Two triathletes from Cayman completed the gruelling Ironman Boulder last week and can feel mightily proud for conquering such a tough course.
Dale Avery and Jeff Jakubiak entered the second staging of the annual event in Boulder, Colorado and finished in respectable times on Aug 2.
An Ironman consists of a swim of 2.4 miles, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile marathon run.
Avery recorded a personal best for Ironman of 13 hours, 13 minutes. Jakubiak, aged 49, finished in a remarkable time of 10:41. He hopes that this time will qualify him for next year’s world championships in Kona, Hawaii in the 50-plus category.
Jakubiak’s time placed him 18th in his age group, which is exceptional, and considering many who finished ahead of him wore a wetsuit means he was actually a lot closer to qualifying.
Competitors who opt for a wetsuit in a non-wetsuit legal race can’t receive awards or Kona slots.
He is doing Ironman Louisville in October along with Patrick Loughnane. It will be Loughnane’s first Ironman and another chance for Jakubiak to gain a qualifying spot.
Avery, Jakubiak and Loughnane train together, and became part of the Flashy Nation crew when founder Kendall Ebanks started joining them for their long Sunday rides.
“We support Flashy Nation events and do some swim and bike training together,” said Avery.
“We enjoy the enthusiasm of the Flashy group and the fact that they are committed to promoting a healthy lifestyle in Cayman.”
Avery said that Colorado had been on his must-visit list for a long time. “It didn’t take much convincing from Jeff to get me to sign up,” he said, although Avery had only completed a half Ironman, the Eagleman, in Maryland, a couple of months earlier.
Jakubiak convinced him that he would still be fit from the event in Maryland. But when Avery was on the run leg in Maryland, he was already regretting signing up for Boulder and wondered how much of a refund he would get if he pulled out. Avery had also completed an Ironman in his homeland of South Africa in April.
“Doing Eagleman in June was a good test but I got sick afterwards and it took about three weeks off my training,” Avery said. “I only managed two 100-mile rides and very little running. This didn’t do much for my confidence going in.”
The game plan was to spend a few days in Breckenridge, a couple of hours drive from Boulder, with Jakubiak to acclimate and get in some last minute training sessions.
Dealing with the altitude was a challenge for both and by the third day Avery was struggling, completely exhausted on a 20-mile bike ride and hanging on to the side of the pool for dear life after Jakubiak “conned him” and a friend into doing swim intervals.
“The ride training was great as we had an endless bike path to train on,” said Avery. “In between gulps of thin air, I took in some of the amazing scenery.”
As the water temperature was 78 Fahrenheit, it was not a wetsuit-legal swim. This meant entrants could wear a wetsuit, but they had to start at the back and were not in contention for age group awards.
“We opted to swim without the wetsuit in case Jeff did well enough to earn a Kona spot,” Avery said.
They had a strategy to take turns pulling (swimming behind each other) in the water to make it easier. It was a great strategy when they practiced it in the lake, but it failed miserably when 2,500 other swimmers were added to the mix.
“We lost each other instantly,” said Avery.
Luckily, he spotted Jakubiak halfway through the swim when they were both floundering in some clear space.
“We helped each other along until a swarm of wetsuiters crashed into us,” he said. Jakubiak trailed them but Avery was too tired and fell behind.
“My calves and feet took turns cramping up and in hindsight I should have suited up,” Avery said. “So I cruised the last half a mile, taking in some of the scenery and chilling before the long ride ahead.”
The bike course was three loops. The first 90 miles went relatively well for Avery, mainly because it had a lot of long slow climbs and long fast descents. There were no serious climbs and very little flat riding.
But the last 20 miles was torturous as the wind picked up and so did the gradient. “It felt like it would never end,” Avery said.
At least he had a scenic view.
“By the time I began the descent into town I started feeling very nauseous,” said the 35-year-old tennis instructor at the Tennis Club in South Sound. “The same as I did while training in Breckenridge, but worse. Headache, stomach cramps and dizziness. My feet were on fire and my butt hurt.”
He was really suffering.
Avery parked the bike and made the trek to the transition tent. He wasn’t thinking clearly and couldn’t quite figure out how to dress himself.
“I started packing my bike clothes into my bag before I took my run gear out. I was a mess. So I sat there and contemplated life before getting my act together and heading out for a little delirious jog.”
The first 5km was misery. “My heart was beating out of my chest and just finishing seemed like mission impossible,” he said.
The first 10k took 90 minutes and it took a lot of willpower not to go and nap under a tree with some of his fellow struggling athletes.
“Seeing Jeff powering in the other direction was encouraging and I latched on to a group of guys dressed in distinctive green running in honor of one of the members’ brother, who was killed in Afghanistan,” Avery said. “The crowd loved these guys and it was uplifting running with them.”
At about mile 10, Avery met up with Bob, a hometown hero who had cheated death on his road to becoming an Ironman.
“Bob suffered a heart attack during a training run. After open heart surgery and three days in a coma, he came back to life and continued his quest of becoming an Ironman. Truly inspiring.”
They pulled each other along, picking up the pace and skipping the last few aid stations on the way to the finish line.
Finishing was a huge relief for Avery, who was happy to end the pain.
“The crowd support the whole day was incredible, like nothing I have ever experienced,” he said.
“Often, on the run, the cheering numbed the pain in my legs and pushed me along. In some places I felt like a rider in the Tour de France on the Alp d’Huez – crawling along with people shouting in your face.”
Avery would recommend this race to triathletes looking for their next challenge. Besides being a personal best, he finished in daytime, which was a first. It was actually dusk, but not a nighttime finish as he is used to.