One of the standout finishers of Boulder’s Ironman was local legend Michael Stone, a Boulder athlete and business owner whose finish in 14 hours, 7 minutes marked his 16th lifetime Ironman.
That’s an impressive accomplishment, but absolutely astonishing considering that Stone is legally blind.
For nine years he has lived with retinitis pigmentosa, a slow but sure degenerative disease that eventually causes blindness. During this time, he has participated in triathlons of every kind either alone or with the assistance of athletic guides who lend their vision and verbal cues.
“I knew I got hit in the back of the head during the swim, but you know, you just kind of forget about these things and go on autopilot,” he says. “Throughout the race I was dizzy and the back of my head ached, but I didn’t think too much about it. I was pretty much focused on being out there with my community and getting it done.”
For Stone, it was not a typical race. He walked through about 90 percent of the marathon, usually his strongest of the three events.
“I just haven’t had the zip in my run lately, and I certainly can’t blame it on the concussion,” he says.
The past 18 months have been particularly challenging for Stone as the deterioration of his eyesight left him with virtually no functional vision. This has made training extremely difficult, and certainly not the fun and meditative joy it used to be.
For that reason, the Boulder Ironman was Stone’s final solo race – and he thoroughly relished the day.
“I just wanted to be out there with my community,” he says. “And, honestly I have never felt more loved by my community. There is no quantitative measure – no time, no clock – that could gauge that experience.”
He may not be racing an Ironman solo again, but Stone’s athleticism is hardly going dark. He learned long ago that being active is everything – sight or no sight.
“Blindness is very scary and it’s too easy to just stay home,” he says. “You have to keep moving.”
Guide and longtime friend Kimberly Baldwin, who works at RE/MAX of Boulder, is ready and waiting for the next opportunity to race tandem with Stone. The two teamed up to compete in numerous off-road triathlons in 2013 and ’14.
“I can’t keep up with him during the swim, so where we mainly work together is during the transitions, cycling and running,” says Baldwin, a four-time national cycling champion who rode professionally for eight years. “I ride in front of him staying very close – within 6 feet where he can see me, giving him verbal cues to get through the course.”
The two met during a coaching stint with Boulder’s Fast Forward Sports and have been friends ever since, racing in off-road triathlons across the country, and finishing up with the Xterra World competition in Maui last year.
“We laugh a lot, which is key,” she says.
“Kimberly is a world-class athlete and to have a world class athlete slow down to lend me her eyes is humbling, because I know what she is capable of doing,” he says. “It means a tremendous amount to me.”
Another facet of life that has kept Stone moving is the business he purchased in 2006 and has since expanded exponentially. Colorado Multisport, located within the same Boulder shopping center as McGuckin Hardware on Canyon Boulevard, has become a destination for anyone remotely interested in triathlons.
When he considered buying the business, it was something altogether different. The business was run out of a single-wide trailer on 27th and Spruce streets by mostly absentee owners. And yet Stone was an enthusiastic customer. Focused on triathletes, the store had tremendous potential from Stone’s vantage point, as he experienced the growth of the sport firsthand. He approached his good friend and store manager Ryan Ignatz about a possible collaboration.
“I just realized what the store could be for everyone,” he says. “It was a win for the community, a win for the people working here and a win for me, because I needed a place to be.”
Providing triathletes with what they need to succeed, Colorado Multisport has today emerged the local leader in what many people think of as the most vibrant retail athletic market in the world. The extensive merchandise on the floor – bicycles, clothing, nutrition, wet suits, etc. – is all bolstered by a bigger-picture approach to helping people accomplish their goals through the triathlon experience.
We are excited to feature Colorado Multisport in this space all month, as we celebrate Boulder’s thriving outdoor industry.