The Ironman World Championships ("Kona") will be here before we know it, taking place Oct. 13th. As you know, it's incredibly competitive to qualify and a major accomplishment to do so. As we've done the last 2 years, we'll be catching up with our local Cinderellas... getting to know them better as a tri community and cheering them on as they get ready for the ball!
Name: BJ Christenson
Age Group: M3539 when qualified, now M4044
Qualified: Ironman Maryland (2017)
Qualifying AG Place & Time: 3rd 9:12:01
Splits: Swim 59 Bike 4:51 Run 3:14
You’ve raced Kona almost every year going back over a decade. Was it a big letdown to race injured in 2016, then to not qualify in '17, and does it mean more to you this year?
There was obviously some of that... it was a good reminder that nobody hands a Kona Qualifying slot to you. Sometimes you have bad/good luck, sometimes you didn’t prepare properly, etc. Stuff happens. I knew I wanted to do one more, and after my accident before Kona 2016, I wanted to get one more in for a 10th time, a good round number to walk away from it. Obviously it’s frustrating when you miss a spot, but in hindsight it worked out ok and gave me time to think about other things in my life. Now I’m ready to give it an honest crack. I’m 40 now and some things have changed… I don’t recover quite as fast and I’m getting injuries I never used to get!
How did Ironman Maryland compare to all the others you’ve done, and how did the race play out for you?
I loved Maryland. It’s a great course, and I think one of the best for people who want to do an Ironman for the first time. Salt water swim in Chesapeake Bay, flat bike, flat run and the community really gets behind it. For anyone with restrictions on racing Sundays, it’s a Saturday race, and the time of year gives you all summer to prepare for it. Even though it’s flat, it’s still scenic, going through protected wetland areas, etc. It’s a really fun course and I enjoyed it.
My wife was there with me, my fiancée at the time, so she could tell me where I was in the standings. I was nervous with my preparation going into it; it wasn’t the best. I had a calf strain, something I’m dealing with also this year. I still had the faith that I could pull it together. And if I didn’t get it, well you can only give your best on the day.
The swim was the best it could have been, and things were going really well on the ride. On the 2nd loop though a guy I was lapping cut me off and I ran into a volunteer, causing me to lose the group I was chasing and keeping tabs on. From then on there was nobody, it was my own race.
I didn’t know if my calf was gonna hold on for me so I played it safe, just trying to run steady miles. At mile 12-13 I knew I was in 2nd or 3rd and that there would probably be 3 spots (in the M3539 age group). I just made sure to maintain that position and luckily there were 3 slots.
Is the fire burning strongly in terms of training or are you more excited to just be at Kona again?
It’s been a roller coaster. The fire was there, then I got hurt again. I keep tabs on some of the top guys... Sam Gyde for example, in Belgium, has a stress fracture in his femur. It happens. My focus now is getting as much volume as I can, and not so much on the intensity. I do want to compete, that’s still my goal. This is my last time, at least for a while, and my parents are coming out for the first time. Not to say I won’t go back when I'm 50 or something, but I won’t be sacrificing and trying to get to Kona every year anymore. There are a lot of other races that need to get done!
Over two years ago now we interviewed you and you said “I wish there was more organization to race scheduling. I’d love to see a cohesive series.” Well, we went to work with the local RD's to make it happen! What are your thoughts on the new Utah Triathlon Championship Series along with the one-day State Champ race (rotating venue, Brineman Olympic for 2018)?
I think it’s awesome. It’s been a good start and I think people are getting into it. We have two major clubs in the valley, and they may have more of a relationship with some races vs. others. I'd like to see everybody show up at all the races.
(mind reader BJ actually anticipated this next question before it was asked, as the conversation turned to how to make the Series better next year)
We’ll always look for ways to make the Series stronger & better… at Jordanelle we were talking about Sprint vs. Olympic racing… do you think the Series would be stronger if limited to 10 races, and not just events?
Yeah that would be version 2.0. We want to encourage people to race each other! The points in Nascar aren’t equal if you did the "Daytona 250" when everyone else is in the 500.
For some events maybe all the points are in the Olympic. Maybe for others the Sprint, for others the Half. Let the RD decide. I think having one race as the focus would be great for those who want to see how they stack up, whereas other distances would be more participatory.
You wanna see who’s the best, rac’em on the day... that’s what I like to see, that fun competitive spirit. We are always encouraging participation and for newbies to come out; everyone is welcome. But racing is racing!
|BJ swam like this at Kona 2016|
Wherever you finish at the State Champs is what matters. The Rankings are fun and a good indicator, but the State Championship is everything. There, that’s my throw down statement!
That said, personally I need to be careful with my calf going into Kona... but I would love to see... the Olympic's the race, right? Let’s get everyone on the Olympic starting line. There's something fun about racing, it gets the best out of each other. Don’t shrink from competition. Embrace it. Let’s toe the line and let’s go for it. There's no enemies… it's just that having somebody breathing down your neck will make you better, and show you what you’ve got. I like to see lots of people at the races. If you wanna see where you stack up against your peers, let’s all race together, and you'll learn where you can improve. State Champs is for all the bragging rights.
There was some discussion early on about whether the State Championship event should consist of 1 distance or all distances… you (and we) felt strongly that it should be one distance. Thoughts?
It would be so diluted otherwise… our pool is too small. We don’t have 1,000 people at any of the races. I think Sprint distance races are great for people new to the sport and for younger kids working on speed. The Olympic is where the adults play. Multiple distances don’t always give a good indication of where the talent is... finish 7th in your age group at the State champs? That's awesome, and you should feel a lot happier about that than, say, 3rd in the Sprint.
As far as we know you’ve never been part of a local club before this year. What motivated you to join the new Intermountain team, and what are your general thoughts on the team and its mission?
The Intermountain team is a little different. I’m on as a mentor to give counsel, not to coach, but to help out where I can. That was intriguing, and I see it as a valuable role. They asked if I'd be part of it and I accepted.
When you’re “on,” are you still Utah’s fastest Ironman or can anyone take you?
I don’t know. Jorge has come up pretty good... great time at Ironman Arizona. Brice has come a long ways as well. One day Andrew will jump into long course. I’m coaching a young kid, Jacob Barnes, and at his first Ironman this year he knocked it out of the park. He’ll be someone to watch.
I don’t know how many more times I can go digging in that well. I'm still going for the fastest Utah time. I've held that standard for a while and want to keep it!
If Kona is no longer a motivator going forward after #10, what do you see for the next 2-3 seasons?
Local races and also maybe some bucket list style events in different countries. I may try an ultra like a 100 miler just explore different things I haven’t before.
Anything else you want to share?
I’m just excited for one more round of Kona! I don’t know how fast I’m gonna run at the State Champs since I don’t want to re-injure myself, but I'll at least swim and bike, and we’ll see what I can do on the run.
B.J. Christenson's Kona Race Report: THE LEGEND GROWS
Utah Triathlon Championship Series
Utah Triathlon Championship Series
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