Jonson Kuhn | North Forty News
For Cory Wilkinson of Wellington, life is all about stepping outside of comfort zones.
“In my view, it’s about just breaking out of your boundaries and really pushing yourself outside of limitations,” Wilkinson said. “That’s really what drives me.”
Wilkinson, 56, just recently completed his first-ever Ironman triathlon in Cascais, Portugal in October. Though Wilkinson has been a lifelong runner with several triathlons under his belt, he said this was the longest, most challenging race he had ever taken on.
“I did the Colorado Marathon and that was the first marathon I had ever done,” Wilkinson said. “I also did the Boulder half (70.3), Ironman, in August, and I didn’t finish it. I got heat exhaustion, sat down for a minute, and couldn’t get back up. So, you might imagine going into a full Ironman, when you didn’t even finish a half Ironman two months prior, there was a real stigma there.”
Originally born in west Texas, Wilkinson is no stranger to throwing himself into challenges and new experiences. Not knowing much about Colorado before making the move in 2016, Wilkinson said he just knew he was looking for a better quality of life.
“I was living in Houston at the time, I had relocated from Dallas to Houston, and between the traffic and everything else, I just felt like I needed a change,” Wilkinson said. “I actually just booked a flight and ended up staying in Ft. Lupton because I didn’t know anything about the state of Colorado ahead of time, and so I ended up just working the whole front range and eventually fell in love with Fort Collins.”
Wilkinson is self-employed and owns a consulting insurance and technology company that deals in risk management and commercial insurance, so he knew working remotely for clients wouldn’t pose a challenge. He said he spent time from Denver to Colorado Springs and every place in between but found something unique and special about northern Colorado specifically and felt that once he saw it for the first time, he had found his home.
“You get up there on that reservoir, the first time I saw it I just stumbled onto Highway 1 by accident, and I just thought it was unbelievable,” Wilkinson said. “Northern Colorado is home, this whole experience really resonated with me and how blessed I am to have been able to move up here and live in Wellington and Fort Collins. I’m pretty much the envy of all the people in Houston.”
Once settled into the new location, it didn’t take Wilkinson long to start feeling the need for that next challenge. He knew Portugal had always been a destination he had hoped to visit, and much like his move to Colorado, one day he just made it happen.
“I knew nothing about Portugal beforehand, but it’s really become a hotbed for digital nomads and virtual workers and so it’s just something that sort of hit my radar,” Wilkinson said. “I thought it would be really neat to visit this place because I had never been to Europe and Europe was on my bucket list. And I started thinking while I’m there why not do a race.”
Wilkinson said the whole thing started by accident as he initially meant to only sign up for the half Ironman but ended up registering for the wrong race and found himself suddenly signing up for the full race instead. The Ironman consists of over 2 miles of swimming, over 100 miles of biking, and then a 26-mile run to finish it off.
“You really experience every emotion there is out there and it becomes more mental than physical and even spiritual at some points,” Wilkinson said. “I had some real challenges before even going into this race, first of all, I have a torn right meniscus that I’ve never had repaired, so there’s always the pain factor.”
In addition to a torn meniscus, Wilkinson had crashed on his bike a week before the race, slightly injuring his shoulder and neck but much to his surprise, aside from some minor digestive issues, none of the injuries posed a challenge for him during the swimming and biking portions of the race as he had feared they might. He said ultimately the most challenging part of the race proved to be the running at the very end.
“Sometimes your legs just feel absolutely like concrete blocks,” Wilkinson said. “I didn’t know how my body was going to respond because every race I’ve ever done, my legs just feel terrible, and for the first time ever because I followed my coaching and a fair amount of praying, too, I thought, ‘my gosh, I can’t get off this bike and have to try and get 26.2 miles on concrete legs,’ but fortunately for the first time ever, my legs felt fantastic.”
Health has always been incredibly important to Wilkinson, who has three certifications through the American Council on Exercise for personal training, group fitness, and nutrition. In addition to health, Wilkinson said something else he considers to be deeply important is his faith, which he said was another key component to finishing the triathlon.
“I think sometimes when you do something as daunting as this kind of race, for me personally I had to make it about my faith, but I also had to make it about something bigger than myself,” Wilkinson said. “So, I reached out to my mom and asked if she’d be willing to make a donation to a faith-based organization if I finish this race, and if I do finish it then I’ll match it.”
According to Wilkinson, adding the element of completing the race for someone else was important because it then became about not wanting to let someone else down. Wilkinson said it was no longer about himself but rather about helping a child with a heart transplant specifically.
Wilkinson said that in his opinion, completing something as challenging as an Ironman gives a new perspective on life and how people can push through things whether it’s setting personal goals or career aspirations, it’s not that you can just say you finished an Ironman, but rather it conditions you differently from a mental perspective and shows you that you can push through whatever limits may show up in life.
“I think you really learn about pushing through the limitations of the human frame and body, even with injuries, even with unknowns, even with mental blocks, you can always push through those things,” Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson ended up completing the race in thirteen hours and thirty-three minutes and you might think after a physically demanding experience such as that, once would be more than enough, but not so. According to Wilkinson, he already has plans in the works to compete in another Ironman soon, only this time he’ll have his biggest fans cheering him on in person.
“My mom and dad ended up being my biggest cheerleaders, which was just amazing, I never expected that,” Wilkinson said. “I think what’s next on the horizon is since they’re kind of getting to an age where it’s going to be harder to travel unless we do something soon, they want to go to Europe, so I’m going to try working an Ironman into another trip into Europe to let them be a part of that experience.”