A week has passed since the wildly-successful Ironman Boulder.
After reading race reports and front page news stories, viewing endless photos of happy finish line poses and nasty blisters, and reflecting upon the many moments that made up those 17 hours, we, at 303Tri, have these lasting impressions.
We were greatly inspired by the pro finishes, bringing underdogs to the forefront for both the men and women.
Male champion Justin Daerr announced during his awards banquet speech he had devoted this race to his dad, saying, “I need to be the athlete my father believes I am.” He also pointed out, “This was my 29th Ironman, and my first time finishing first.”
And female champion Danielle Kehoe reminded the audience that she arrived in T-1 after the swim to an empty bike rack, but for her sole remaining bike. She was able to turn around what could have been a damning mental blow at the start of the day. She said after the race, “If you ever feel like you’re last out of T-1 in your life, keep your head up.”
We also loved seeing Ironman Boulder race director Dave Christen sitting alongside former Boulder 5430 race series director Barry Siff on the dock at race start, tears streaming down their cheeks, realizing collective visions of a full iron distance triathlon in Boulder come to fruition.
Our favorite moments, the ones with staying power, resoundingly took place at the end of each leg: cheering in the final swimmers (and witnessing the care with which those who didn’t make it were treated by officials and volunteers), providing aid to final cyclists at mile 98 of the bike leg (including ice, water, shade, and EMT’s), and standing post at the finish line during the last two hours (so many tears, hugs, and medical tent visits…).
So much of the day was about the volunteers. With a more than 1-to-1 ratio of athletes to volunteers, each competitor felt truly cared for, from the pre-swim hugs through the finish chute high-fives, from the pros through the final finishers, and especially those who didn’t make the cutoffs.
Here’s a story: Local athlete and uber-volunteer Jen Szabo, who headed up the changing tents, not only brought a boatload of enthusiasm and capable organization to her role, but she did not leave her post until well after her shift was over.
In fact, she was determined to make sure every athlete who missed the swim cut-off was personally walked in and comforted.
She said that morning, “I know how it feels. I’ve been there. I want to be there for them. They should not feel alone right now.”
Jen went on to receive the Ironman “Captain of the Year” volunteer award. Very well deserved.
The bike course has been reported as “tough” among some of the finest athletes of the day. For those who were not prepared, undertrained, or struck with unexpected ailments, the final miles took their toll.We positioned what we thought would be a “cheering tent” around mile 98 – the last big climb before the famous “three sisters.”During planning, our crew believed riders might need a little encouragement along this long stretch between aid stations, in the heat of the day.
We did not anticipate how desperate some riders would be at that point. Amidst multiple runs to the store for yet more ice and water, we had athletes camped under our small square of shade, fighting to catch their breath and attempt to soldier on.
Some were locals, used to the altitude but having started out a bit too hard. Some were flatlanders, brought to their knees by the oxygen-hungry altitude, parched winds, and series of “false flats” that deceived the definition of “perceived exertion.”
Many of these racers were not competing for PR’s or impressive finishes.
The vast majority had greater purposes for turning out:
A soon-to-be father, intent upon improving his health and lifestyle before his son arrives in a month (reminded by the ultrasound attached to his handlebars);
A few DNF’s from previous races, intent upon making this their Ironman success story; a sister racing to raise funds for her brother, debilitated by chemo treatments.