Carbondale’s Dave Clark is an Ironman — even if his collarbone is decidedly fragile.
On Aug. 3, he won his 55-59 age group at the Ironman Boulder, finishing the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run in 10 hours, 25 minutes, 47 seconds to qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, for the second time.
“I am excited for the opportunity to go back again and compete in this challenging event with some of the best athletes in the world,” Clark said. “My overriding goal in any race is to get to the finish line, and anything else that happens is icing on the cake.”
Clark, 55, overcame the latest breaks in his collarbone to compete in Boulder. He’s broken the collarbone five times — the first time in a bicycle accident in 1985.
In August 2010 — 10 weeks before his first time to compete in Kona — he had a titanium plate and screws put in his collarbone. He didn’t let that stop him from crossing the finish line in 10:13:48, his current Ironman personal best.
Last year, he rebroke the collarbone after the plate and screws were removed. It left him unable to do any training for three months, and he was finally able to start training for the Boulder Ironman in mid-February.
“I started from scratch in February, and during my training I was playing catch-up,” he said.
Swimming is Clark’s strongest event of the three. He swims an average of 18,000 meters a week. He also bikes more than 200 miles and runs more than 40 miles on a weekly basis until race day.
In his youth, he swam for Duke University. And after he graduated with a degree in geology and geophysics in 1981, he and some friends decided to sign up for the Louisiana Titan triathlon in New Orleans, and he has competed in more than 50 triathlons since.
He has finished four Ironmans. He has never sustained such debilitating cramps that he couldn’t get up from an aid station, or had bleeding blisters on his feet that required medical attention, which is quite common.
Because he didn’t have his complete fitness in Boulder, the run was the hardest part. Normally, he said, the marathon would be his favorite because of the energy he draws from fans.
“I enjoy talking to the spectators and volunteers while I am running,” he said. “Most athletes are focused on the race, but for me, it keeps my mind off what I am doing. I draw off their energy.”
Clark and his wife, realty agent Lynn Kirchner, have lived in Carbondale for 25 years. When they first moved to this valley, Clark was working at the Denver Tech Center. He continued to commute and telecommute to Denver for about 10 years until 2000, when he decided 20 years was long enough in the corporate world.
He started triathlon coaching for some of his friends free of charge. Then in 2006, he officially started his own company, BMS (body, mind and spirit) Multi-Sport.
He drew on his coaching background from the early 1980s, when he was the assistant swim coach at Tulane University. He also was head master’s swimming coach at University of New Orleans for several years.
“It was when I started coaching again in 2000 [that] I realized how much I enjoyed helping other people to develop and to reach their athletic potential. As a result, I decided to start coaching full time,” he said.
For Clark, the best part of this year’s Ironman Boulder was watching the five athletes he trained cross the finish line. He had three first-timers and two who have competed in an Ironman race previously.
“This was as exciting and rewarding as my own race,” he said. “Every athlete gets to the event with a set level of fitness, and I tell my [clients] staying mentally positive is important.”
For him it’s never about how many races he wins or enters.
“It’s about doing your absolute best that day,” he said. “And if you did your best, then you did what you could. I’ve taken that approach since my high school swim coach instilled that into me, and now I pass that along as a coach.”
Clark is looking forward to competing with more than 2,000 athletes in the 140.6-mile journey that presents the “ultimate test of the body, mind and spirit.”
“My wife is the most important part of my support team, and she will be joining me in Kona this October, as she did in 2010,” he said. “I mean who can pass up a two-week trip to Hawaii?”