The rains began the week of September 9 in Colorado, and they did not stop. By Wednesday evening, residents in the small town of Lyons, Colorado (with a population of just over 2,000) were being asked to evacuate their homes. Among those living in Lyons were triathlete, Chris Legh, with his wife and two daughters, who split their time between the small town and their native country, Australia. At this point, Legh was just one month out from competing in the 35th Annual Ironman World Championship—a race he has said will be his last as a career triathlete.
As the severity of the flood revealed itself, Legh’s first reaction was to forget about Kona and to just help out. But as the National Guard moved into help, residents were asked to leave. There wasn’t much they could do. In Boulder, the roads for riding and trails for running, were now damaged and closed, and many swimming facilities were shutdown. This was no longer an ideal place to train. Legh and his family went first to a friend’s place in Vail, Colorado, before deciding that their best move was to go straight to Kona. We caught up with him in between training in Kona.
Can you tell us about Lyons and the flood?
Our house was better off than most people. For us, it wasn’t a really bad situation, but we realized we were stuck in town and couldn’t get out. A lot of people in town were really messed up. Main Street survived quite well, but the two main businesses that were hit hard (The Fork and St. Vrain Market, Deli & Bakery) are owned by two of our really good friends. We lived in Lyons for 8 years and we were there before the market and the Fork were upgraded. They are iconic places in town.
Everyone has to deal with mortgages and make sure their businesses survive. We just learned that the Montessori School our youngest daughter goes to will be shutdown for good. And our other daughter’s school has been temporarily moved to Longmont.
What were your thoughts on leaving?
I hated it. I knew people needed help. I almost lost my motivation to train because I wanted to help. But the only thing really that made it easier to leave was when I realized I couldn’t do a lot, we pretty much had to leave. It wasn’t possible to stay. But we all hated leaving our street and our town. I love the community.
What were your options?
Initially we went up to Vail. We had an option to stay up there and figure out what we were going to do. We were very lucky. Then we decided to head to Kona. I almost didn’t want to tell people I was going to Hawaii because it really doesn’t seem that important right now. But since I couldn’t help, I figured I might as well go do my little race.
Why is this race a big one for you?
It’s likely this is going to be my last race. I mean, it’s probably the last time I will call it my career in a sense, in terms of it being my occupation. I’ve been racing professionally for 22 years, I’ll always do something. I’ll never stop competing in something. But in terms of it being my occupation, this is going to be my last race.
Hawaii was the attraction for me to get into the sport. I had the itch to come back and race it one last time. Luckily, Melbourne Ironman went well for me. Then I did Coeur d’Alene, Calgary, Lake Stevens, I just had to chase points for a couple of weeks.
Pulmonary edema has limited your racing, how are you feeling about it?
No one can give me an answer. I can be racing as hard as possible or by myself and it can happen. In the Melbourne Ironman earlier this year it didn’t happen. No one can give me an answer. It’s happened everywhere with no correlation to altitude. At Vail, I’m fine. It’s bizarre to know there’s a good chance you can’t reach your potential. I’ve raced long enough to accept it if it happens. Fingers crossed it doesn’t.
What are your expectations for Kona?
If I have the problems I’ve had in the past, it won’t be an ideal ending. If I’m racing well, I’ll have a smile on my face. Then I’ll walk away having enjoyed being here. I’m at a point in my career where I enjoy it and realize there is no real consequence in my performance. It’s a nice place to be. I’m sitting here now in Kona and I love it. I’ve been here and hated it.
So, if Kona is your last race, will you return to Lyons?
We were enjoying Colorado, but that’s the shame of it. We’re from Melbourne and Lyons was my one chance to live in a small town. We’ll go back to Lyons after the race, if we’re able to get back to Lyons. We’ll pack and fly home to Australia. We’ll come back next year, sooner rather than later and finish off the school year.
But going back to Australia and the beach isn’t a bad option.
Do you have any words for Colorado right now?
I hope things improve. I know a lot of the family situations aren’t fantastic. I hope the businesses can survive and we can have our great little town back. More people need to ride out from Boulder when the roads are open to visit and support the town.