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Attendees packed the house at Runner’s Roost in downtown Denver last night for a very special evening presented by TriRock Colorado, in advance of the rockin’ and rollin’ triathlon series’ Aurora, Colo. race on July 20. Triathlon’s beloved Bob Babbitt, host of Competitor Radio and an Ironman and USAT Hall of Fame inductee, served as emcee with special guests two-time Ironman World Champion Mirinda “Rinny” Carfrae and Ironman Brazil Champion Tim O’Donnell regaling the rapt crowd with anecdotes from their years in the sport and their personal journeys from awkward tri-newbies to podium-topping pros. The event also allowed an opportunity to showcase Carfrae’s cool new custom-wrapped Audi Allroad wagon, a standout visual focal point of a year-long collaboration with the Audi Boulder dealership. Two lucky trivia contest winners at the event were rewarded with Audi Allroad weekend test-drive packages, kicking off a series of fan contests and special promotions that will highlight the Carfrae/Audi partnership.
In a nod to the community involvement of Runner’s Roost, the oldest independently owned running store in Colorado, the evening also called attention to the Race for Vince fundraiser, a campaign focused on raising $140,600 during the 2014 season to support brain cancer research spearheaded by local triathlete and marathoner Vince DiCroce. DiCroce discovered endurance sports as a way to stay on top of his health after battling brain cancer, thus far netting seven Ironman finishes and 31 marathons (with a personal best time of 3:03). In 2012 DiCroce’s cancer returned, temporarily derailing his dream to compete in Kona, but not dampening his competitive spirit in the slightest. DiCroce, whose blog is a poignant study in mental, emotional and physical strength, is directing his passion toward raising funds and awareness to fight the disease, while continuing to work toward regaining his own health.
All told, the evening was a warm and wonderful testament to several heroes of the triathlon community. Below are a few of the informative, funny and affectionate comments shared by Carfrae and O’Donnell throughout the event:
[On his decision to switch coaches to six-time Ironman World Champion Mark Allen at the start of the 2014 season.]
“Mark’s really been great. He’s toned me back down a little bit, keeping the whole season in perspective. I had a great coach with Cliff English before, but after eight or nine years of working with somebody a change of stimulus is good. I said to Rinny when we were talking about what I should do this year that I needed a Kona coach, not really a triathlon coach at this point in my career. Mark fit the bill perfectly.”
[On his recent win at Ironman 70.3 St. Croix and fifth place at St. Anthony’s Triathlon.]
“We did St. Anthony’s and then St. Croix. I was scared to death before St. Anthony’s. I hadn’t put my heart rate over 150 more than three times in training, so I thought I was going to get whooped! But I actually ran pretty well and held my ground, and then I knew going into St. Croix it would be such a strength race. I was kind of back in my wheelhouse for that race.”
[On the whirlwind of the past eight months, including her second victory in Kona and her marriage to O’Donnell.]
“I was just saying to Tim as we walked in, ‘You realize it’s only four and a half months to Kona?’ And then we both sort of gulped. But it’s been an amazing ride. We had an incredible end to the year last year, and we certainly celebrated well. We’re hurting a little bit now–we’re not as fit as we normally are at this time of the year.”
[On her transition from basketball, which she played from age seven until 18, to triathlon.]
“Something really spoke to me about this sport. Basketball was always just so hard! I mean at 5’3” I worked harder than everyone else, I was fitter thank everyone else, but most coaches just don’t see that low! Triathlon was all about who worked the hardest, which I was happy to do. And at the end of the day, when you cross that line first there’s nothing anyone can say to you. No one can take that away from you. You’re the champion and that’s that.”
[On her first experience racing internationally.]
“I think the most I’d traveled was maybe from Brisbane to Melbourne, which is a two-hour flight. I had maybe been on two or three planes up until I was 19. And then I made the Australian junior team in 2001, so about a year or a year and a half after my very first triathlon I was getting sized up for the Australian uniform, getting the green and gold put on my shoulders and going off to race in Canada. It was a massive eye opener for me. And I sucked that first year! I think I was last at the race in Edmonton because I still couldn’t swim, but it was just a great experience. It really showed me what I needed to do to make the next steps to be great in the sport.”
[On his start in the sport.]
“I was a swimmer in school but I wasn’t a good swimmer. I’m the youngest of four and we all swam, and I was by far the worst athlete in the family. But I really liked it and I had a great work ethic. I wouldn’t make the championship meets, but I would be the one dragging the lawn chairs around and helping out. Eventually I got better. I remember the first time I beat my brother Thomas, who actually got me into triathlon, in a swim session. We were doing 12 x 300’s and I passed him and he didn’t make the interval. I was finally like: All right, I can do this. I got beat up afterward, though! Then I went to the Naval Academy and Thomas was a senior when I was a freshman and he said, ‘You’re trying out for the triathlon team.’ I said, ‘I don’t want to.’ He said, ‘You’re trying out.’ And I made the team.”
[On his switch from ITU racing to the non-drafting race format.]
“I was hopeless on the bike in terms of keeping the rubber side down. Rinny would probably tell you I still am. It was apparent that non drafting was more my thing!”
[On his winning 8:01 finish and 4:22 bike split at 2013’s Ironman Brazil.]
“On the bike I thought: This is what a Kona champion would do, push the pace even though he’s on his own. So I did and I felt great.”
[On the challenge of being a triathlon couple at key races.]
“It’s a work in progress. Kona is obviously the biggest race of the season for both of us, so we know we need to learn to be able to both race together on the biggest stage. It’s hard because I’m so excited for him, and I want to be so excited for him, but for that race you really have to focus only on yourself. You can’t give away any energy. So for that one week leading into Kona it’s almost as though we have to pretend we’re just friends.”
“Do you stay separately?”
“We haven’t gotten to that point yet!”
[On the 2013 Ironman World Championship NBC interview video clip where she says, “If somebody gets in my way, I’ll kill them.]
“I’ve seen that footage a couple of times now, and I just laugh every time I see it. Because that’s not even me, honestly. You get to Kona and the intensity is just switched to a whole new level. And you get into that interview room and they’re just asking you all these questions. It’s two days before the race and you’re rested, you’re fiery. You’re just ready to race. So yeah, that’s what I had to say that day. I was ready to rip someone’s head off!”
[On when he had a sense that Carfrae was going to ‘launch’ into his arms at the 2013 Kona finish.]
“Knowing Rinny, I had a feeling. And then I saw her turn around and look at me like: I’m coming for you, buddy! I’m lucky my quads held up.” [O’Donnell had finished fifth in the men’s race shortly before Carfrae’s finish line leap.]
[On her record-breaking time in Kona and her third fastest overall run split.]
“The world title was really what I was after. When I look at the times it’s still pinch myself material. I think it’s pretty cool that I was able to do that.”
[On the final stretch of that marathon.]
“I stopped looking at my clock when I got back on the Queen K. It was just about giving it everything I had, leaving everything out there. I wanted to cross that line with nothing left. Well, just enough left to jump on this guy!”
Learn more about TriRock Colorado and the rest of the TriRock Series at TriRockSeries.com.