Chris Leiferman Wins IM Florida, Coloradans Hanson and Long 2nd and 3rd

By Bill Plock

Leiferman in the lead, photo: Kenny Withrow

Colorado was well represented at IRONMAN Florida on Saturday. As the world was learning who our next President was going to be, quite a race in Panama City was unfolding. In the end, it was close, but Boulder’s Chris Leiferman out dueled Matt Hanson (who recently moved to Castle Rock) and Sam Long.

Leiferman, photo: Kenny Withrow

Long led about 2/3 of the way through but fell back and Leiferman came off the bike in the lead a minute ahead of Germany’s Andreas Dietz and six minutes ahead of Long and 10 minutes in front of Hanson.

Leiferman then led the rest of the race but both Hanson and Long significantly closed the gap on the run. Hanson cut nearly 8 minutes into the lead with Long just 29 seconds behind Hanson.

Said Leiferman, “yeah, they were catching up to me, but I’m glad it wasn’t a run race and I had the swim and bike to keep the lead. I have had the worse run build up this year, so knowing where I can go for future races.”

Leiferman finished in 7:52:44, Hanson in 7:55:02 and Long came in third with a 7:55:33. Long became the youngest American to ever finish under eight hours in an IRONMAN.

“It’s an amazing feeling to win any ironman, and it’s a bit more special to win this race after so many months of no racing. I know a few IM’s kicked off early in the year, but the gap in between had kept people hungry for race spectating and I feel that this one was a solid race for anyone to do well at,” said Leiferman.

When asked the key to his win, Leiferman said, “The key was coming out with the right group in the swim and a solid bike. I may have over biked a bit and that’s why my run was the way it was, but I can’t complain since I was able to hold on for the win. Also, the run aid stations were every 2 miles apart, so I had to really focus on taking care of myself on the run and if that meant walking through each aid station (which I did) then that’s what it took to not completely fall apart.”

Matt Hanson on his way to 2nd and a 2:41 marathon

Sam Long, on Facebook wrote; “Ouch. That hurt. But honestly the race I’m the most proud of ever. I had a massive “hiccup” the last 12 miles of the bike and hemorrhaged time to the leaders. Bonked as well as having some issues with tightness from the flats all day–even had to get off the bike and stretch. Literally limped into transition and thought there was no way I could run and told myself I had to start. Then went deep! And ended up running 2:45 and going 7:55! It was such a battle at the end and that’s what dreams are made out of. Good for 3rd.”

Sam Long, photo cred: Kenny Withrow

303’s Kenny Withrow was there taking pictures and had this to say, “it was an exciting race to watch as Sam made up a lot of time nearly catching Matt and Chris at the end. It was fun to see Colorado triathletes finish in the top three!” Even though the weather conditions were very favorable, Kenny added, “The aid stations were further apart than usual and not as well equipped with the proper “needs/hydration” (on the run) So it made fueling more difficult for the athletes.”

Matt Hanson, photo: Kenny Withrow

A few days before the race 303Endurance interviewed Chris and listen here to learn his thoughts before the race and his thoughts on the upcoming race in Daytona. Podcast link HERE

Need some inspiration? Here’s a feel-good story to warm your heart.

Chris Nikic can swim, bike, and run just like the rest of us, but he is one unique guy. This past Saturday he became the first athlete with Down Syndrome to complete a 70.3 race. So awesome!!! Now he has the goal of finishing IRONMAN Florida later this year.


How 20-year-old Chris Nikic is breaking down barriers

From USA Triathlon
By Emily Randolph

To watch Chris Nikic compete in a triathlon is a heartwarming and encouraging experience. 

The 20-year-old with Down syndrome loves the swim and enjoys the final sprint to the finish line and into his parent’s arms. 

But his favorite part? His ritual? 

Well, that’s all the hugs he stops to give spectators, fellow race participants and his family. There’s no stopping him in it — he sneaks in as many hugs as he can get.

“I like to be around people and encourage them,” Chris said.

He just loves people, and it makes him feel good to go and give them a big hug. It’s the natural thing for him to do, and he loves the reaction people give him – how much they enjoy it.

Chris is just an all-around happy guy. He laughs at everything, even his coach yelling at him, and his joy is contagious. 

“It’s hard to yell at him when he is laughing and having so much fun,” his father, Nik Nikic, said. “He brings sunshine to a room.”

Triathlon has allowed Chris, a Florida native, to be a part of a group and display his competitiveness. He’s no longer isolated. He’s a triathlete and he wants to beat his friends, just like the rest of us. 

After seeing Chris at races, people have rallied around his inspiration because they have a friend or family member with Down syndrome. He is now part of the triathlon community, and has inspired more people like him to start.

“You can do things you never thought possible,” said Chris, who wants to show fellow Down syndrome community members they can do triathlon, too.

Chris has completed six sprint triathlons and one Olympic-distance race. The Challenge Daytona was his favorite.

He started competing in triathlons when he was 16, but lost two years due to ear surgeries, and when he came back to the sport a year ago, he was barely able to swim a lap in a pool, could barely run 100 yards, and had a hard time riding his bike. 

“He’s gone from barely being able to do anything,” Nikic said, “to running an Olympic-distance triathlon.”

His goal now? To complete an IRONMAN. 

Chris is using triathlon and IRONMAN training as a path to independent living. The sport is a vehicle to challenge him to learn to be the best he can be. Multisport, in its nature, helps Chris with learning and keeps him from getting bored. It is believed Chris would be the first athlete with Down syndrome to complete an IRONMAN. 

Read the full original post here

From Mexico to Florida, Coloradans Shine–Record set in Mexico, 633:41:39 to finish!

Off the beaten mainstream path of traditional triathlons, Boulder’s Laura Knoblach set a world record at the Todo Triatlon (sp), in Leon, Mexico. In this Double Deca Continuous race, competitors complete a 48-mile swim, 2,240-mile bike, and a 524-mile run. Basically they do 20 full-distance IRONMAN races in 28 days. It took Laura 633:41:39 to finish.

In a more familiar scene, Boulder’s Mirinda “Rinny” Carfrae and Olympia von Berg placed first and fourth respectively at the Los Cabos IRONMAN 70.3 on Sunday.

At IRONMAN Florida, Colorado native Ben Hoffman took second with a blistering 7:48:29 only three weeks after taking fourth at the IRONMAN World Championships in Kona. Rounding out the pro field is Boulder’s Justin Metzler(6th), Tyler Butterfield (7th), Tripp Hipple (11th) and Colin Laughery (23rd)

Here is a video of Laura’s finish.

More of Laura’s story can be found here: