When Bobby Korklow of Paxton finished the Ironman Triathlon on August 3 in Boulder, Colo., he had a joyful feeling that a person rarely gets.
After crossing the finish line, Korklow thought about all the time he spent training for the Ironman and how he struggled to work it into his busy schedule of maintaining a job and raising a family. He also thought of how he had persevered to finish one of the most grueling events in sports.
"I was elated," Korklow said. "It's hard to explain. But I thought of the nine months of training and how preparing and competing in something like that takes a lot of time on families."
The Ironman is not so much a competition against others as it is against your body and your mind. But Korklow and Wayne Wallace, of Paxton, not only conquered the obstacles their bodies presented, they conquered most of the competition as they finished sixth place in their age groups. Korklow, who finished the race in 10:21.50, competed in the 30-34 year old category and Wallace, who came in at 12:03.12, was in the 55-59 year old division.
Korklow's finish was good enough to qualify for him for the Ironman World Championship Triathlon, which will be held in Kona, Hawaii in October.
An Ironman Triathlon consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112-mile backride and a marathon of 26.2 miles. Since its inception in 1978, the Ironman has become the most prestigious triathlon in the world.
"When you think triathlon, everyone thinks of the Ironman," Korklow said. "It is to triathlon what the Super Bowl is to football."
But Korklow and Wallace got their start at North Platte's own James O'Rourke Triathlon. Both Korklow and Wallace started doing triathlons because they felt it was a great way to stay in shape. Korklow formerly played soccer at Doane College. Wallace just liked being active and doing all three aspects of triathlon as a form of exercise.
"I enjoy all that stuff," Wallace said. "I like challenges and I guess I am stubborn that way."
A year ago, Korklow and Wallace, as well as fellow Paxton residents Tracey Renfrow, Brooks Greene and Jeremy Spurgin decided to make the jump to the Ironman level. They entered the race in Texas.
This year, the Paxton Five chose to stay a little closer to home and enter in the one in Boulder.
Wallace says that the races provided challenges that were expected from their locales. The heat was nearly unbearable in Texas. But in Colorado there was the thin air and the slopes one must navigate over.
"The altitude was the big thing in Boulder," Wallace said. "Texas was hotter. But in Boulder there was more hills to climb with your bike."
The race began with the swim through the Boulder Reservoir northeast of the city. The opening portion of the race is what propelled Korklow to his best performance. He said that his swimming was his weakest area going in. So he gained confidence by getting past that in good shape, which he credits the triathlon swimming class he took at the North Platte Rec Center.
"I felt good (after the swim)" Korklow said. "The class I took at the Rec Center with (instructor) Trudy Merritt really helped me."
The 112-bike ride that circled the Boulder area came next which was where Korklow began showing signs of fatigue but he got a second wind and he kept the pace up.
"When you hit the wall, your mind is playing games with you," Korklow said. "That's when you take a step back. You start walking and you get some nutrition in you."
Both Korklow and Wallace averaged just under 22 miles-per-hour in the cycling portion of the triathlon. Then came the marathon on the Boulder Creek Trail.
At that point, it is simply mind over matter. Marathons are tough alone but after a 2.4 miles of swimming and 112 miles of cycling, it is nearly impossible.
"The marathon's always a struggle," Korklow said.
Because so much energy has already been spent, it is difficult to make up ground in the marathon. But Wallace did just that. He was 35th after he completed the swimming portion. But after staying in it on the bike, he skyrocketed to 13th in the first third of the marathon and he kept the pace up the rest of the way to finish sixth.
"The further you get down the line, the tougher it gets," Wallace said. "You have to have a strategy. It's too far to go without one. But there's also a lot improvising."
Korklow said that he was pleased to qualify for the World Championships in Hawaii in just his second Ironman triathlon and he is looking forward to competing there in October.