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I had the chance to meet Patrick Baldwin during Ironman week in Kona back in October.  He’s a great guy and a great triathlete as he broke the 10-hour mark in his first ever Ironman race.  I think you’ll agree that Patrick’s motivation and class is as admirable as anyone in our sport.  I hope you enjoy some excerpts from our conversation. 
CZ: What was it like having your first Ironman distance race be the World Championships in Kona?

PB: It was quite an honor.  The race was such an incredible event.  I was really proud to be out there.  I’m having a hard time motivating myself to do an Ironman that’s not Hawaii.  But I had a good time during the race and as the time passes I find myself thinking I may sign up for a different one, especially because I’d like to race Hawaii again.

The best part about the race was all the support.  I race in honor of children and adults who have lost their battle, are fighting, or have survived their battles with some type of blood related cancer.  A great friend of mine Rachel, who is a cancer survivor, was out on the course with her family cheering me on.  That was quite motivating, I knew I had to finish this thing.  Through friends and Team In Training teammates I was so blessed to have more people rooting for me on the course or online than any other athlete.   The generosity and support of all my friends was overwhelming and I can’t thank them all enough.

Being an Ironman rookie, I don’t think I realized the grandeur of this race.  I wasn’t planning on racing an Ironman for a few years but I decided to take the opportunity.  I’m a believer now.  The race week itself was a blast.  I was so looking forward to the few days after the race to hang out in Hawaii, but when I look back I think I enjoyed the pre-race days even better.  I think I was less nervous than I was for any other triathlon, it was a similar feeling that I felt doing my first race when I had no idea of what to expect.  I guess I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing out there but I didn’t really care.  I just focused on trying to enjoy every moment of it.  It’s amazing how much you learn from your first Ironman.

The field was incredible as well.  I usually like to be pretty competitive when I race, but when I came out of the water in something over 500th place, I realized this was going to be a different kind of day!  

CZ: Did it help you at all that you happened to qualify at the Half Ironman in Kona earlier in the season?

PB: I think it really did help that I qualified in Kona at the Half Ironman.  I’ve been lucky enough to race in Kona 5 times in my short tri career and it is always a great experience.  I’ve raced the Lavaman Olympic distance the past few years in April and then this year tried out my first Half Ironman in Kona.   I think knowing how tough running in the Hawaii heat was a big plus.  Strangely I didn’t notice it as much as in the shorter races.  Maybe I was just numb by the time the marathon came around.  Knowing the bike course was great, as well.  I had a lot of mental monuments along the route to give me energy.  In some races I like not knowing what I’m getting myself into but this time it was great.

It’s funny.  The Half Ironman distance is absolutely nothing compared to Ironman.  Although they are on similar courses, they are totally different races.  I think we talked about this a few days before the race and you were definitely right.

CZ: Tell us about your race in Kona?

PB: I have so many great memories of the race.  The swim was incredible.  There was so much energy at the start.  When the cannon went off and 1600 people who had been training for years to get to that point took off swimming, the amount of energy there was incredible.  I had a blast through the swim; I couldn’t even tell if I was swimming hard.

The greatest part of the bike was climbing up to Hawi.  My buddy Trevor had chalked ‘Go Patrick #1564’ about every mile up that hill and he had made a giant sign out of a sheet which he hung between trees and a sign.  I climbed that hill with tears streaming down my eyes harder than I had ever ridden a bike.  It was the intense feeling of support that took me there emotionally and physically.  I probably paid for that later in the race but it doesn’t bother me a bit.

The run was a challenge.  I didn’t hurt that bad, but my stride kept getting shorter and shorter.  That run down Alii was definitely the moment I’ll remember.  Everyone told me I would and I assumed that that meant I would feel good at that point, but I don’t think I felt good until I crossed that line.  It is one tough race.

Probably the part that stands out strongest in my mind was seeing my parents and my guiding lights through this whole Ironman experience Yvette and Wookie Roberts as soon as I crossed the finish.

CZ: What were some of the key things you did to prepare for the Ironman?

PB: I think the key workouts for me were rides we did out in Borrego Springs.  I’ve worked with Sergio Borges as my coach for a few years now and he put together a good program that included these tough Borrego to the Salton Sea loops.  Very similar to the ride in Kona.  They built as much metal toughness as they did strength.   

CZ: What was your sports background before triathlon?

PB: During college I ran some marathons but nothing competitive.   I used to bartend during school and I would often stay up all night doing the things bartenders do and have to go to class in the morning.  So I’d go for a run to clear my head and make it feel like I had slept.  Kind of weird I know but it worked and I think I built a big base from doing it!  I kept running a lot when I moved out here and then 3 years ago did my first triathlon.

CZ: That’s classic!  You do pretty well when you get a good night of sleep.  How did you get started with triathlons?

PB: I got started in triathlon with the Team In Training program.  I’d always wanted to do a tri and then I heard the head coach Gurujan Dourson give a speech at a tri-club meeting I attended.  It sounded great, the race would be in Hawaii, I’d be supporting a great cause and I’d get to train with a ton of people.  So I did my first tri at Lavaman 2001, loved every second of it, placed in my age group, and went up to Gurujan after the race and said, one down a thousand more to go.  I stuck with the sport and did every race I could find. 

A big part of triathlon for me has been the Team in Training program.  I’ve met the most incredible people through it.  And it taught me so much about the sport.  This year as well I was invited to help out coaching the athletes.  That has been an incredible experience as well.  I‘m very honored to do this and I love every minute of it.   It really helps balance all the hard training and keep life in perspective.

CZ: Now that you’ve done the “Big Dance”, what are your goals?

PB: I want to make sure I keep having fun with the sport.  I train pretty seriously and balancing Ironman with work, coaching for TNT, and having a social life was a challenge.  But, I definitely want to race Hawaii again, 9 hours seems like a good goal…I’m signed up the Wildflower 1/2 and Alcatraz, I figure it will be fun to do some of triathlons other premier events.  I’ll also be racing with Dan Plummer’s Wheels on Wheels team.  A great group of athletes planning on making a mark on the So Cal tri scene.

CZ: What do you do for a living?

PB: I work for a landscape architecture and planning firm in Solana Beach and I live near downtown.  It’s fun and interesting work but I’d rather train all day!   My family and a brother live in Minneapolis where I grew up.  I moved out here kind of randomly for a job after school in Madison, Wisconsin (the greatest city in the world!) about 4 years ago, went for a run through Torrey Pines and decided I could stay for awhile.  It’s great living out here but I miss the Midwest.  Though I’d be pretty hard pressed to pack up my car and leave!

CZ: Patrick, I think we’d like you to stay in San Diego a long time.  Thanks for sharing your story with the Tri Club.