Eric Sullivan takes on the Ironman triathlon

“I had an okay day"

After finding success on the adventure racing circuit as well as setting a world record for the most vertical climbed on skis in 24 hours, Gunnison Valley resident Eric Sullivan may have met his match in the Ironman.

 

 Or at least a challenge.
Sullivan spent the past summer competing in the half-Ironman circuit in an effort to qualify for the Ironman World Championships. He did so in the final event of the season, punching a ticket to Kona, Hawaii to join 1,800 athletes at the Ford Ironman World Championships on October 10.
Sullivan admits he had visions of grandeur leading up to the race, hoping to place high enough to earn his professional license. In addition, while other triathletes may be tapering down on their training leading up to the race, Sullivan continued his efforts on the adventure racing circuit.
“It was not ideal preparation,” admits Sullivan.
Furthermore, Sullivan had yet to race a full-length Ironman.
Throw in the fact that it was 95 degrees on race day with 100 percent humidity and odds were that Sullivan would have a tough first-go at the prestigious race.
“It was a tough race,” says Sullivan. “I had an okay day.”
The Ironman opens with 1,800 athletes sprinting into the water for a 2.4-mile swim.
“It’s a lot of commotion—it’s a zoo,” says Sullivan.
Despite the fact that Sullivan had never swum that far, he remained calm in the water and fed off the adrenaline of the start to carry him through the crowd.
“When the gun goes off, you just do it—I felt pretty relaxed,” says Sullivan.
He completed the swim in one hour, 12 minutes and transitioned onto his bike for a 112-mile road ride. Sullivan rode the course weeks prior to the event and knew that there was some suffering to be had.
“It’s not flat,” says Sullivan. “I knew it was going to be hard so I held back the first 30 miles.”
Athletes were treated to a headwind the final 40 miles of the ride, adding to the pain. Sullivan finished the bike section in five hours and three minutes, just off his pre-race goal of a sub-five-hour split.
The Ironman closes with a 26.2-mile run. Due to heavy hydration efforts during the bike section, Sullivan suffered the first ten miles of the run.
“I think I drank too much Gatorade,” says Sullivan. “The first 10 miles my stomach was just sloshing around.”
The course dropped down out of the wind at the 19-mile mark, adding to the heat index felt by competitors.
“I swear it was like a furnace all of a sudden,” says Sullivan.
His hydration effort paid off in the end as Sullivan rallied the final 16 miles of the marathon to post a run split of three hours and 29 minutes for a total race time of nine hours, 53 minutes.
“I had my sights set a little higher than that,” explains Sullivan. “I just wasn’t feeling fit. I didn’t have that extra juice.
With his first Ironman under his belt, Sullivan has his sights set on next year with a plan in place.
“I want to take it pretty serious and see what happens,” says Sullivan.
Before then, Sullivan will be heading to Abu Dhabi with Team Salomon/Crested Butte in December for another adventure race and a shot at the massive cash purse.

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