Watching athletes push their physical limits to cross the finish line Sunday in the Boulder Ironman made Christin Crosby wish she was on the course instead of cheering them on.
But Crosby, who lives in Denver and competed in the Boulder Ironman last year, said she still enjoyed the spectator experience.
"It's fun to see the fans rally around and see the joy of people who've worked so hard," she said. "It's a sport you can get up close and personal with as a spectator. You get to watch people accomplish their dreams."
A mass of families and fans cheered on the athletes, who started with a 2.4-mile swim at Boulder Reservoir. The swim was followed by a 112-mile bike ride through Boulder County and a 26.2-mile run along the Boulder Creek Path.
Fans camped out along the shady creek, yelling encouragement, ringing cowbells and waving signs that included "Why do all the cute ones run away?" and "Getting to the starting line is the hard part. You've got this."
Patrick Ray, who founded Rocky Mountain Multisport in Fort Collins and donned a chicken hat for the Ironman, was part of a big group of friends from the area whose main job was "drinking beer and yelling."
"I love being out here," he said. "I love seeing people meet their goals. We yell at everybody, not just our friends. It's communal."
A big group from Thornton wore matching shirts to show support. But unlike the typical shirts donned by spectators to support a competitor, these shirts referenced triathlete John Capra's son.
John Capra's wife, Patsy Capra, said he was training to run this Ironman when their son, Zachary Capra, died in April in an accident at a flight school in Florida. The 25-year-old was a U.S. Navy veteran learning to be a pilot.
"He's running in our son's memory," Patsy Capra said. "We're here to support him. Cheering him on is a big part of him finishing."
Boulder's Sarah Lems wasn't cheering for any particular person, instead saying she knows a bunch of athletes and wanted to support them all. Her daughter, a triathlete at Colorado State University, also biked to Boulder with friends from Fort Collins to check out the Ironman.
"It's just inspirational to be out here," Lems said. "It's such an amazing event."
Along with those clustered along the creek path, other fans crowded around the finish line at Arapahoe Avenue and 13th Street. The race ends at midnight.
Broomfield's Tessa Triolo camped out at the finish line to cheer for her friend, women's pro Erin Green from Boise, Idaho.
"I admire all my friends who can do this," she said, adding she's a runner who prefers shorter distances than an Ironman. "It's a lot of fun to watch, and I know it helps to have someone cheer for you."
Longmont's Chris Leiferman was the first to cross the finish line on Sunday, with a time of eight hours, seven minutes and 55 seconds.
On the women's side, Canadian Kirsty Jahn won with a time of nine hours, 16 minutes, 12 seconds.