Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Ironman Boulder Race Report - Dan Miller

Anyone who's completed an Ironman can attest that 1) it's an incredible journey and 2) it ain't easy! We love to hear from first-time Iron men & women from time to time, and asked Dan Miller to give us his report from this past weekend's Ironman Boulder.

When I first got into the sport of Triathlon in 2016, I couldn’t even imagine doing a full Ironman. After my first season, I decided that I wanted to do a half Ironman the next year. In 2017, I finished my first half iron distance triathlon at RaceTri’s Utah Toughman Half. That race was more of a challenge to me than either of the 2 marathons I had run. Even after finishing that race, I still couldn’t imagine finishing a full Ironman, but that’s really when completing a full Ironman solidified a spot on my bucket list. I was committed to doing it.

A few more months went by and I considered which race I should register for. Even though there are other race companies that host full iron distance triathlons, I wanted to do an Ironman brand race because of how well supported they are and I really wanted to hear the iconic Mike Reilly say “Dan Miller, you are an Ironman!” I didn’t want to try flying with my bike just yet, so that limited me to either Ironman Boulder, Santa Rosa, or Arizona. Arizona would have probably been better because of its flat course, but it was sold out by the time I wanted to register, so that left Ironman Boulder.

From the moment I registered, stress started to mount. I was thoroughly overwhelmed by the training load competing with other parts of my life. I didn’t ever get in the shape I wanted to be in for the race, but race day came just the same. I was a nervous wreck to which my wife and close friends can attest. It culminated as I descended the boat ramp into Boulder Reservoir down the swim chute. The stress and the nerves didn’t really subside until I entered the water.

As soon as my face went into the water, I was in my element. It was perfect: clean, clear, not too cold, and not too hot. My strategy was to be slow and steady, keep my heart-rate down, and focus on the next point instead of the race as a whole. As I swam from buoy to buoy, I started noticing there were a lot of those points. The swim seemed to go on forever. But I stuck with it, and finally left the water (a few minutes later than I anticipated), but I felt great.

I was excited as I transitioned to the bike. I ran over and kissed my wife and said hi to my friends and then I was off. The first loop was awesome! The scenery was beautiful and serene, and the smells of summer filled the air. There was a lot of cottonwood fluff which tickled my face horribly, but other than that the first loop was great and I finished it in 3 hours or so and started the 2nd loop of the bike. By then, the temperature and the wind both picked up. As I headed west toward the hills, the wind became very strong. It was absolutely brutal. It seemed like no matter which direction I was facing, I was always competing with the wind. The heat was getting unbearable too. By the end of the 2nd loop, no position on my bike was at all comfortable, my neck hurt fiercely, both my hands were numb, and I can’t even begin to describe the saddle-shaped pain I had in my ass. The second loop took an hour longer than the first. I was thoroughly exhausted and ready for the day to be done.

I had no idea how I was going to run a marathon, based on how I felt getting off the bike. I met my wife at the bike finish, gave her a kiss, and lied to her about feeling great so she wouldn’t worry about me too much on the run. I got a fresh coat of sunscreen and headed off. My feet were cramping pretty bad off the bike so I was just going to walk for the first mile or so while I worked out the math for what my pace needed to be to finish in time. The sun was high and scorching in the thin air of Colorado. I already felt dead and I still had 26.2 miles to go to finish the race.

My strategy for the run was to find a pace I could maintain a low enough heart-rate. I was very concerned about pushing too hard for the first half and ruining my chances of finishing. I found that even a slow run was raising my heart-rate higher than I was comfortable with and my math told me that if I could maintain a 15 min/mile pace for 80% of the run, I’d be able to finish in time. I decided I’d walk for the 1st 4 miles and switch between walking and running for the 5th mile. That approach worked well for the 1st half of the marathon. At that point, I was feeling much better. The course was finally shaded and the temperature was 10 degrees lower than when I started. I decided I’d try and run for a whole mile and see how it went. I was surprised to find I was able to pull it off. It was still a slow run for me, but even if I was only able to do that every other mile from then on, I’d still be able to finish in plenty of time.

For me, this race was about endurance, not speed. I continued running and walking every other mile. It got dark. Most of the spectators had headed home or toward the finish line. The run course went past the finish chute 1 more time at mile 25 before it looped back around. People cheered me on and told me I only had one more mile to go. It finally started to hit me that this was going to happen. I was going to do it. As I took the turn down the finish chute, the intense feeling of accomplishment smacked me like a ton of bricks. The music was loud, scores of people were smiling, clapping, screaming, cheering, and offering high fives. Tears streamed down as I approached the finish line. I heard Mike Reilly say “From Spanish Fork, Utah, Dan Miller, 37…”  I crossed the finish line.


This was certainly the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was all about endurance, putting one foot/arm in front of the last, and not stopping. It made for an incredible experience I will never ever forget. I had an awesome support crew. My wife and kids are the best. Countless friends and family were rooting for me. The Salt Lake Tri Club has been a tremendous support. I have loved being a part of such an amazing community and an amazing sport. Here’s to one of the most incredible triathlon experiences I’ve had to date, and to countless more triathlon experiences to come!

I love this sport!

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