Chris Borden was the top age grouper at Ironman Chattanooga and his focus is now on the GoPro Ironman World Championships in Kona. But 5 years ago he was single, smoked and weighed 50 pounds more. He then followed his heart and quickly found love, his calling and success in triathlon. I featured his Dimond race bike on this site when I covered Ironman Chattanooga, but you now get to meet the pilot.
Slowtwitch: Thank you for your time Christopher.
Christopher Borden: Hey Herbert, thanks so much for the opportunity. I'm a huge fan of Slowtwitch. Making it onto the front page is cooler than cool, man.
ST: We kind of met you late last year, or better said your age group winning Ironman Chattanooga bike.
Chris: I was pretty pumped to see the #9 show up in the pictorial you did. It certainly gets a lot of attention at races. I absolutely love the Dimond, and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of the team.
ST: I actually had no idea who this bike belonged to, but I noticed it in transition because it was nicely set up and it was there early, so it was easy to take pictures.
Chris: I get a lot of comments about my setup, for sure. It's a pretty big gamble not wagging any fluids around. So far, I've managed.
ST: You must have been one of the first guys on a Dimond. How did you make that connection with TJ and cohorts?
Chris: That's something TJ and Ethan will have to answer. All I know - in the fall of 2012, I got what I thought was a prank email about sponsorship. I had already been eying the Dimond, so I expected it to be one of my buddies screwing with me. I replied to the email with some smart-mouthed commentary. Fortunately, Ethan was patient enough to look over it!
ST: From that email, how long did it take to have one in your hands?
Chris: That was pretty early on, so there were a few design changes. The guys did a good job keeping us updated on all the extra little magic that went into each update. It was clear that they wanted a perfect product more than they wanted an immediate product. I think it was a big challenge keeping it American made too. That basically meant they had to do it all themselves. But yeah man, it was just over a year or so of having the bike in just a few more weeks. It wasn't that big of deal though, for me. I know you can't rush quality, and if you want an edge on the competition, you have to get on board early, right?
ST: What were you riding prior?
Chris: I was on a 2012 Quintana Roo CD0.1. When I bought it, I was really torn. I so wanted a Cervelo P3, but I just couldn't justify paying more money for older tech. The CD0.1 offered a lot of snazzy bells and whistles without the fancy ”e” premium.
ST: What running shoes do you train and race with?
Chris: I'm love my Zoot Ultra TTs. I danced around with a few different shoes looking for the perfect blend of weight, cushion, and features. They are a good balance, not a flat but not a brick. I really dig the elastic lacing, the sock-like upper, and the drain holes on the Ultra TTs. Drain holes make my feet so much happier.
ST: Happy feet are surely a good thing
Chris: You know, I haven't really thought about it, but I haven't had a single issue with blisters since I switched over to Zoots. They do keep my feet very happy.
ST: So you got your Kona ticket in Chattanooga. Was that the goal?
Chris: Honestly man, not really. Leading in, I debated even taking a slot. At Kona 2013, I had a miserable experience. I was blessed with the opportunity to really soak up a lot of the Queen K, way more than I wanted. I planned to go to Chattanooga and just have my best day. My goal was to go out there and perform to the best of my ability. It's such a satisfying feeling to lay everything out there.
ST: How did you like the race?
Chris: As a non-swimming cyclist that runs a lot but not necessarily fast, Chattanooga ticks all the right boxes. The big challenges at Chattanooga were the technical corners on the bike, the local hillbillies that sabotage the course, and half the run course is a roller coaster just not in the fun way.
ST: Will you return?
Chris: I loved the venue and the race was awesome. I am anxious to see what changes they make moving forward. If all runs smoothly, it's going to be my first choice for 2016.
ST: A few years back though you were obese, smoking and not interested in doing any sport. But I guess you followed your heart.
Chris: Herbert, obese is a strong word. I still thought I was sexy enough, but I was 210-15lbs. That is 50 pounds over where I am now, so maybe I wasn’t as sexy as I thought. My heart definitely lead me into the sport. That was 2010 and over a decade since my high school girlfriend refused to ever speak to me again. Fortunately, she had a change of heart. Emily had just finished her first marathon, so I thought I would earn some true love points by running with her.
ST: When you realized that she was running marathons, did that seem crazy to you?
Chris: I was beyond impressed. The woman kicks my butt across the board, granted, but the idea of running that far didn’t even seem like a possibility for me. She sets a pretty high standard, so I had my work cut out trying to impress her.
ST: How did you feel about her getting up early to go running?
