By 303 Contributor Colin Laughery
A few years ago I was in the local King Soopers grocery store the day before the Boulder 70.3 and eyed a pretty fast and intimidating looking dude. I ended up meeting him the next day after his sub 4:20 70.3 performance at the race and was impressed by how cool of a guy he was. Fast forward a few years now and Kenny Withrow has become a very accomplished triathlete and face of the sport in the Boulder area. Kenny has competed very successfully at the Ironman distance and is a qualifier and finisher of the 2014 Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. I recently sat down with Kenny Withrow, founder of 5280 Elite, and all around awesome guy to ask him some questions on triathlon, Ironman Boulder, and life.
Tell me a little about your athletic background and how you moved towards doing triathlon and eventually Ironman.
Baseball was my sport growing up. I had dreams of going pro, but that dream ended after my second season of College Baseball. After baseball, I took a two year break from sports and felt empty and like I was missing being part of something. I remember my dad telling me when I was a kid that "the best athletes in the world were endurance athletes", and that stuck. My parents did marathons and triathlons. The only endurance sports I did was 2 years of Cross Country in high school and hated it. I was a baseball player and we only had to run 90 feet, not 3 miles!
I guess that I felt a challenge from my father when he said that endurance athletes were the greatest. I signed up for first triathlon in Grand Junction, CO with a mountain bike and my fathers body glove surfing wetsuit. I think that suit absorbed more water than anything else. It was a sprint, and like any beginner, I kind of freaked out during the swim after someone grabbed my shoulder. After that, I realized that the fastest way out was to swim faster. I ended up winning my age group that day eventually did my second one later that year (2007).
I also remember thinking that I might want to be a pro triathlete someday. Pros like Tim DeBoom were a pretty big inspiration to me and I thought of wanting to eventually go pro. Then, the thing that got me into wanting to do Ironman was Kona. Watching the coverage on TV made me want to do it someday. My first Ironman was in St. George in 2012. It was a very hard year for that race - conditions were brutal - It still stands as the highest dropout rate of any Ironman ever. I pushed through much of it in survival mode and finished in 11:11. Two hours after recovering with some chicken broth, I was like - I want to do another one. I’m hooked.
After taking a break from racing last year, why did you decide to come back for another go at longer distance?
That’s a really good question, sometimes I even ask myself the same question. I remembered the competition. Competing with athletes and competing with friends. I remember last year I was still very much involved with the EK Endurance Coaching crew. I would train with most of them as they prepped for IRONMAN Whistler. I was in it, but I wasn’t competing. When I was at the races watching them compete and do well, I felt it personally. I also remember one race in particular and watching Conrad Rodas being on the podium and thinking I should be up there with him. I missed that and that made me want to be up there again.
On that same podium that day there was a young man named Matt Britton, who I eventually met last year in Kona. Man, that guy is the nicest guy. When he was there, he stood out because of his excitement his enthusiasm about the race and being in Kona. Meeting and talking with him gave me chills and still does. Watching him take it all in made me want that and made me remember what this sport is all about. I found the love and the passion for the sport and it made me want to be there again.
What did you end up doing in your off year last season?
The goal for last year was for what they call “professional development”. I was moving up in the corporate world and focusing on that. Newton ended up letting almost half of the company go and I was (unfortunately) part of that.
I ended up finding a passion for videography, and content creation. I found that videography and storytelling is what I want to do. I started 5280 Elite back in 2013 and was able to push out some ideas and to start sharing some other stories of people in the sport. I was able to find a voice for 5280 and now its just a matter of creating more content.
How did your last Ironman Boulder (2014) go? What went well and what do you think may have gone better?
Going into the race, I wanted to go to Kona. Back in October (of 2013) when I was talking to my coach, Eric Kenney, he told me what it would take to qualify.
During the race in 2014, I felt like the whole thing went perfect. If you ask my coach, he might say I went a little hard on the bike and payed for it on the run. The finish was a bit surreal because I knew that I would have my Kona slot. I was a bit emotional, saw my parents, then pointed to my coach (Eric), when I saw him after the finish, I broke down.
What is the best sign you have ever seen during an Ironman?
“Never trust a fart in an Ironman” and “this parade sucks”
Give me a crazy superstition that you might have before racing the long ones. If you don’t have one, can you make one up for me to use in the future?
Playing baseball - a sport that is all about superstitions, I had a lot. As a triathlete, I don’t really have a lot of superstitions. The only thing that I really like to do is put headphones on and get away before the start of a race. Oh, wait, I do have one - I watch the movie Rudy the night before every Ironman. I think it’s because I think of myself as an underdog, and Rudy is a classic underdog story. *link below
You have one song, and one song only blasting at you for the whole time you are out there - what would it be?
For this race: DownTown- Macklemore and Ryan Lewis- Cause downtown (Boulder) is the destination! ;)
What’s the thing your are most looking forward to eating/drinking on race day and what are you least looking forward to?
I used to treat myself on the bike with a Reese's Peanut butter Cups or a Snickers..but this year ill tone it down a bit and treat myself with a Honey Stinger Waffle or two….and Coke!! I Love Coke, Ill most likely consume that at about mile 13 of the run.
I’m not looking forward to the amount of pure, raw sugar that Ill consume in one day!
If you had to race with a mullet or a goatee on Sunday, what would it be and why?
Funny you ask. I’ve been growing this beard for about a month now and I’m considering a Fu Manchu for the race day. What do you think?
(Note from Colin - Look for an awesome facial hair style on race day from Kenny. I think I pressured him to go for it.)
I am going to be a first time Ironman spectator on Sunday. Give me some golden advice for the long day.
I think that spectating is honestly just as hard as racing. I am going to recommend a nutrition plan for you. Stay on top of your nutrition while spectating and you are good. Also, If you can step away for a little bit on the bike, do it. Grab a coffee and relax, its a LONG day for you sherpas, volunteers and spectators.
If we were going to make a movie about your life on Sunday, who would play you at the start of the day and who would play you at the end of the day?
To start, it would be Clint Eastwood from the Good The Bad and The Ugly
To end, most likely Alan from the Hangover movie. Cause he’s just a bit out of it. haha
What else do you want people to know about you or what else do you want to tell us all?
I have to give credit where it’s due. I have to thank those who have helped along the way this year. My teammates of EK endurance coaching. The Staff at RallySport, Castelli Triathlon and 303Triathlon has been a huge supporter athletically and professionally. My coach, Eric Kenney, who has made a dream become a reality and last but not least, my fiancé, Sasha Fluss, who has been everything. Without her support…I wouldn’t be racing this weekend.
Also, I love sharing my own story as well. I'm very active on all social media platforms. Look for KWithrow3x and 5280Elite!