'Kate Elliott; you are an Ironman.'

The ideas and viewpoints expressed in the posts on the Ideas and Creations blog are solely the view of the author(s). Luther College's mission statement calls us to "embrace diversity and challenge one another to learn in community," and to be "enlivened and transformed by encounters with one another, by the exchange of ideas, and by the life of faith and learning." Alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends of the college are encouraged to express their views, model "good disagreement" and engage in respectful dialogue.

Never done one of these before but I can't sleep, so here goes - Ironman Boulder race report.

First I have to say, this is my fourth year of racing triathlons and my first full distance. I've never run a marathon, and until this training cycle, I had never biked more than 65 miles. I'm not even particularly interested in full distance tris but several personal things aligned this year to make it a logical time to make the jump to full distance. I signed up for Ironman Boulder because we already had a family vacation planned for that week, and I'm a budget triathlete (no shame!). I just wanted to say yes, I've done an Ironman. But I also wanted to finish well enough that I didn't feel the need to do it again. So for the first time, I hired a coach. (PM me if you are interested, Wes is amazing!)

Boulder is high, but relatively flat, so I was looking forward to a fast, mountain-cool race. No such luck. The forecast kept climbing until it looked like we were going to be running in the 95 degree heat. I dialed back my expectations a bit; and made peace with the fact that there would be a bit of walking during this Ironman, and that would have to be okay.

Race morning: One thing that you do pay for with an Ironman is crazy efficiency. All checked in, all I had to do was eat and catch the buses to transition. No problem there. My bike was where I left it, I peed for the fourth time and made my way, lubed and wetsuited up to the swim start.

Swim: I made my way to the front of the swim start because I expected to go around 60 minutes. This is always a challenge for me because I'm a very strong swimmer and don't always advocate for myself when positioning for a swim stay. Guys look at me and think to themselves, "I totally can beat her" and yes, they can, but not on the swim. Simply put, the swim was glorious. Cool, calm, plenty of room, fell into a nice breathing-every-stroke rhythm to account for the altitude and had a perfect swim. Ninth woman out of the water. The changing tent was empty when I got there. (The last time that would happen that day!) On to the bike!

Bike: Surprisingly the hardest part of Ironman training has been the bike. It's just so damn long, not gonna lie. I was counting on adrenaline to get me to 112 miles. And it did. As we all got on the glorious course, the temperature started to rise, but because you were moving it didn't feel especially hot. I was cruising along, getting passed by these fast cyclists at 20, 21, 24 mph but executing my race plan watching my heart rate and letting the faster cyclists blow by me. About at mile 80 I hit a huge mental block. We were on lap two and I knew a nasty hill was in front of me and I just couldn't take it. I pulled over at the aid station, drank some Gatorade, gratefully accepted ice for my Infinit that was too hot for me to choke down and generally just screwed my head back on. It worked. I finished the full 112 tired, saddle sore, but still on pace for my secret sub 12:30 goal.

I found out later that that aid station was where many pulled out of the race. The later it got, the hotter it got and the more difficult that bike course became. I'm so glad I was able to pull through. (People always talk about the bad spots of an Ironman, I didn't recognize this as anything other than just being fed up with pedaling. Remember that a three-minute pity party break can allow you to give yourself a stern talking to and get back there on course!)

Run: I am not a runner naturally, but I've been improving. My race plan said to hold on to the reins for the first three miles and keep myself at 10:30 pace. Ha! The first miles were more like 11:39 and my heart rate was jacked. Time to execute Plan B - keep the core cool, walk the hills and aid stations and for gods sake don't walk in the sun! I held onto that strategy until mile 17 or so when we hit a long four-mile stretch with no shade, temps now at 96. I was zapped. In front of me the whole time was this amazing woman (didn't get your name, super woman!) who walked the entire fricking marathon. And she was ahead of me. When my legs shut down at 22 miles; I thought to myself "if she can power walk this damn thing so can I!" And I did. I power walked the last four miles at a 14-minute mile pace. And then finally hit the chute and heard the words, "Kate Elliott; you are an Ironman." And I started to cry.

13:00:08. I made immediate peace with that 38 seconds.

It's been such a long process. My long-suffering husband has put up with so much crap. My boys are used to not seeing me on the weekends. It's a sacrifice to be sure and one that I am so, so glad I made this year. But don't think you aren't badass and beautiful if you don't go the full distance. I'm pretty sure I'm an Olympic distance or 70.3 kind of girl. I just wanted to make sure. Keep rocking, ladies! And keep encouraging each other!

Kate Elliott

Kate Elliott

Kate Elliott is an associate professor of art history at Luther College. She teaches courses from ancient, medieval and renaissance art to art of the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as a Paideia 450 course in the Paideia program. She also serves as the curator of the Luther College Fine Arts Collection.

View all posts

{ Return to Ideas and Creations for more posts. }


  • June 14 2018 at 5:46 pm
    Almost teared up reading those last couple paragraphs... You are such an inspiring, bad-ass lady and I'm so happy to have had your influence in my life!
  • June 14 2018 at 10:51 pm
    So so so impressed! Your journey has been inspiring. Congrats, Dr. Kate!
  • July 2 2018 at 3:27 pm
    Congratulations Kate! Thanks for sharing your story and inspiring all of us with your disciplined training, persistence, and determination to keep going!
  • July 6 2018 at 10:49 am
    Emma D

    This made me cry at work! Congrats--I'm so impressed.

  • August 30 2018 at 5:30 pm

    Thanks for your perspective Kate! I am a Luther grad now living in Colorado and have done the Boulder 70.3 twice but am a bit intimidated by the full. You have inspired me!! Great work-I heard it was sooo hot this year!

Add a comment

The following fields are not to be filled out. Skip to Submit Button.
Not Comment
(This is here to trap robots. Don't put any text here.)
not URL
(This is here to trap robots. Don't put any text here.)
(This is here to trap robots. Don't put any text here.)