As many of you may know already, my brother, Corey Nygaard, is an insane triathlete. For those of you who don't know what a triathlon is, here it is: a triathlon is an individual sport where athletes compete in short, or long, races. These races consist of three sports into one: swimming, biking, and running. I never really was big on triathlons until my brother started to compete in them. And let me tell ya, it is absolutely amazing. In total, Corey has competed in 33 triathlons. Here is my story about my brother, and what he loves to do.
his article on my brother has been long overdue, but I wanted to make sure everything was perfect. Okay, here we go. Corey has only been into triathlons for 4 years, and his very first race was actually a duathlon, in Fergus Falls, MN. This race consisted of a 20 mile bike, then a 4 mile run, then a 7 mile bike to finish it off. I remember this race like it was yesterday. It was SO COLD and SO WINDY that day. Not great racing weather. With this being his first race, Corey was very unprepared. He had only his mountain bike, shorts and a rain jacket. I remember him telling us how hard it was, and that he never wants to do it again. Yeah, that wasn't the case. He ended up doing the duathlon again, and did improve, because he was more prepared. Now, after the duathlon, he found the Hoot Lake triathlon, which was also located in Fergus Falls. This race was known as a sprint triathlon. It consisted of a 450 meter swim, about a 17 mile bike, and a 5k run. I, myself, have experienced this race twice. Once when I was 16, and just this past summer, when I was 19. The first time I raced, I was just like Corey, and I never wanted to do it again. I finally got the courage to do it again this year. I trained harder, and was older and stronger than I was when I was 16. Man, was there an improvement. I never felt so good crossing that finish line, and getting that third place medal around my neck. Even though it is a small town race, I was finally able to understand why Corey loves this sport so much. It just makes you feel so good about yourself, and that you can accomplish anything.
Shortly after Hoot Lake, Corey was signing up for races left and right. Finally, he signed up for the half IRONMAN in Racine, WI. This race was much more vigorous than any other race Corey has done. It consisted of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and a half marathon run (13 miles). I can remember this race just as well as the first duathlon in Fergus Falls. My family and I didn't bring enough snacks, so we were crabby and hangry the whole day we were getting Corey checked in for everything. That was not fun. The Nygaard clan is not fun when we are hungry. We have also never been to Racine before, and when we go to a new place everyone gets frustrated with everyone because no one knows where we are going. But we eventually got everything done that we needed to achieve the day before the race. At this point in Corey's triathlon career, he has gotten a much more expensive bike, that is specifically for triathlons. He is more prepared with gear, food, etc. Also, this is the first time I have ever heard of this IRONMAN race. Now, you could practically call me an expert on the race. I've done all the research to prove it.
With Racine, Corey has had some ups and downs with this race. There was only one race, where it was perfect weather and they did the whole race. Every year since then, the swim has been cancelled, and/or the bike has been shortened because of weather. To add on to that, we had about a 2 and a half hour delay last year because of a storm the morning of the race. That was not fun, but being Corey's number one sherpa, I was making sure that I was staying positive for him, because these races are his life. But again, that was the year that Corey qualified for the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Chattanooga TN, this summer, which is amazing! He attempted Racine again this summer, along with his good friend Branden Scheel. Again, the swim was cancelled, because the of the temperature in Lake Michigan, which was another huge bummer. On the other hand, Corey has been battling a very bad knee injury, and I remember seeing the pain in his eyes when he ran by me on the course. But knowing Corey, he will not quit.
After doing the IRONMAN 70.3, Corey wanted to attempt the whole thing. IRONMAN Boulder Colorado 2016. 140.6 miles. One awesome dude. So we packed The Nygaard crew into a small rental car, and headed to beautiful Colorado. We drove all the way to beautiful North Platte, Nebraska, and stayed the night, to wake up in the morning and drive to Boulder. And let me tell you this, the drive to Boulder is SO BORING. Imagine driving from Fargo to Grand Forks, but for 14 hours. Yeah, it's pretty bad. But once you get to Boulder, it is one of the most beautiful places I've seen. I will never be against going back there again and again.
And we did just that. This summer, Corey and I drove to Boulder, for his second IRONMAN. I was knew this race was going to be a good one. Once we stayed in North Platte once again, we drove to stay at Corey's friends place, Brad, and his wife Caydee. They were so welcoming, and I thank them very much for letting us into their home. We were able to explore Boulder a little more, and make sure that Corey was ready for his race.
Then finally, my favorite day, RACE DAY! We woke up bright and early around 3 AM. I made sure to have my camera bag, hammock, blanket, food, change of clothes, swimsuit, hydration, and more. Trust me, being a sherpa is hard work. But I love it! Corey had to make sure he had all of the gear he needed, then we were off to Boulder! It was dark and quiet, yet the city was full of life from the triathletes. I absolutely love walking around with Corey and seeing how all of this IRONMAN stuff works. It takes countless hours of training and organization to make this race as big of a deal as it is. It is absolutely incredible.
