Iain Campbell

Colorado athletes heading to Kona!

Name: Iain Campbell

1. What are you most excited about in competing in Kona?

Excited to be at my third World Championships and ready to race (my first in 2015 I had a calf strain going in, my second in 2017 I had crashed my bike 8 weeks before coming down lefthand canyon and had the trifecter fracture of collar bone, radius and wrist – I was able to race but was not at my best !) This year ready and excited to race!

2. What is your favorite career IRONMAN memory so far?

Got to be IM Arizona in 2016, I was coming off a crash that fractured my skull and left me with a TBI but the build for this race was perfect and was my first time under 10 hours and a AG 1st place and slot for Kona 2017 

3. Is this your first time competing in Kona and if no how many other times have you done so?

No, two times previously.

4. If someone were watching that is new to the sport, what would you tell them is the coolest thing about being a triathlete and competing in this venue?

The venue is spectacular, it is hard but you are racing with the best athletes in the World and if it was easy it wouldnā€™t challenge us.

5. What do you think is the hardest thing about doing an IRONMAN?

For me pacing and nutrition and the variability that race day conditions bring.

Conrad Rodas

Colorado athletes heading to Kona!

Name: Conrad Rodas

1. What are you most excited about in competing in Kona?

Competing against the best in the world at the most iconic stage. It’s the culmination of all the training and sacrifices to just get to the starting line.

2. What is your favorite career IRONMAN memory so far?

Hearing my name being called at the slot allocation in Mar Del Plata last year was just amazing after so many ups and downs before and during the race.

3. Is this your first time competing in Kona and if no how many other times have you done so?

First time.

4. If someone were watching that is new to the sport, what would you tell them is the coolest thing about being a triathlete and competing in this venue?

This will be my first experience at Kona, I’ll be able to answer this on Sunday.

5. What do you think is the hardest thing about doing an IRONMAN?

Commitment. Anyone can complete an Ironman, as long as you are willing to put the time to train. It doesn’t require as much time as most people think either, it’s all about being consistent and crossing that finish line is very achievable.

Brian Andzejewicz

Colorado athletes heading to Kona!

Name: Brian Andzejewicz

1. What are you most excited about in competing in Kona?

Taking in the whole vibe and racing this legendary course against the world’s best triathletes.

2. What is your favorite career IRONMAN memory so far?

That’s a tough one. Each one is special for it’s own reason. Crossing my first IM finish line at IM Lake Tahoe in 2013 is something I’ll never forget. Going sub-10 at IM Cozumel in 2017 was when I thought I might actually have a shot at Kona. But my favorite memory is asking my wife after finishing IM Maryland last year what place I was at in my AG. She said 4th and I knew I pulled off the race of my life and qualifying. It still didn’t seem real when Mike Reilly called my name during rolldown and I got my coin and lei.

3. Is this your first time competing in Kona and if no how many other times have you done so?

First time!

4. If someone were watching that is new to the sport, what would you tell them is the coolest thing about being a triathlete and competing in this venue?

I think the coolest thing about being a triathlete is you really find out a lot about yourself – what you’re capable of accomplishing if you have the belief and desire. For me, it was far more than I thought when I started getting interested in the sport. I remember the moment I read about 140.6 miles and couldn’t conceive how someone could complete that event in one day. But it’s a pretty rad feeling to commit to something you don’t know if you’re capable of doing and succeeding. And then saying, “Wow, I just did that. What else am I capable of?”

As far as competing at this venue…This is the most coveted start line in endurance sports. I saw Mike Reilly speak at Colorado Multisport a couple of years ago and he said there’s something spiritual about the island and this race. Being my first time here, I’m just looking forward to soaking in the experience – taking a step back before getting in the water on Saturday and take in the moment, the crowd, the energy…and slapping as many hands-on Ali’i Drive as I possibly can as I finish.

5. What do you think is the hardest thing about doing an IRONMAN?

Believing you can finish one.

Sasa Jovic

Colorado athletes heading to Kona!

Name: Sasa Jovic

1. What are you most excited about in competing in Kona?

Well, it is Kona.  After over 10 years of watching it on TV, we’ll be there.  It freaks me out so much, my heart rate went up just typing this.