Chris: Oh man, I hated every minute of training for our first race. I would try and wiggle out of it every morning. I was always trying to negotiate my way out of miles and into pancakes.
ST: I think you did the Country Music Half Marathon in 2010. Were your other friends surprised?
Chris: Oh yeah. I had zero history of athletics. Growing up, I was either working, studying, or just getting into trouble and being fat. Initially, I didn’t have much support from my friends. There was a ton of negative feedback, but I turned it into motivation. I thought about the things they said all the time, actually. I remember one friend had some particularly discouraging things to say about my 33 minute 5k time. I had just one or two people that told me I could do it, and I actually believed them for some reason. It made all the difference.
ST: And how did you then stumble upon triathlon?
Chris: Emily knew a little about the Ironman, but not much. She kept telling me the distances, and I just couldn’t believe it was even possible. Funny thing though, we started reading about it and kept seeing the Energy Lab come up. So many times we read about athletes feeling better once they were out of the Energy Lab. We decided it must be some kind of mobile medical unit with IVs of super go juice or something. If only, right?
ST: You got Brian Stover as a coach in October of 2012. Why a coach, and why him?
Chris: When Stover got me I was absolutely miserable and suffering through every session. I was killing myself with training doing 17-20 hour weeks. All the run and swim needles were moving the wrong direction, and the bike power numbers had stagnated. He turned a few knobs, and I started setting PRs. I think there's a lot of value in expertise and he is the best dollar I've spent on getting faster. I look at coaching as an apprenticeship, and he has been teaching me more and more each cycle. The tri-trinkets make us faster today, but fitness pays compound interest our whole life.
ST: What are some of the knobs he turned?
Chris: He lopped off big chunks of bike intensity, for starters. He gave me a manageable dose of running, and stuck me in the pool more than I liked. The biggest thing he did was smooth out all the little peaks and valleys I would create with training myself into a hole and then not being able to get out of bed.
ST: In 2013 you then already managed to qualify for Kona. That was a fairly swift jump but not an easy one.
Chris: It was a lot of chasing minutes and seconds and looking for every little hope and prayer to get there. I was 45 minutes away from a slot in Florida, then a few months later, I was 30 minutes away at Los Cabos. When Whistler came around, I was ready for the race of my life. I spent all my mojo and got the last slot in my age group. Of course, then I showed up to Kona and wasn’t in a very happy place.
ST: You said that you melted down. How so?
Chris: Kona was only six weeks after Whistler in 2013. I don't know if it was the quick turn around, or the whole season of racing, but I was just completely spent. I went with the intention of being an on-course tourist. I soaked it up and noodled through the course. I remember passing the 13-mile marker thinking I had just over 90 minutes left and I'd be cruising back down Ali'i. A few hours later, Emily came out to make sure I was still alive.
ST: Did you learn valuable lessons for your Kona start this year?
Chris: I'd love to say the spirit of the island spoke to me and I know it's my time now. How about this, I am not going to be doing much racing leading into Kona, for sure.
ST: What will be the goal beyond not melting down?
Chris: I don't know, man. I have some pipe dreams, I guess. I would be pumped to swim an hour at Kona, and I seem to think I can have a solid run out there. On a no-island-voodoo course, I think I could go under 9 hours. Kona just seems to bring out the worst in so many of us. It is hard to even ballpark how I will go. I know this - I will be going for it.
ST: Word has it that you 25 to 30 hours a week. How do you manage that with your job as a dentist and also trying to be a good husband?
Chris: I'm very fortunate to share a hobby and career with Emily. She is also a dentist so between work, training, and our social life, we basically spend all of our time together. Plus, she really is my best friend, so we really just to hang out a lot. I'm telling you man - this girl is awesome. I hit the jackpot, and she loved me even when I was fat!
ST: What other events are on your calendar from now until Kona?
Chris: I'll be seeing you at the Gulf Coast Tri in two weeks for the best half distance triathlon around. Then I have a local Olympic in July, The Renaissance Man Tri. It's my hometown race and it absolutely rocks. It's my favorite race of the season.
ST: No Gulf Coast for me, I had too many setbacks. But I hear you about this race. It is a great.
Chris: Heck yeah man, register up to the day before, free pancake breakfast, and a real awards party with free grub and brew at Spinnakers. The hotels don't even gouge us; it's still the off-season. That's hard to find these days.
ST: Is there anything else we should know?
Chris: The only parting words of wisdom I have is to live right, eat your veggies, and brush like you want to keep your teeth!
Chris Borden has a Twitter account and a blog with his wife Emily, but it appears that he is focused mostly on work, training and his spouse, and not social media or updating said blog.