The Swim:

We put on our wetsuits to go do a quick practice swim. It was the first open water swim of the year for both of us – nothing like waiting until race day! Anna, Becky’s transition handler, and Sam, Becky’s husband, helped Becky into her wetsuit. The best part was watching them lift Becky up by either side and try to shake her into her wetsuit! I REALLY wish I had taken a picture of that!

The entrance to the lake was slick and muddy and several athletes slipped while entering. It was a good time to discuss a strategy for Anna to help Becky out of the water when she finished. The water was chilly and both Becky and I had a little cold water shock panic when we put our face in the water.  We were in wave seven so we had plenty of time to practice. By the second wave we were comfortable and I tried to stay slightly to her right and in front of her so she could follow me.

We finished faster than her projected time in under 30minutes!

The Bike:

Sam modified Becky’s bike so all of the shifters and brakes are on the left side. In addition, her bike is a full suspension, more of a down-hill, slack geometry and has a 27.5 wheel on the front with a 26 wheel on the back. Becky can’t stand up to get over obstacles or downhill sections so the wheels and geometry of the bike help put her in a better position to ride that type of terrain.

I had so much fun riding with her! Becky had named many sections of the bike course from pre-riding it. The first section she named ‘Bridges Galore’ (but later renamed it to ‘Why Will Becky’s Foot Not Stay On the Pedal’). Next came ‘Where Becky Endo’d’. Then ‘Holy Crap! Look At All the Uphill!’ And last but not least, ‘The Part I Only Saw Once Because the Other Time I got a Flat Tire.’

This girl would fall over, get back up, and do it again. Over, and over, and over again. I was so impressed with her tenacity and perseverance – all the while with a ginormous smile on her face. At one point she fell over, threw her arm up and with a grin from ear to ear said, “ta-dah!” I’m so glad I was there to help out when I could and put her foot back into her unruly pedal. By the end of the bike we pretty much had that down to a science.

Her family and friends were waiting for her at the bike finish cheering with excitement. Anna and Sam helped her transition, changing her biking brace to her running brace made with carbon fiber which is more comfortable and allows better mobility for hiking.

The Run:

I originally was going to do the run with Becky but I forgot my running shoes. Fortunately my mom, who was already planning to run, ran with her instead.  Becky described her run as an attempt to get over rocks. She fell a few times, ended up with a mysterious scrape down her entire length of her arm, and has a bruised and skinned knee… but she did it. She explained that my mom gasped the first time she fell but by the 5th time she was unphased. That’s just what happens. You fall, and then you just get back up.

Becky’s friends and family ran with her through the last 200 yards leading up to the finisher’s chute. I personally could not hold back the tears of joy, knowing what I know about Becky, knowing how meaningful it is to train and overcome obstacles and push through no matter the odds or what life throws at you… knowing what it feels like to cross the finish line of my first 5k, 10k, Marathon and Ironman… the feeling is the same and I couldn’t help the tears from flowing. Looking around there was not a dry eye among us.

Becky is incredibly motivating, inspiring and her up-beat, nothing-can-get-me-down attitude is infectious. I am honored to have raced with her and call her my friend. I look forward to watching her race the Boulder Half Ironman in August!

 

 

 

 

Mile High Endurance IRONMAN Boulder recap, pro interviews, and cycling safety, fatal auto & cyclist accidents

Mile High Endurance is your weekly connection to coaches, experts and pro athletes to help you reach your endurance and triathlon goals.  In this episode, Rich Soares offers an Ironman Boulder recap and 303Triathlon race day interviews including Rachel Joyce, Timothy O’Donnell, Mike Reilly and more.  Also, this week’s feature interview is with Todd Plymale-Mallory on cycling safety and how to avoid getting hit.  Check out the Cycling Magazine article This Has Got To Stop on fatal auto & cyclist accidents.

Tri Hearter: Reflections on IRONMAN Boulder’s Epic Nature

Warren Mine

By Bill Plock

About 20 minutes after the last person crossed the finish line at IRONMAN Boulder, it hit me. That feeling of wow, what a great day. The next day at the awards ceremony it bowled me over just what had happened. The epic nature and vibe of an IRONMAN comes down to thousands of moments, some inspiring, others mesmerizing and many simply beautiful that causes the ultimate appreciation and respect for the race and the athletes. At some point it just becomes overwhelming if you let it–in a good way.

