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Dentist to participate in Ironman World Championship

Colorado practitioner goes from nonswimmer to elite athlete in 5 years

June 26, 2017

By Michelle Manchir

Epitome of strength: Dr. Tom Bogan, in the foreground, finishes a 2.4 mile swim in one of three Ironman races he's competed in since 2012. In October, he will compete in the invite-only Ironman World Championship with other elite athletes. 
Boulder, Colo. — A Colorado dentist will Oct. 14 participate in what some call the globe's most difficult sporting event: the World Ironman Championship.

In a day, competitors swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run a 26.2 marathon. Securing a spot at the invitation-only race is a feat in itself for anyone, but it may be especially remarkable for Dr. Tom Bogan, who overcame a fear of water and learned to swim just five years ago at age 52.

Dr. Bogan vividly recalls the time when he was 5 or 6 that he fell into a swimming pool and breathed water into his lungs before choking and coughing it back up when someone rescued him.

The experience kept him away from bodies of water for most of his life.

"It left a strong impression on me," he said.

Though he enjoyed skiing and dabbled in running in his youth, Dr. Bogan said he'd never been particularly athletic until just after Christmas in 2012, when he decided he needed to make a change.

He said he'd become sedentary, working out inconsistently and gaining weight. His blood pressure was high and he began having "headaches all day," he said.

"I said, 'that's it, I'm not going down that road anymore.'"

He joined a gym and starting working with a trainer, who encouraged him to sign up for his first triathlon.

V for victory: Dr. Tom Bogan celebrates completion of an Ironman race in Boulder in 2015. Since 2012, Dr. Bogan has completed three Ironman races, in which participants swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run a 26.2 marathon.
After conditioning for many months with strength and cardio workouts, Dr. Bogan's initial attempts to begin swimming fell flat. He had so little body fat from the training that he couldn't float in water.

"They'd say, 'just relax and you'll float.' I'd relax and I'd sink," he said.

After weeks of attempts, and some researching, he ordered wetsuit pants — which most triathletes wear during competition anyway. The wetsuit pants help with buoyancy and were Dr. Bogan's ticket to success in learning to swim, he said.

He practiced his first swim in open water the weekend before his first triathlon.

"It was incredible and really started everything that has happened since then," Dr. Bogan said.
Now 57, Dr. Bogan has since 2012 completed three full-distance Ironman races and six half Ironman races, known as the Ironman 70.3, in which participants undergo a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run.

Dr. Bogan says he gets "a thrill" from the physical and mental challenges the grueling training and race day present.

So when the Ironman race director in Boulder surprised Dr. Bogan in his office earlier this year with news that he was one of 10 Ironman Boulder 2017 entrants chosen at random to compete Oct. 14 in the World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, Dr. Bogan said it was something he had "only dreamt of."

"I was absolutely floored by the whole thing," he said. "I'm still pinching myself."

These days, he spends up to 14 hours per week running, cycling, swimming or strength training to prepare for the competition. That's in addition to managing his dental office in Boulder four days per week.

While a tough regimen, Dr. Bogan called the effort "a celebration of what I'm capable of doing."

"I love it," he said. "For years I thought about stepping over the line and going down the pathway of health and strength. Now I'm doing that, and I'm never going back."

Dr. Bogan said his patients cheer him on and praise his athletic feats, especially after The Denver Post and other local media told his story.

"I'm humbled by it and amazed it led to this level of coverage," he said.

While acknowledging the competition in October will be the toughest he's ever faced, Dr. Bogan is up for the adventure, he said.

"It's going to be my very best effort and we'll see what that brings home."

Live coverage of the World Ironman Championship will be available online at