Carbondale’s Clark recounts his strong showing at Ironman World Championships
Dave Clark, a 55-year-old triathlete, is in the water getting ready to compete in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. Minutes before the start he gazes into the distance and finds himself distracted by a beautiful sunrise over a volcano.
“I was very relaxed on race day, and in fact, I joked with some of my clients that maybe I was a bit too relaxed,” he said in an email.
The distraction passed, and after his 140.6-mile journey, he crossed the finish line in 10 hours, 17 minutes, 32 seconds, placing fifth in his 55-59 age group. He didn’t beat his Ironman best, 10:13:48, from the 2010 championships, but for Clark, standing on the podium Oct. 11 was an honor.
“Even more humbling than finishing fifth was being able to stand on the podium at the award ceremony and receive the umeke that is given to the top five finishers in each age group,” he said.
Clark said the umeke is a traditional Hawaiian wood bowl used by families to hold sacred objects. The gift “designates honor, accomplishment, fulfillment and completion. So, it was a very unique and rewarding experience to be given such an award, especially when I was not expecting it.”
For Clark, the opportunity to race on the legendary course, while competing against more than 2,000 of the best athletes in the world, is the highlight of the championship.
Clark is a Carbondale triathlon coach who left the Denver Tech Center in 2000 after commuting and telecommuting to Denver for 10 years. That’s when he decided 20 years was long enough in the corporate world, and he started triathlon coaching for some of his friends for free. Then in 2006, he officially started his own company, BMS (Body, Mind and Spirit) Multi-Sport.
Ironman began when a Honolulu-based Navy couple proposed combing the three toughest endurance races in Hawaii — the 2.4 mile Waikiki Roughwater Swim, the 112-mile Around-O’ahu Bike Race and the 26.2-mile Honolulu Marathon — into one event now known as the Ironman World Championships, according to Ironman.com.
This race has gained a reputation as one of the toughest single-day events.
Clark was unsure if he would qualify to make it this far again because of his latest breaks in his collarbone.
“[I broke] my collarbone last December, which really cast some doubt upon my ability to train properly for the Boulder Ironman where I was hoping to (and actually did) qualify for the World Championships,” he said.
His collarbone wasn’t as issue during the race, but dealing with the heat, humidity and wind was. Right from the beginning, temperatures were in the 100s and winds got up to 50 mph. Every year a number of athletes are blown off their bikes by incessant trade winds.
He didn’t let the wind or heat get the best of him. Instead he embraced each event. As a lifelong competitive swimmer, Clark enjoyed the swim the most.
“The swim course is in very warm, crystal-clear water where you can see the bottom almost the entire way, and it is very common to see dolphins, fish and an occasional sea turtle,” he said.
Clark enjoys talking to spectators and volunteers while he is running, when most athletes are focused on the race. He draws off their energy.
Unfortunately, there is a short portion of the run known as the Energy Lab that doesn’t allow spectators.
“[It’s] pretty much just you, the other athletes, a few volunteers at the aid stations and the intense heat and humidity of the lava fields — it can feel pretty lonely at times,” he said.
The loneliness soon ended as he ran down Alli’l Drive toward what is often referred to as the “greatest finish line in the world.” Clark said about a mile from the finish, he started to hear longtime Ironman announcer Mike Riley say with excitement as each finisher crossed, “You are an Ironman!”
Clark is now in his recovery phase, where he does little training to recover from the previous 10 months of intense training and racing. He doesn’t have any races planned for next year other than returning to Ironman Boulder in August to see if he can qualify for the 2015 Ironman World Championships.
He wouldn’t mind taking another trip to Hawaii with his wife, Carbondale Realtor Lynn Kirchner. This year, they had to cut their trip short when they learned that Hurricane Anna was headed for the islands.
“We figured that if we left early, the storm would miss Kona (just as it did), and if we stayed it would have hit the island directly and we would still be there due to not being able to get out,” he said. “But, things could certainly be worse than having to spend some extra time in Kona!”
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