I was walking with 73 year old Warren Mine of California (the oldest to complete IM Boulder in 2017) to help him retrieve his bike talking about his race (his 20th+ IRONMAN) when champion Tim O’Donnell walked by on his way to get his bike. I kind of shook my head in disbelief and reflected. What a crazy sport I thought. Here is one of the top athletes in the world, having just won the race, simply going to pick up his bike, limping a bit and commenting how his legs hurt–like everyone else’s. When LeBron finishes a game I’m guessing he doesn’t even pick up his basketball shoes. The mingling of pro’s and amateurs all aiming for the same goal, with the same vulnerabilities, the same dedication and similar dreams and hopes sets triathlon apart. It endears all of us triathletes. It builds bonds and communities and lasts a lifetime.

To spectate IRONMAN Boulder for the first time convinced me more than ever that through this endeavor lives are changed. Relationships begin, are cemented, and are celebrated by a common event experienced uniquely for everyone. I parked myself for over two hours photographing hundreds of Colorado athletes as they entered the run course from T2. The relief and smiles to be on the run leg permeated most, and their hopeful gaze for a good run was greeted by hundreds of cheering people lining Boulder Creek. Hours passed. I walked miles, taking more pictures, cheering and remembering my runs on this creek for the past three IRONMAN Boulders. All I could think about was the love and support I always felt and that was the only thing I missed about not racing. It’s addictive and appreciated. I thought how lucky all these people were to experience it–especially first timers. They will never forget it.

Champion Tim O’Donnell awards finisher medals during the magical midnight hour

Later that night, during the last hour of the race, I simply sat a few feet from finishers who were greeted by Tim O’Donnell and his wife and three time IRONMAN World Champion, Mirinda Carfrae. The unofficial triathlon king and queen of Boulder graciously medaled each of the final age groupers. Most gazed in disbelief or were too dazed and confused to grasp the significance–but once they understood who was putting their arms around them, the smiles beamed.

To witness the tears, the joy, the pain, the end, and really the beginning of a new journey for so many sticks in my mind. Tears came to my eyes many times.

But no race is complete without recognizing those who win and rise above. Those who persevere the most, overcome amazing challenges and earn one of the toughest and most coveted entries in all of sport–a chance to compete in Kona. A spot reserved for the top 2%. The dreams of the athletes, their families and coaches hang in the balance of getting a spot.

It’s not as clear cut as you might think. Going into the awards all that is known is that 40 spots are awarded. They are then divided among all age groups proportional to how many people raced in the age group.

Some age groups have one entry, others as many as three of four. But not every athlete chooses to go or some have an entry from

EK Endurance Sports, Vixxen Racing & BTC Elite Coach Eric Kenney

an earlier race so their spot rolls down. Each time an athlete’s name is called and there is no response, some athlete hoping and waiting erupts in emotion–some show it more than others and it is wonderful to witness (you must be present to claim a spot). The tension can be thick.

Coach Eric Kenney and his athlete Liz West

In the female 30 to 34 age group, local athlete, Team Vixxen Racing member, Elizabeth West, was third in her age group with two spots up for grabs. She is coached by Eric Kenney of EK Endurance. I knew how anxious Eric was, hoping to see her dream come true. If you know Eric, you know he wears his heart on his sleeve.

As Mike Reilly began to announce that age group I was nervous. My personal connection and empathy for Liz and knowing how close she has been in past years and remembering how I felt missing a spot by one place two years ago, put a lump in my throat in anticipation. Mike called the first name. Silence. He called it again. More silence.

Tears swelled in my eyes and I gazed not at Liz, but at Eric a few feet away, standing alone to the side. He crumpled to a knee and couldn’t fight the tears. That moment will last a lifetime. Liz hugged many and tears came to her as well and her mom sat crying; it was simply beautiful.

Ironman Boulder is over, dreams are cast and inspiring stories will be told for a long long time.

303Radio Interviews IRONMAN Boulder top pro finishers O’Donnell, Chrabot, Joyce, Jackson

IRONMAN Boulder 2017 Pro Champions Rachel Joyce and Tim O’Donnell

Rich Soares of Mile High Endurance now commands 303Radio, and he hit the finish chute to interview Sunday’s top pro champions – take a listen to the fresh-off-the-course thoughts!

