Tim O’Donnell: Racing Ironman Boulder with New Inspiration

This weekend O'Donnell is literally from home, aiming to earn his Kona start this fall.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

A year ago, Boulder-based iron couple Tim O’Donnell and Mirinda Carfrae embarked on a European Ironman vacation, with O’Donnell taking on Ironman Frankfurt for the first time and Carfrae racing (and winning) Ironman Austria in her debut there. 

This year, there will be no vacation trip; Carfrae is pregnant and due in August meaning TO reworked his schedule to compete closer to home. This weekend he’s racing literally from home; O’Donnell, the sixth-place finisher at last year’s Ironman World Championship, aims to earn his Kona start this fall with a qualifying finish Sunday at Ironman Boulder.

Triathlete.com: With Ironman Boulder switching to a spring race (moving Ironman 70.3 Boulder to a later summer date), do you relish the opportunity to ratify and scoop up your Kona qualification points relatively early?

O’Donnell: I think I’m at a place where I just need a finish. I get two swings at (Ironman) a year, so I want to make it count.

The timing to do it here is pretty ideal; it’s not too late that if you get into trouble or if something goes wrong you can’t overcome it, but it’s late enough into the season that you can be fit. And for me it’s nice obviously because to have the baby coming along in August, it’ll be nice to have Kona qualification stuff all taken care of before that point.

Triathlete.com: There must be a distinct advantage to sleeping in your own bed before an Ironman.

O’Donnell: With Rinny being pregnant, it was a no-brainer. To have her to support me has been awesome. I swam with Joe Gambles last week, and he was headed to Australia to race at Ironman Cairns… and I was not at all jealous. I was perfectly happy to be rolling back to my own bed after the workout. But yeah, doing my normal routine, getting my regular strength work done, my bike maintenance, all that is here. I’ve raced in Boulder five times, and it’s been 2013 since I last raced here. I’ve always loved racing here and have had good results. So it all made sense.

Triathlete.com: How—if at all—has Rinny’s pregnancy changed your training and lead-up to Ironman Boulder?

O’Donnell: It’s been great for me. She’s in a position to lend a little support to my side, which has been nice. On my long runs, she’s been out on the bike with me with fuel and giving me reminders about my form, which is awesome. And it’s given us a bit of flexibility to go and do some other stuff. Like, if I’m feeling ok, we can go out to lunch, whereas if we’re both training, we’re generally on different schedules, and to line that up is often difficult.

Triathlete.com: With baby on the way, does it change your mentality or raise the stakes heading into races knowing that you’re now going to be racing for three?

O’Donnell: It really just adds more excitement. Rinny and I have both had really good careers, but we both knew there was something else beyond racing we needed in our lives. So yeah, this adds that greater element to our relationship and lives. And that puts everything in perspective. We really get a good reminder that we don’t have to race, we get to race.

Triathlete.com: Think you’ll feel it differently when you’re out on the run and see a pregnant Rinny out there cheering you on?

O’Donnell: When I’m out there, I’m generally in the zone. I thought I’d maybe have that different feeling in the last few races this year, but I still have game face on. Of course, that may change a bit when the baby’s here! To be honest, it’s been more real for her than I; she’s the one that’s truly been living it. I can tell you, I’ll have that shocker on or around Aug. 10, when the baby comes!

Triathlete.com: The rest of the season will see you staying close to home as well?

O’Donnell: Maybe 70.3 Worlds, maybe a good race before Kona. I’ll be playing it by ear. All I know is I’ll be devoting my time in early August to starting a family.

Triathlete.com: Super important question: Pink or blue colors for the nursery at home?

O’Donnell: We kept it neutral, since we don’t know yet! We just got the crib, but I’ve yet to put it together. After the race, I know I’ll be busy. Trust me, Rinny has a list for me. She’s been carrying the front end of this. Lucky for me, she knows what it takes to race, so she’s totally sympathetic. I’m grateful for that. But I’ll be busy after this weekend!

Trending on Triathlete

Jan Frodeno Reflects on His Final Ironman World Championship

Immediately after finishing 24th place at his final Ironman World Championships, the Olympic medalist (and three-time IMWC winner) explains what his race in Nice meant to him.