“I’m not too worried, I want to do well”
Back in January, Gunnison Valley resident Eric Sullivan decided he would take a shot at qualifying for the prestigious 2009 Ford Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii on October 12.
When he started researching Ironman qualifying events he found all the races were full into 2010 and the only way in was through the half Ironman circuit.
The season started off with a DNF for Sullivan in his first attempt to qualify at the St. Croix half Ironman on May 3, when a chunk of metal on the course ripped through his bike and forced him to drop out.
Two weeks later, Sullivan was back in action at a half-Ironman in Orlando, Fla. with a much more positive result. Sullivan posted the fastest run split and the second fastest bike split to win his age group and take fifth overall out of an amateur class of 2,200 racers.
Unfortunately, the race was not a qualifier for the Ironman championships, but Sullivan continued to plug away, taking third in his age class and sixth overall among amateurs in a half Ironman in Lubbock, Texas.
His shot at the big show came down to one last race, a half-Ironman race in Providence, R.I., on Sunday, July 12.
“It was do or die,” says Sullivan.
With his bike splits and running splits firmly in place throughout the season, Sullivan concentrated on his swimming and it paid off in Providence, shaving seven minutes off his best time to date.
Sullivan battled through the field to post a time of 28 minutes and 53 seconds in the opening 1.2-mile swim section.
“My swim has always been crap,” says Sullivan. “It was nice to get it where it needs to be.”
Sullivan switched to his road bike and posted the fastest split in his class, 10th fastest overall, covering the 56-mile course in a time of two hours, 15 minutes and 57 seconds.
He closed the race covering the 13.1-mile run course in a time of one hour, 26 minutes and 15 seconds to take fifth place in his class and 23rd overall.
While only the top two finishers were offered spots at the world championships, the first-place finisher was already in and the next three competitors opted out, leaving the spot for Sullivan.
“It’s kind of by default, but I’ll take it,” says Sullivan.
The world championships bring in 1,800 competitors from around the globe to compete on a full Ironman course—a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike section and a full 26.2-mile marathon to finish.
Sullivan has not raced a full-length Ironman yet, leaving the world championships as his first attempt at the total distance.
Still, he’s not that worried, having competed extensively on the multi-day adventure racing circuit as part of Team Salomon/Crested Butte.
“The top guys are finishing in eight and a half hours so it’s a short race,” says Sullivan. “I’m not too worried, I want to do well. If I can get top three overall, I’ll get my pro license.”