2. What is your favorite career IRONMAN memory so far?

It was in 2014 in Klagenfurt.  I had a really hard/painful run and Aundrea (she was in the race as well, we did them all together) met me on the out and back part and we kissed.  So people around went: Aaaah.  And the official came over to tell us (everyone speaks English in Europe) that we cannot use proscribed performance enhancement substances; he was just messing with us.  He laughed, we laughed, everyone around laughed.  But my pain went away (she also gave me 2 Advils), and I RAN the second lap, and did my first close-to-13-hours race (13:14:18).

3. Is this your first time competing in Kona and if no how many other times have you done so?

First, we are both Legacy participants.  That, most likely, means the last one.  That is why I am so freaked out.

4. If someone were watching that is new to the sport, what would you tell them is the coolest thing about being a triathlete and competing in this venue?

When I started triathlons, in 2008, I would not even dare to talk to people who were Ironman; I just stared at them in awe from respectful distance.  But I badly wanted to be one.  Then, I effed up my first one, and did a bunch since to smooth over that wrinkle.  Then came Kona.  The whole decade went by, but it feels like just a couple of years.  So: Everything is possible.  Si se puede, in Cozumel.  Even for absolutely non-A types like myself.  Also, I am about 10 pounds (plus) lighter than any of my friends of similar age.  As my friend’s wife said: “Triathlons are the most constructive, meaningful and rewarding mid-life crisis.”

5. What do you think is the hardest thing about doing an IRONMAN?

Having your head straight for that long (13, 14, 15 hours for me).  Reacting to some crisis (that will inevitably happen) on the go.  Remembering that smiling during the race is more important than some effing brick workout from weeks ago.

Gwen Steves

Colorado athletes heading to Kona!

Name: Gwen Steves

1. What are you most excited about in competing in Kona?

This will be my first year racing in Kona. I am most excited about swimming in the ocean as I have never done so before.

2. What is your favorite career IRONMAN memory so far?

My favorite of course is my Kona qualifying race in Boulder 2019.

3. Is this your first time competing in Kona and if no how many other times have you done so?

First time šŸ„°

4. If someone were watching that is new to the sport, what would you tell them is the coolest thing about being a triathlete and competing in this venue?

The coolest thing about being a triathlete and competing in IronMan races is you always learn something from your race, something to improve on with the next one

5. What do you think is the hardest thing about doing an IRONMAN?

Learning how to hold back. Early excitement in the race leads to struggling finishes. 

Brett Kessler

Colorado athletes heading to Kona!

Name: Brett Kessler

1. What are you most excited about in competing in Kona?

This year is a “bonus” for me.  Last year,  I had the opportunity of a lifetime to do this race through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training through a charity slot.  It was one of the best days of my life as I checked off a lifelong dream to cross the finish line in Kona.

It was a “one and done” for me (or so I thought).  I’m not fast enough to qualify.  I don’t see myself being fast enough to qualify anytime soon (if ever).

I signed up to do the Honu 70.3 in June to keep the triathlon racing going.

In March, I got a weird alert from Google that linked my name to a “Honu to Kona” lottery.  I clicked on the link and it went to a page that was under construction.

Whoa, what if I was chosen to do Kona again?

I obsessively clicked on the link all night long.  I spoke to some of my friends that were planning to do Honu with me to see if they received any notifications similar to mine.  No one had received anything like that.

I found out that there was, in fact, a Honu to Kona lottery and the names were chosen.Ā  However, Facebook went down that day and Ironman was waiting until all social media outlets were working to announce the winners.

That was also the day that the infamous “bomb cyclone” snowstorm happened.Ā  I was supposed to travel to Chicago for a business meeting.Ā  My flight was canceled and I attended the business meeting via Skype.

And then I received the announcement.

At Kona last year, Mike Reilly was on break when I crossed the finish line. I didn’t get his, “Brett Kessler, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN” but I didn’t care because I crossed the finish line.

On this cold, snowy morning in March, he announced the winners of the lottery.  My name was the first one called.

I went nuts! I started yelling and screaming, “I’m going back!  I’m going back!”

The conference call that I was on immediately disconnected me as I was a distraction to those on the other side of the connection.

I was in a total state of shock. Can I do it again? Can I do the training required again?

Or the most important question, Should I do it again? It took a lot if time away from my family and work.  I received my wife’s blessing.  I made it a point to show up to as much family time as possible.

And most important, my wife and had an Italy trip planned and I can’t interfere with OUR “trip of a lifetime”!  (I am writing this from Italy).

So with the blessings in place,  I decided to go for it!

