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.

Teen from Baltimore with cerebral palsy finishes Ironman Boulder, pushed and pulled by “wingman” David Slomkowski

From the Denver Post

Assisted by “wingman” David Slomkowski, James Banks receives his medal at the finish of the Ironman Boulder Sunday night. Banks, 18, has cerebral palsy. Slomkowski pulled and pushed Banks for more than 140 miles.

Banks “a hero for the rest of his life,” Slomkowski says.

BOULDER — As a steady stream of exhausted athletes crossed the finish line of the Ironman Boulder, the volume of cheers rose Sunday at 10:30 p.m. to welcome James Banks and David Slomkowski to the end of their long ordeal.

The duo from Baltimore had begun 15 hours and 45 minutes earlier. Banks, whom Slomkowski pulled and pushed for more than 140 miles, smiled broadly after a finish-area volunteer hung the Ironman medal from his neck. Banks, 18, has cerebral palsy and scoliosis.

“Booyah!” a group of friends shouted, knowing that is Banks’ favorite word for expressing happiness.

Read the full article

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

Ironman Boulder 2017 road closures

From the Daily Camera

The Ironman Boulder returns Sunday, as the race brings along with it a series of road closures and traffic advisories from organizers.

They include:

• Bike course is all in Boulder County — three loops until the final leg to Boulder High School. Jay Road will be closed except for local residents. U.S. 36 will be heavily used and should be avoided. Any travelers to Estes Park /Lyons are encouraged to take Hwy. 119 to Colo. 66 Neva/Niwot Road, 63rd Street, St. Vrain, Nelson Road and 75th Street will all be part of the course. Those areas should be avoided or expect delays.

• The final stretch into Boulder High School includes the athletes taking the Four Mile Creek Path, which is closed to everyone except Ironman participants. Athletes will then use 26th Street, Iris Avenue, 19th Street to Pearl Street, 19th Street, Walnut Street, 18th Street, Canyon Boulevard to 17th Street; finishing at Boulder High School.

• Roads around Boulder High School and the finish line that will be closed are 13th Street from Friday night to Monday morning. 14th Street and Arapahoe Avenue starting 2 a.m. Sunday. Arapahoe will be closed from Broadway to 19th Street.