“Never Quit, Never Give Up.”
The phrase was printed on Noah Barajas’ forearm, a part of his body he looked at several times when he needed motivation to finish the Ironman Boulder Triathlon on June 11 in Boulder, Colo.
Barajas, 20, a lifelong Northland resident and Park Hill High School graduate, signed up for Ironman Boulder in August 2016 and traveled to Colorado 1 1/2 weeks before the race to get acclimated to the surroundings. After making the nine-hour trek from Kansas City by car, he went on a run to test his body’s reaction to high altitude.
He said the race, which included a 2.4-mile swim, a bike ride of 112 miles, and a run of 26.2 miles, was the hardest thing he’s done in his life. Barajas has a deep running and biking background, but he admitted those were actually the toughest parts of the race.
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“The bike felt forever, like it was a week long,” said Barajas who finished with an overall time of 14:47:07. “Both my groins cramped up several times … I had to hop off the bike, stretch, take salts, hop back on. There were a couple of times where my (bike) chain came off and I had to stop and fix it.”
In addition to the physical pain and mechanical hiccups, Barajas tried to limit his mental battles. But occasional nerves can affect even the most seasoned athletes.
“You just have to be strong mentally. If you’re not strong in your head, if you let things get to you, you’re not going to have a good race,” Barajas said. “Whenever I had those cramps, I knew they were going to subside. I didn’t have any worries there. That’s really what kept me pushing on.”
Joshlyn Barajas, Noah’s mother, streamed parts of her son’s race on Facebook. As he neared the finish line, mile by mile, she remembers his eyes widened and his smile brightened. Before Barajas crossed the finish line, his mother was already on Groupon buying massages for him back home in Kansas City.
“I don’t care how he crossed that finish line, I knew he was going to cross it,” she said after taking a deep breath. “(I felt) everything … joy, relief, shock. Every time I saw him, he had the hugest grin on his face. I couldn’t even record him at the end, I was shaking so bad.”
Barajas earned his associate’s degree from Maple Woods Community College in December 2016 and will be attending Friends University in Wichita this fall, where he will compete on the track team and pursue a degree in sports medicine.
Knowing most Triathlon athletes don’t peak until their 30s, Barajas hopes to eventually compete in the Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. He also plans to run in the Boston Marathon.
“It felt unreal crossing that finish line,” Barajas said. “I realized this is the sport I wanted to fall in love with.”