IRONMAN Boulder pro results; two top-10 men DQ’d

Two top male pros missed the run turnaround today, causing devastating disqualifications.

Justin Daerr told 303Triathlon, “Thank you for the support and the kind words.”

An excerpt from the recap he shared with his followers:

During the race, I came within 30-50 meters of the actual turnaround, but I misunderstood the way the run course had been marked, as did the biker accompanying me. The actual turnaround was just above a rise on the path so I could not see it as I turned around prematurely. I’ve since learned that another pro made the same mistake. (Read the full entry)

Top five professional men’s results:

                                                      SWIM            BIKE             RUN              FINISH

  1. Tim O’Donnell                  USA        00:49:20 04:24:25         02:53:55         08:13:30
  2. Matt Chrabot                    USA        00:50:25 04:30:33         03:07:42         08:34:36
  3. Patrick McKeon                USA        00:57:08 04:35:15         03:03:40         08:42:24
  4. Jarrod Shoemaker            HUN        00:50:18 04:50:25         02:59:21         08:45:38
  5. Jozsef Major                       USA        01:03:20 04:31:10         03:10:57         08:51:35

 

Top five professional women’s results:

                                                                  SWIM            BIKE             RUN              FINISH

  1. Rachel Joyce                   GBR        00:54:59 04:56:09         03:16:01         09:13:32
  2. Heather Jackson               USA        00:59:51 04:49:06         03:26:09         09:20:42
  3. Danielle Mack                   USA        01:04:46 05:11:02         03:20:24         09:42:16
  4. Kelly Williamson               USA        00:54:56 05:26:15         03:16:35         09:44:08
  5. Uli Bromme                      USA        01:04:49 05:05:30         03:34:45         09:52:32

303Radio Interviews with IRONMAN Boulder Staff & Officials

Rich Soares of Mile High Endurance interviews IRONMAN Boulder Staff & Officials- Featuring Dave Christen & Mike Reilly-

Enjoy your listen!

303Radio Interviews with IRONMAN Boulder Fans

Rich Soares of Mile High Endurance joins the 303 Team, taking over 303Radio on 303Triathlon with a burst of interviews from IRONMAN Boulder…

Here, a few installments from the “Fans & Spectators” Category-

Enjoy your listen!

IRONMAN Boulder interviews pro athletes; predictions for tomorrow’s race, PLUS tips & tricks

Local Boulder Pro Triathletes are happy to be racing in their “back yard,” offer tips for predicted heat… “I live right on the course…” “I know every inch of the road…” “Here, I’ve done intervals up Nelson, practiced going down St. Vrain…”

PLUS, IRONMAN asked athletes for their best “tips & tricks” for tomorrow’s race:

Daily Camera: Ironman Boulder modifies course following 2016 cyclist fatality, but won’t reveal changes

A “ghost bike” memorial is seen Wednesday evening with flowers and photos of Michelle Walters in the area where she was killed last August while riding on U.S. 36 north of Boulder during the 2016 Ironman Boulder. (Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer)

From the Daily Camera

Ironman Boulder has modified the course that a cyclist was killed on following a collision with a vehicle last year, but organizers won’t say what changes were made or whether they were implemented specifically because of the athlete’s death.

This year’s Ironman triathlon takes place Sunday.

“We do make course alterations nearly every year with all of our races to improve the athlete and spectator experience,” the triathlon’s national office said in an emailed statement. “In line with that model, the bike course for Ironman Boulder was modified from last year.”

The 2017 Ironman Boulder Bike Course

Ironman officials did not respond to multiple questions about what changes were made to the stretch of the course on U.S. 36 just to the north of Broadway in unincorporated Boulder County where 34-year-old Michelle Walters was killed during last August’s race.

The Colorado State Patrol stated following an investigation into the crash that Walters was killed after she veered out of a designated cycling lane on northbound U.S. 36, collided with a northbound pickup truck, fell down and was struck by the truck.

The truck’s driver was not ticketed or charged with any crime.

Last year, the cycling lane on U.S. 36 was “heavily coned,” a state patrol official said at the time, and vehicle traffic was realigned away from the cycling lane that had been set up on the shoulder of the highway.

This year’s 112-mile-long cycling course remains in place where Walters was struck, according to a map of the course.

Read the full story