Nearly 1,200 endurance athletes tackled the grueling 140.6-mile course at Boulder’s sixth annual Ironman on Sunday, with athletes and fans alike treated to cooler temperatures.
Families and fans massed in downtown Boulder to cheer on the competitors, 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.
“It’s so uplifting to be here,” said Boulder’s Jennifer Wirth as she watched from the 13th Street finish line. “It’s so epic what they’re doing. I’m trying to do my best to support them. I’m never going to do what they’re doing, but maybe I can find my version of it, my inner iron woman.”
This year’s race may have been the last opportunity for spectators to watch a full Ironman in Boulder. Organizers sent an email Friday saying they would no longer run the full course here, though Boulder will still be home to the shorter Ironman 70.3. That race is set for Aug. 19.
Sunday, fans crowded around the finish line, dancing to music, listening to race commentary and tracking the athletes on a big screen as the pro winners started through the final stretch. The race ends at midnight.
Matt Hanson was the first to cross the finish line, with a time of seven hours, 57 minutes and three seconds, a a course record.
On the women’s side, Lauren Brandon won with a time of nine hours, nine minutes and nine seconds, also a course record.
“It’s pretty impressive,” said Longmont’s Souhail Kandil. “It’s people pushing boundaries to do something most people can’t.”
Littleton’s Tricia Steinhoff ran the Boulder Ironman last year and brought her daughter to watch this year.
“We wanted to be part of the crowd and enjoy the atmosphere,” she said. “It’s very inspiring. You can prove to yourself that you can do anything if you put your mind to it and don’t quit.”
Along with hanging out at the finish line, fans also camped out along Boulder Creek, yelling encouragement, ringing cowbells and waving signs that included “Smile if you’re not wearing underwear.”
Olivia Kalmanson drove up from Denver to cheer for a former triathlon teammate when they were at Boston University, holding a sign with a “Game of Thrones” reference.
“It’s super fun when you see someone you know and are so proud,” she said, noting an Ironman is on her bucket list.
Summer Widhalm, of Omaha, Nebraska, was there supporting her husband, Steve Widhalm, who recently turned 50 and was running his first Ironman. She said he trained about 20 hours a week, on top of a full-time job and coaching his kids’ basketball teams.
“He doesn’t sit around, ever,” she said, adding that the event sets a good example for their children, Jackson, 10, and Juniper, 8. “You see people of all different ages and body types doing this. They’re learning about supporting and encouraging other people.
Jackson and Juniper gave high fives and yelled, “go, go, go, you can do it,” at every runner passing by as they waited for an opportunity to cheer on their dad.
“It’s fun because we get to see our dad beat a ton of people in his age group,” Jackson said.
Incoming University of Colorado Boulder sophomore Natalie Hyde ran a triathlon Sunday morning in Colorado Springs, then watched the Ironman with her mom in the afternoon.
“It’s such a community event in Boulder,” she said. “It’s motivating.”