Bib number 2206. One of the 2,700 other competitors who is lined up to begin the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile marathon that makes up an Ironman. Adrenaline pumping through his veins. Nerves are racing. He inhales and letting his lungs fill up with the thin Boulder, Colo. air. Football and softball coach Chip Ufford, one of the 2,700, is ready for the first part of the race: the swim.
The competitors dive into the open water and the competition starts off intense.
With all nearly 3,000 competitors in the water at once, there is hardly any room to swim.
“Everyone is swimming on top of each other for awhile and it’s like bumper pool,” Ufford said.
Ufford eventually swims out to open water but finds another problem.
“There are some people that throw elbows and start throwing punches because you’re too close to them,” Ufford said.
After gliding through the water in the 2.4 mile swim for an hour and a half, Ufford moves on to the next leg of the race: the 112 mile bike.
Around him, Ufford begins to see some of the other competitors’ bodies give out and quitting on them. Pedaling and fighting, he keeps a constant pace and moves on.
“I saw this lady and the side of her face and arm was just all scraped up because she had blacked out and fell off into a ditch,” Ufford said.
Despite other people breaking down, Ufford had properly trained and was took enough supplements to keep going to the last leg of the competition; the marathon.
“I didn’t want to run, I didn’t want to finish one mile let alone 26.2 miles,” Ufford said.
Despite being dizzy, with exhausted legs and blistered feet, he powers through.
Stopping at every rest stop to pee, grab gel packets, a banana and some water, Ufford needs every ounce of energy and hydration he can get to keep moving on.
Emotionally exhausted and physically drained, Ufford keeps putting one foot in front of the other as he treads on to the finish line. The dark Colorado night is lit up with bright, stadium-like lights. People high-five him as he runs down the finish chute that is as long as a football field. Crossing the line, Ufford pumps his fists and hears the announcer say “Chip Ufford, you are an IRONMAN!”. He completed the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and marathon in 16 hours, 27 minutes, and 42 seconds.
“When you finish it’s like wow, it’s pretty awesome,” Ufford said. “It is one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had in my athletic career and I’ll never forget it.”
Training for this incredible feat started way back in February when Ufford and some of his neighborhood friends decided that they would all do an Ironman together.
“If you know him, you know that dedication and competition is a character trait that he possesses. He works extremely hard and when a goal is placed in front of him he attacks it with focus and determination.” said Josh Perkins, who trained with Ufford and also is a neighborhood friend.
But for Ufford the dream of completing an Ironman started even before that.
“It’s a bucket list thing” Ufford said, “ When I turn 40, that’s one thing I wanted to do, an Ironman”.
So he did.
Ufford’s training started out light in February and then continued to increase throughout the six month period up until the final days before the competition. His longest training was an hour and a half swim, 100 mile bike, and 18 mile run.
Along with training, Ufford had to eat right too. Burning so many calories while training, Ufford could eat just about anything that he wanted and still lose weight.
“I could eat quite a bit, but I wanted to make sure I was eating a lot of the right stuff.”
Although Ufford did cheat that idea a little. “I had ice cream, I like ice cream.”
Ufford is not yet done pushing his body to the extreme. He plans on completing more half-Ironmans, all the distances in the Ironman just cut in half, in the future. In fact, he is already signed up for one next summer in Wisconsin. Despite wanting to do another full Ironman, Ufford was advised by his doctor to never attempt again due to a minor heart condition, Atrial Fibrillation, that causes an irregular heartbeat. It did not however affect his actual performance in the Ironman.
Conquering Ironmans can only be accomplished by an elite group of determined, extremely fit men and women. Often the finishers will have a permanent trophy to remind them of their accomplishment.
“I want to get a Ironman tattoo on my right calf,” Ufford said. “It’s a badge of honor.”