While waiting for the swim start, Corey and I observed all the athletes in transition, and watched the sun come up over the Boulder Reservoir. He better be thankful that I brought a blanket, because it was pretty cold that morning. I gave him my blanket, while I stood there in shorts and suffered while we waited for the swim to start. Corey, you are so lucky to have a sister like me :) Finally, it was time for Corey head over to the swim start. I got my blanket back, and I walked with my brother over to the swim start. I couldn't go past a certain point, so I gave him a big squeeze, and wished him all the luck in the world. I always tear up when I watch him walk towards the swim. Seeing my brother do something this incredible is so heart warming, and I will never be more proud of him.
With the beautiful sunrise coming up, a cannon went off, signaling the pros to start their swim. Then, it was the rolling start for the age groupers. It is so hard trying to find your athlete at this point, because they are all wearing their wet suits and swim caps, and look exactly the same. Although, I still manage to find my brother, and watch him disappear into the sparkling water. Once he is gone, now begins a long day of waiting. Since the IRONMAN is 140.6 miles, it kind of takes a long time to finish. As a spectator, all you can do is wait, and track your athlete. Once Corey was swimming, I got some french toast and orange juice, found a spot where the swimmers come out, and just simply waited.
A little over an hour went by, and then I heard Mike Riley say "And here comes Corey Nygaard out of the water!" This is when I jump up, grab my camera, and wait for Corey to come by. Once I see him, I am yelling as loud as I can, and am trying to take pictures at the same time. This is a task I have mastered. It is actually a lot harder than you think. Trust me. As soon as I snapped some pictures, I grabbed all my crap and SPRINTED to transition, yelled at Corey some more, took more pictures, then sprinted again to where he took off on his bike, and got a couple more pictures. For the first part, I saw Corey 3 times in the course of about 4 minutes. Yes, I am a very determined sherpa.
While Corey was out on the bike, I found a spot on a big boulder to sit and watch bikers take off, while I waited for Corey to come back around. The bike course consisted of 3 loops, so I was able to see Corey 3 times on the bike before I took the shuttle back to Boulder High School, which was where the second transition was, where the bikers came in, and headed out for the run. I didn't see Corey come in on the bike, because being the photographer, I wanted to get a good spot to take pictures of him on the run. I patiently waited, when I finally heard a distant Mike Riley announce Corey's name again, and I jumped up and got my camera ready once again. Then, there he was, running in his red, white and blue Wattie INK tri suit, looking better than ever. I snapped some pics, then ran along side him, giving him my little motivational speech, then pushed him along. Whenever I saw Corey coming from a distance, I would be yelling my head off, and people would be staring. They all had to know that the number one IRONMAN was coming. Corey said that he can hear me from a mile away, which was always my goal.
After seeing Corey on the run 3 times, I made my way over to the finish line to snatch a good spot to watch him finish. I was there for about an hour and a half, because I wasn't losing my awesome spot. I was able to see most of the pros finish, which was pretty cool. The finish line at any IRONMAN is a battle field. You are constantly fighting with other spectators, because they want your good spot. But I wasn't moving. No way. After tracking Corey all day, I knew he was in first place in his age group, while he had no idea. When you win your age group at any IRONMAN race, you will qualify for the King of the IRONMAN: Kona. So of course, I was super pumped for him to finish. Finally, the moment came. I heard Mike Riley say "Corey Nygaard, you are an IRONMAN". Seeing him cross the finish is always so emotional for me. I'm yelling and on the verge of tears, because I am so proud of him. Once he gets through all the volunteers, I am able to see him and give him a huge hug. I knew that he finished first in his age group, but he didn't want to know until awards the next day. It was so hard not telling him. After eating and grabbing his bike, I kept telling Corey that he needs to know what place he got. While on the phone with mom and dad, I finally told Corey that he won his age group. At first, he didn't believe me. I showed him his place on the IRONMAN app to prove it. Of course, he started crying from being overwhelmed, and finally seeing that he was going to Kona Hawaii for the IRONMAN World Championship. It is every triathletes dream to make it to this race, and Corey made it. The next day at awards, Corey was first out of the water in his age group, won his age group, and accepted his Kona qualification spot (I am sure many of you have seen my video I posted on Facebook).
My family, Mitchell and I just returned from Kona, Hawaii about two and a half weeks ago, after watching Corey compete in the biggest race of his life. Watching people complete this race is beyond amazing, and watching your brother compete was even more amazing. Corey, I am the proudest sister in the entire world, and just know that where you are now, and when you become pro, I will always stand behind you no matter what.
Stay Golden, bro.
Just a girl with a journal, a pen and a camera trying to express herself to the outside.