A Race That Means More Than a Bumper Sticker

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By Molly Pereira, CDA Associate Executive Director
From the Fall 2017 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association

When you’re sitting in your car in traffic, have you ever noticed a bumper sticker with “140.6?”

That’s what Dr. Tom Bogan should have on his car but instead he proudly displays a sticker that says, “Triathlete.” It’s a simple sticker but its meaning is bold.

140.6 represents one of the greatest physical achievements in the world. Those numbers are the sum of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a 26.2-mile run – an Ironman triathlon.

This month, on Oct. 14, Dr. Bogan will compete in the sport’s most coveted race: the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. This will be the 58-year-old dentist’s fourth Ironman race but his first at the world championship.

Dr. Bogan is a Boulder general practitioner and a graduate of the University of Colorado-Boulder and University of Colorado School of Dentistry. Like most dentists, Dr. Bogan has a private practice and works full-time caring for patients, but in 2012, he realized that he wasn’t caring for himself.

“I didn’t feel good,” Dr. Bogan recalls. “I had headaches every day and never felt energized.”

He knew it was a time for a change, so he joined a gym and worked with a trainer. And that opened the door to something he never thought possible. His trainer encouraged him to look into the sport of triathlon and while it seemed like a good idea, there was just one problem—he couldn’t swim. Despite his extreme fear of trying to swim any distance in water, he spent the next year “trying not to drown.” Eventually, with the help of a wetsuit, he conquered his fear and completed his first triathlon in 2013 in Longmont. That triathlon led to another and another, and then eventually to a half-Ironman and finally his first Ironman in 2015.

“Triathlon is a sport that changes who you are,” Dr. Bogan passionately states. “It changes you physically and mentally. Your limits change. It’s a really hard thing to describe to people, but when you cross that finish line, it’s like going through a gate and you can never go back.”

Now with a 6% body fat physique (down from 22% in 2012), he trains 20 hours a week in addition to treating patients eight hours a day, Monday through Thursday. He also balances his family life and is supported by his wife and two high school teenagers.

Dr. Bogan stands on the Boulder Ironman stage embracing his adopted mantra: Anything is possible.

“ ‘Anything Is Possible’ is the Ironman mantra, which I have personally experienced and adopted,” Dr. Bogan says when asked about balance. “I have a tremendous drive to complete the training necessary for this sport. If I miss a training session, I try to make it up the next day. I’ve found that preparation is the key to success in an Ironman.”

Typically to compete in the Ironman World Championship, triathletes must either qualify for the race with a finishing time or win a coveted spot in the entry lottery. This year, the race allocated 10 spots to be raffled among athletes who registered early for the 2017 Boulder Ironman. Dr. Bogan was the first name drawn and the Boulder race director personally presented him with his guaranteed spot in the Kona competition.

The race in Kona will be Dr. Bogan’s first ocean swim and first race where wetsuits aren’t allowed. Despite a few lingering worries, he has confidence in his training (and the fact that he’ll be 2.5% more buoyant in saltwater based on his research).

Before going to dental school, Dr. Bogan was a drag racing driver in the National Hot Rod Association Pro Gas Race Class. That experience taught him to “treat the big ones like little ones and the little ones like big ones,” meaning to treat a big race like a small race and vice versa. This mentality is what keeps his nerves unusually calm before races – including a race that happens to have the words “World Championship” in the race title.

“I prepare as well as I can for each race,” Dr. Bogan says. “I know I can get through what I’m trying to do. Just like racing cars, preparation is the biggest part of victory.”

Dr. Bogan uses his experiences as a guide to help others. Encouraging his patients to pursue healthy lifestyles is of utmost importance in his practice. Despite his impressive resume of newfound health, he continues to be startled when referred to as an inspiration for others.

“The first person who came up to me and said I was an inspiration, floored me,” Dr. Bogan recalls. “I never thought of myself as an inspiration. For me, it was about changing the direction of my life and following a new and permanent pathway. You don’t get in shape and then walk away. I’m never going back to the way I was before, and I love it.”

Dr. Bogan’s family will be joining him in Kona to cheer him on. His goal is to finish and get a personal best time (his time to beat is 12 hours and 57 minutes). And, of course, just like every triathlete, he wants to hear the words over the loud speaker from the famous Ironman race announcer, Mike Reilly: “TOM BOGAN, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”

Maybe 2017 is the year when he upgrades to a well-earned 140.6 bumper sticker.

The Ironman World Championship is on Oct. 14 and live event coverage is available online.

Article update:

Dr. Tom Bogan competed in the Oct. 14 Ironman World Championship and completed the race with a time of 13:39:07.

His complete race results are available here.