Ironman Boulder winners

Justin Daerr – 8:20:26

Justin Daerr was a cool, calm and collected Ironman veteran who ran down Ironman 70.3 master and Ironman sophomore Richie Cunningham with precision. But once he finished you could tell how much it meant by the long, lingering hug with his wife Brooke.

Slowtwitch: You’ve lived here for more than a decade. What about this course and race was in your favor?

Justin Daerr: I wasn’t really sure about anything and I was a little frustrated with the swim. I thought I gave up too much to Richie [-2:53] and that might have cost me a chance to win. It seemed like we were close to the same bike times [4:24:54 and 4:24:47] and I was down about 3 minutes starting the run. Richie is an excellent runner. So I didn’t really take anything for granted.

ST: How did that make you feel?

Justin: As I usually do in Ironman races, I didn’t let myself feel too much of a sense of urgency. For the first lap or so I just let things develop. Usually, if something is going to happen in your favor, it will happen in the second half of the run. I saw I had a chance to get across to him around mile 17. And so I was glad I was able to get there and not wait too late.

ST: Did you have an advantage with more Ironman finishes under your belt going into this race? You have finished 30 Ironman-distance races and earned four podiums while Richie had done just one previous Ironman – a 4th at Arizona?

Justin: Yeah I specialize in Ironman. So I have a Rolodex of experiences in terms of what to look for and what to feel and what to expect that might have played out in my favor. The main thing with Ironman racing is you really have to look after yourself with hydration and nutrition. Shorter races tend to be who is the fastest. Having Ironman experiences of managing that is probably an advantage.

ST: Was there a point when you felt good and it might be your day?

Justin: I felt when I came off the bike I had ridden hard but not so hard that it sapped my legs. I felt I could probably put together a pretty good marathon as long as I kind of relaxed and let it happen and didn’t try to force anything. But even then, I could have had my best run and it might not have been enough on a different day.

ST: You have raced well in hot places like Texas where you finished in 8:18 and took 3rd. How much of a factor was the afternoon temperatures in the mid-80s?

Justin: It did feel a little warm especially on the east side of the course where there was no shade and no cloud cover. I was definitely slowing down on the aid stations and grabbing one extra cup. The UV at 5500 feet is harsh. But I grew up in Houston, Texas which is about as miserable as it gets when it comes to heat. I wouldn’t say I like the heat. But I just am comfortable in it. And I don’t mind racing in it.

ST: How tough was the course?

Justin: The run was tough. During the long stretch from the east turnaround on Pearl to all the way to the turnaround on Canyon, we faced a 1-2 percent grade over 5 straight miles that was just hard to stay on pace. Especially on the second loop when you are pretty much vulnerable. So to throw in a difficulty factor was tough.

ST: Was there a point when you felt it might be your day?

Justin: I felt when I came off the bike I had ridden hard but not so hard that it sapped my legs. I felt I could probably put together a pretty good marathon as long as I kind of relaxed and let it happen and didn’t try to force anything. But even then, I could have had my best run and it might not have been enough on a different day. [Daerr’s 2:56:34 marathon was 13:15 better than Cunningham’s 3:09:49 split]

ST: Did Richie say anything to you when you went by at Mile 17?

Justin: He gave me some words of encouragement -- he is a class act.

ST: Winning in Boulder must mean a lot since you have lived here for several years.

Justin: It meant the world to me. There are so many people here I have gotten to know. Not just in triathlon but through a variety of different ways. This is the first time they all came out together to watch. And hearing your name all day long on the run course is a huge advantage. Every time you hear a word of encouragement it just refocused you to getting the job done.

ST: Is this your biggest victory?

Justin: Number one, by far. It was sort of a result and performance combined because some of my better performances have come in the shadow of even better performances. Today it was nice that the result matched the performance.

Daerr told the Boulder Daily Camera some heartfelt words about the role his wife Brooke and his family played in this day:

“My wife and my family have always believed in me when I’ve had a hard time believing in myself. It’s not just me racing out there, it’s all of them – especially Brooke.”

