- Associated Press
Saturday, December 31, 2016

LONGMONT, Colo. (AP) - Tom Bogan’s childhood memory of nearly drowning in a Boulder pool scared him out of the water until about five years ago, when he committed to learning to swim.

“I remember distinctly breathing water in and out of my lungs,” he said of the experience.

The Boulder dentist and Longmont resident is now a two-time Ironman, who swims, runs, cycles and lifts weights up to 14 hours a week as training for his next races.

He was surprised to learn recently that he was the first of 10 Ironman Boulder 2017 entrants chosen at random to compete in the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii - a qualification-only race for a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run.

Ironman Boulder race director Dave Christen said he scheduled a root canal under a fake name to sneak his way into Bogan’s north Boulder office for the surprise, broadcasting it live on Facebook.

“You have made my day,” Bogan said in the video. “I have only dreamt of ever going to that race. It’s absolutely incredible to have a chance at doing that race now.”

Christen said all other winners would be announced by Jan. 7 after computer-generated drawings.

“It’s certainly the holy grail of triathlons,” Christen said.

Bogan, 57, said he reversed his health and well-being about five years ago after being fed up with having consistent headaches and feeling out of shape. He said he walked into 24 Hour Fitness and eased into a workout program alongside personal trainer Stephan Swanson.

“I don’t know how many stairs I climbed, but it was a lot of them over a long period of time,” Bogan said.

His trainer then came up with the idea that he ought to consider entering a triathlon, he said, but his lifelong fear of water held him back for several months.

“I was very concerned about it because I really envisioned … panicking and drowning,” he said.

When he finally agreed to try, he couldn’t float because his body fat was down to 6 percent and he sunk in the pool “like a rock to the bottom.”

But Bogan said he found a fix by wearing pants made of wetsuit material that created enough buoyancy for him to start swimming laps.

By April 2013, he said, he completed his first mile in the pool. But he was still hesitant about swimming in open water, where he couldn’t just put his foot down if he felt like he was in trouble.

At the Longmont Reservoir a few weeks later, after overcoming his fear of deeper water, he conquered a swim over a great expanse of water.

“I knew at that point that I had the capability to do this event,” he said about the coming May 2013 Summer Open Sprint Triathlon in Longmont.

The morning of the event, he said, the road crew was unable to deliver the bikes, so the cycling portion was canceled that year, leaving only an 800-meter swim and 5K run ahead.

Bogan swam and ran his way to first place in the 50-54 age group - what he considers to be one of the biggest accomplishments in his life. But he wasn’t finished that day.

“I decided, well I can’t call this complete until I get home and complete a 13.1-mile bike ride,” he said.

Since then, he has dedicated himself to several other Colorado races, including the Bolder Boulder, Boulder Peak Triathlon, Longmont Oktoberfest Sprint Triathlon and Fa La La Half Marathon.

“We’ll be working with him and the other winners so they have a good understanding of what to expect and that they know they have our support,” Christen said.

During his second Ironman Boulder this year, he finished after 12 hours, 57 minutes, 29 seconds, placing 13th in his age group, even though he said he had the potential to take ninth. He said he shaved 40 minutes off his 2015 time.

“It’s one of the wonderful things of the sport,” Bogan said during a break between patients. “It really pushes you to what you’re capable of doing and it shows you things about yourself you never knew before.”

He planned that night to run for an hour and swim for an hour, finishing by 8:30 p.m. after working all day as a dentist. He said the ticket to Kona is a golden opportunity and another door opened in his athletic journey.

“I always see big improvements when I least expect,” he said. “I truly become younger as I’m getting older.”


Information from: Daily Times-Call, https://timescall.com/

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