KC Martin is pictured at home with the medal and banner he earned after completing the 140.6-mile Ironman Boulder triathlon June 9. To his right are medals from two other half-length Ironman events that he completed in 2016 and 2017. — The Holyoke Enterprise | Johnson Publications
“That’s why I did it,” said KC Martin, while flipping through photos with his wife, Gina, two days after completing the Boulder Ironman. Martin is pictured with his children — from left, Summer, Teagan and Tayla — after crossing the finish line.
Martins celebrate minting of Holyoke’s newest Ironman
At 8:04 p.m., more than 13 hours after he started, KC Martin crossed the finish line of the Boulder Ironman to hear four words he says he’ll never forget.
“KC Martin,” the race announcer boomed, “you are an Ironman!”
It didn’t matter that 516 other triathletes had heard the same announcement that day. For each and every finisher, the title of “Ironman” validates countless early mornings, late nights and weekends spent training for the 140.6-mile endurance gantlet.
Martin said that, for him, earning the title was about demonstrating the value of hard work to his children — Summer, 15; Tayla, 14; and Teagan, 12.
Now, Martin said he’s just glad to have free time to spend with the three, as well as his wife, Gina.
“It’ll be nice having 15 or 20 hours of life back each week now,” he said. “Some guys finish the race and they have no one there for them when they finally break down. I really couldn’t have done it without all of the help.”
Along with Gina, Summer, Tayla and Teagan, KC was cheered on by his brother, father and sister-in-law. Gina said she and the kids met KC at each of the transitions — both near the Boulder Reservoir after Martin finished his 2.4-mile swim and 112-mile bike ride.
And, of course, they waited for him just past the 13th Street finish line, at the end of the marathon that was the race’s final leg.
“We watched him come out of the water, we watched him come off the bike, and we cheered him on for 140 miles,” she said.
Martin’s stepbrother and training partner, Aaron Eggleston, earned the title of “Ironman” in Boulder the same night. Without Eggleston’s pushing and encouragement, Martin said he may never have attempted the race.
Before training for the Boulder Ironman, the two hunted elk together. Martin — who spent part of his childhood in Hawaii and remembers watching the locally hosted Ironman World Championships — said Eggleston balked when he first expressed interest in triathlon training but later said he wanted to join.
“He was giving me all kinds of crap for it, but lo and behold, he wanted to do it too,” Martin said.
Martin and Eggleston completed two half-length Ironman races together before they started training for the full-length event in January. Because Eggleston lives in Coaldale, more than 300 miles from Holyoke, the two texted each other their workout plans and developed a points system based on miles swam, biked and ran.
Gina said Martin and Eggleston video chatted regularly to discuss their progress and that their competitive nature pushed them both to succeed.
“They’re both just so competitive,” she said. “They each wanted to have more points.”
Martin worked out six days each week and on weekends trained for as long as six hours at a stretch. The commitment meant he spent a large amount of time away from Gina and the kids, which he and Gina both said was difficult — Martin already split his time between Holyoke and Denver, where he worked in construction during the week. But he said the discipline that the regimen demands lies at the heart of the Ironman challenge.
On the day of the race and during his training, he said, he also found quiet moments to pray — moments that he calls his “prayer closet.”
“There’s no possibility I would’ve finished this on my own,” Martin said. “I enjoyed his creation. I appreciated the moment. The bike course is gorgeous, so I reminded myself that I was just out on a long ride and enjoyed the scenery.”
In the week leading up to the race, Martin and Eggleston scaled back their training to prepare for what in the minds of many is the endurance challenge of a lifetime.
On Sunday morning, the two queued up on the banks of Boulder Reservoir. The race began in waves, with all but the highest-ranked competitors allowed to choose their order of start based on their estimated pace.
Martin said it was a beautiful day for a race, with temperatures in the 60s. Gina, Summer, Tayla and Teagan helped him don his wetsuit before he finally dove in at 6:44 a.m.
The family was able to follow his progress throughout the race with a smartphone application that used buoys and other receivers to track an electronic chip stuck to Martin’s ankle.
The family also got a front seat to the action by volunteering to hand out water and snacks to racers.
Martin set a personal best time in the swim, finishing in 1 hour, 21 minutes and 51 seconds. From there, he changed out of his wetsuit and climbed onto the bike, where he spent the next 6 hours, 9 minutes and 18 seconds, before starting the marathon — his first.
Gina said the culture of support and enthusiasm around long-distance endurance events is contagious. Moving through the mob of cheering fans lining the final leg of the run, Martin said the support helped propel him toward the finish line.
“As hard as those last 5 miles were, that gave me a burst of adrenaline,” he said.
He wrapped up the run in 5 hours, 34 minutes and 28 seconds, earning him a final finishing time of 13 hours, 21 minutes and 11 seconds.
After meeting his family, Martin said, the first thing he did was look for something to eat.
“Naturally, you’re pretty depleted in calories, so the first thing I did was find a hamburger,” he said. “Then we waited for Aaron after the race, and he came in a few hours later.”
Two days after being named an Ironman, while recovering at home, Martin said he hasn’t begun to plan his next endurance event but speculated it might involve long-distance cycling.
Ironman organizers announced after the race that 2019 would be the last year for the full-length event in Boulder. But for those who may be looking to tackle any of the 44 remaining Ironman events, Martin said his advice is to take it slow.
“My advice would be just to be patient and graduate up through the distances,” he said. “Even after I completed those half events, I had no intent of doing a full. A half is an animal in and of itself. But as time went by, I felt like it was something that I wanted to do.”
Martin added that Holyoke residents are better off than many rural Coloradans, having access to a pool and gym.