2. What is your favorite career IRONMAN memory so far?

I have two:

Last year, my wife asked a bunch of friends and family to write letters to motivate me.  She shared the packet with several dozen letters with me 3 days before the race. It was so moving to me that it brought me to tears.

Last year crossing the finish line, I was welcomed in by family and friends.  This is an individual sport, but for me, it took a village!  To celebrate my finish in that was was a gift,  I will not forget.

3. Is this your first time competing in Kona and if no how many other times have you done so?

This is my second time.

4. If someone were watching that is new to the sport, what would you tell them is the coolest thing about being a triathlete and competing in this venue?

I am humbled to be able to compete at this venue again as an average athlete.  I feel like the luckiest person on the planet.   I am a totally average athlete.  In the Ironman world, the saying, “Anything is Possible” is not a cliche.  It is a reality.  With a solid training plan, dedication to the process and support from my family and friends has afforded me the opportunity to toe the starting line for one more go.

5. What do you think is the hardest thing about doing an IRONMAN?

The training is the hardest part but also the funnest part.  So many mornings, the alarm went off at 4:45 my brain and my soul would start to argue – sleep in or get up and train?  Most of the time, my soul won.

The goal is to cross the finish line.  I am most proud of who I have become in pursuit of this goal.  I have embraced everything it takes to do the Ironman and incorporated it into my life.  With dedication, discipline, humility and gratitude I have proven to myself that I can accomplish anything in my life.

Nicki Leo

Colorado athletes heading to Kona!

Name: Nicki Leo

1. What are you most excited about in competing in Kona?

I am most excited to experience the legend course, to personally feel the heat, humidity, and winds that are so infamous.  I am also excited to see in person, at one time, many of my heroes in the sport.  Triathlon is genuinely one of the only sports in the world where you get to compete on the same field of play as the professionals…and do that with all of them is going to be amazing.  I am truly excited about just being able to have this opportunity.

2. What is your favorite career Ironman so far?

That is a hard one…Louisville 2018 where I qualified will probably always be special because I realized a dream come true.  However, my first Ironman–Arizona in 2011–will probably always be my favorite because my love for the sport was all so pure then– a lesson in ignorance is bliss. The celebratory feeling that I could actually do something like a full Ironman…there is always that doubt…and then you cross that finish line and you cannot believe it…the feeling is so indescribable unless you’ve done it.  It is also the only time I ever felt that way…after finishing the first, knowing you could do it, the others after that were amazing but I knew I could finish because I had before.

3. Is this your first time competing in Kona?

Yes.  I have always wanted to qualify and came close a couple of times however, in 2018 after my first DNF (ever) in Ironman Boulder–which was supposed to be my 11th IM–I did IM Canada (which turned out to be #11). Destroyed about the DNF at Boulder, I registered for Louisville (12) to get onto the Legacy list.  Well…I finished second (missing first by 6 seconds) and qualified!

4. If someone were new to the sport, what would I tell them is the best thing about being a triathlete and competing at this venue?

For sure, triathlon has saved me in so many ways…it has given me something to live for and something to always work towards.  It has given me the feeling few will ever experience in their lifetime–that feeling of wanting so badly to stop and yet, feeling the most alive I ever feel.  It has given me direction when I have been lost–depression, eating disorders, cancer.  It has given me determination and grit to endure–pain, injuries (which all have come as result of getting hit by cars…multiple times).  It has given me a family and friends that I would not otherwise have in CO since I moved here not knowing anyone.  It has given me perspective that I’m human–changing and adapting everyday is required to lead a balanced life.  The venue itself will cause you to doubt yourself, to face failure, to determine what your priorities in life are, and it will make you feel more alive than anything else in this world if you dare take yourself there.

5. What do I think is the hardest part of Ironman?

The time it takes.  The energy it takes at times.  The fear you have to overcome to test yourself.  And to do it for YOU.  That first one is always about YOU…then you “drink the kool aid” and for some reason, it changes.  I have a love/hate relationship with Ironman because of this.  I think the family and culture it creates can be amazing but I have also seen it destroy people.  It can be so intimidating so I think the hardest thing is not to lose yourself and don’t lose sight of what Ironman is in your life…that is, it is a hobby/sport you enjoy and unless you are a pro, it does not define you.