Danielle Kehoe – 9:19:54

Danielle Kehoe has been on a fast improvement curve since 2012 when she placed first overall amateur woman at Ironman 70.3 St. George and at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship and also placed 2nd age group overall woman at the Ironman World Championship. After turning pro in 2013, she was 2nd at Ironman 70.3 Kansas, 4th at Ironman 70.,3 Buffalo Springs Lake and 5th at Ironman Lake Placid.

Her long shot win at the inaugural Ironman Boulder was a welcome well-earned breakthrough that came after a traumatic DNF at Ironman 70.3 New Orleans and a 9th at Ironman 70.3 St. Croix.

Kehoe’s win may have surprised many, but not her mother Bunny Kehoe, who takes pride in her daughter’s short stature and big heart. “This little pipsqueak has a lot of endurance,” she told the Boulder Daily Camera.

Slowtwitch: Were you last out of the swim? How discouraged were you?

Danielle Kehoe: Not quite. But I was the last pro woman out of T1. I am not a fast swimmer, but I make up for it somehow. That is my weakness, so it is uphill from there. [Kehoe tied with Uli Bromme for 5th-best pro woman in 1:03:53, just ahead of Alyssa Godessky (1:03:57) and Oleysa Prystako (1:04:07). After a calmly paced transition, she was the last pro woman to begin the bike.]

ST: You were a track and cross country runner in high school. Is the run your strength?

Danielle: Actually it the bike has been my strength. But I have been working with [coaches] Simon Lessing and Darren de Reuck and Colleen De Reuck. I can’t thank them enough. They have been amazing.

ST: When did you start feeling good about your race?

Danielle: Actually I wrote a perfect race report before the race. And I read it every single day – morning and night. And I had a really good vibe about this race. On the bike I just stayed in my zone. I stayed comfortable and never really went out of the zone. [Kehoe’s 4:52:56 bike split was second fastest to Carrie Lester’s 4:52:29] On the run I was over 9 minutes back at one point. So in a way I feel a little gypped because Carrie Lester pulled out. That being said, I really started feeling great the second lap of the run.

ST: When did you pass Lester, who led off the bike?

Danielle: Carrie dropped out at Mile 4 of the run, which was very unfortunate because she is so amazing.

ST: You have a great deal of sympathy for Lester. Have you had a Carrie Lester moment – leading and forced to drop out - in a race?

Danielle: I had that at New Orleans 70.3 this year. I had a lead with two miles left and I got heat stroke and DNF’d. It was so painful because I had never won a race. In my mind, I was thinking, ‘This is it! I’m going to win!’ And I didn’t get it. I got it today and this is even more special.

ST: Did you learn something from that experience?

Danielle: I learned so much! I learned the importance of nutrition. And I learned to focus and to pace myself and be patient. In New Orleans, I ran scared and I think I overdid it. Today it was all about staying calm and having confidence in myself. Believing in myself. And I knew if I did that I’d have a fantastic day.

ST: When did you pass Laura Bennett on the run?

Danielle: Somewhere between Mile 13 and 15. It was an amazing feeling. She has had a great career and she is my hero. She is absolutely incredible and an idol. Honestly.

ST: What does it mean to win your first Ironman here in what is pretty much your home town?

Danielle: I was born in Leadville [Colorado], grew up in Boulder, went to high school at Holy Family in Broomfield and now I live in Arvada. It is very surreal. I am over elated. It is a dream come true.

ST: Sometimes in your home town with a large crowd might make you overdo it a little bit. How do you keep things under control?

Danielle: I was the darkest horse on the race course today. No one mentioned my name. There were no expectations. I had nothing to live up to. It was wonderful.

ST: What did your coaches teach you about the mental game?

Danielle: Darren always says if you go into a race hoping to have a good performance to boost your confidence, it's not going to work. But if you go into a race with all the confidence, you are going to have a good performance. That is right. I went in confident and it all came together.

ST: So no problem with the swim when all was said and done?

Danielle: Well, I would like to improve my swim. That is a work in progress. I really am so blessed.

ST: You were the most excited finisher we’ve seen in a long time. What can top this?

Danielle: My fiancé Jeff Mack and I are going to be married in November.

ST: Where did you meet?

Danielle: We went to high school together.

ST: Where is he now?

Danielle: He is out there finishing his first Ironman.

ST: Is there anything special about this place for you two?

Danielle: The run course goes through the [Eben G. Fine] Park where he proposed to me.