James O’Sullivan

Name: James O’Sullivan

1. What are you most excited about in competing in Kona?

The atmosphere, the run in the energy lab and down Ali’i, the poke and acai bowls, the infamous climb to Hawi, the swim out to the coffee boat…to name a few.  Most importantly sharing this whole experience with my fiancĆ© as she has been my biggest supporter and a huge contributor in getting me to Kona.

2. What is your favorite career IRONMAN memory so far?

I would have to say winning my age group at the last Ironman Boulder this year.  I was able to share the experience with my long time coach as well as my now fiancĆ©.  It is something that I will cherish forever.

3. Is this your first time competing in Kona and if no how many other times have you done so?

Yes.  This is my first time racing on the big Island.  I have had the pleasure of spectating in 2015 and again in 2017.

4. If someone were watching that is new to the sport, what would you tell them is the coolest thing about being a triathlete and competing in this venue?

The triathlon community is the coolest thing about being a triathlete.  Everyone is super supportive and friendly.  Even when competing, you will get “Good Job” or “Keep it going” from other athletes out on the course.  Having never competed in Kona I can only imagine that the crowds would be the best part of the venue.  Feeding off them as I run down Ali’i will most likely be something I will never forget.

5. What do you think is the hardest thing about doing an IRONMAN?

I feel the hardest thing about Ironman racing is the commitment and consistency in training.  It really is like a part-time job that you are paying to do.  Working a 40 an hour week and adding in 15-25 hours of training on top of that, it takes a ton of commitment in order to not only finish an Ironman but getting to Kona.  Committing to and trusting the process will go a long way in an Ironman career.

Paul Dauber

1. What are you most excited about in competing in Kona?

This is my 5th time in Kona.  I have one memorable and regrettable DNF that always motivates me.  Everything about Kona is special.  It is the world series of triathlon.  Chance to be on the same course with the best of the best.  Incredible environment.  Special history.  Great people.  It is a privilege to be out there and so I always savor every moment.

2. What is your favorite career IRONMAN memory so far?

In the “old days,” you were allowed to cross the finish line with your kids.  In the inaugural Ironman Louisville in 2007, I carried one of my daughters (Chloe) across the line while holding hands with the other daughter (Rosie).  We were all laughing and happy.

3. Is this your first time competing in Kona and if no how many other times have you done so?

4-timer going on 5.

4. If someone were watching that is new to the sport, what would you tell them is the coolest thing about being a triathlete and competing in this venue?

It’s everything you did when you were a kid, but more fun as an adult…..what else was there to do….swim a little, bike to and from and then run around with your friends.

5. What do you think is the hardest thing about doing an IRONMAN?

Late-stage training is always the hardest thing.Ā  And then on the course, not giving in to the demons that inevitably come.

Jeannete Sƶrensen Hickok

1. What are you most excited about in competing in Kona?

I started racing Ironman in 2011. I have chased my dream to qualify for Kona for over 10 years and it finally happened. Iā€™m excited to just be there to breathe in the atmosphere, and compete with the best in the world.

2. What is your favorite career IRONMAN memory so far?

My 10th Ironman for sure. I had worked so hard with mental mindfulness that I was going to win my age group. I came out of swim almost last, not sure what I did,
but I was 18 min slower than I normally do an Ironman swim. I was so angry at myself, but I quickly changed my mood and reminded myself that anything can happen in an Ironman.
The race was not over. I biked in my time and got 1st place on the bike. it wasnā€™t until around mile 9 I was told by friends I was first, but that has happened before on my ironman races.
They all catch up with me and pass me. But this time I kept telling myself, I was number 1, and no one was going to take it from me.

When I was a mile away I could relax, although, I kept looking over my shoulder, I knew I had won and was going to KONA!!
What an incredible feeling, I will never forget!! šŸŒŗ

3. Is this your first time competing in Kona and if no how many other times have you done so?

Oh Yes, first time!!!!

4. If someone were watching that is new to the sport, what would you tell them is the coolest thing about being a triathlete and competing in this venue?

I would tell them triathlon becomes a lifestyle. Age doesnā€™t matter. Triathlon is not only about racing, itā€™s the journey and the camaraderie you find within the triathlon community.  Your confidence will grow and you start to look for more to challenge yourself. The ability to achieve something bigger than you could ever dream to accomplish is powerful. There is no limits.

5. What do you think is the hardest thing about doing an IRONMAN?

Commitment, never give up!!  Family support (although, I never had a problem, but I know many that do)  Positive Mindset; “Believe in yourself.”