December 31, 2006
Steamboat Springs’ fanatically fit athletes have it easy.
At least in the summer time, that is. The Yampa Valley provides endless warm-weather exercise options that breed numbers of multi-sport enthusiasts and competitors.
Look no further than the growing ranks of the local Steamboat Triathlon Club or their marquee local multi-sport event, the Steamboat Springs Triathlon. Due to immediate growth in popularity of the second-year event, organizer Barry Siff had to increase the participant field this year from 400 to 600.
But blankets of winter snow that bury roads and trails create a few challenges for dedicated racers.
“Steamboat is at a disadvantage for training,” said Joy Rasmussen, who recently was elected vice president of USA Triathlon’s Rocky Mountain Regional Board. “You need to get miles on your (road) bike, and you can’t get that until April, so you have supplement that with a lot of spinning.”
Rasmussen also pointed to the importance of cross-country skate-skiing as the best cross-training for triathletes, in terms of “aerobic endurance, strength and overall physical workout.”
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Other athletes go for the snowshoes. Bill Goldsmith is looking ahead to a busy summer season of trail races, the June 3 Steamboat Marathon, as well as an ultramarathon. Goldsmith hasn’t picked up skate-skiing yet, so he heads for runs on the some of the area’s quality snowshoe trails, such as those on Mad Creek, Spring Creek and up Emerald Mountain.
“Expect your legs to be fatigued faster, you’re using slightly different muscles in your shins,” Goldsmith said. “But it will only translate to being faster without resistance.”
Goldsmith uses a series of winter snowshoe races in nearby resort communities to keep his workouts motivated.
Athletes like Goldsmith who are ready to race now will have their chance with the growing fringe competition of winter triathlons. Siff’s Boulder-based company, 5430 Sports, will host what he calls the “largest winter tri ever held in the U.S.,” on Feb. 4 at Devil’s Thumb Ranch, near the Grand County town of Tabernash.
Although this translates to a likely turnout of about 250 athletes, the event will be USA Triathlon’s National and ITU Pan American Championship – meaning the top two competitors in each age group will qualify for the U.S. team for the World Winter Triathlon Championships on March 4 in Flassen, Italy.
Although the sport is most popular in Europe and is hoping for a bid at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Siff said the sport is gaining popularity in North America as more people become interested in Nordic skiing.
“People are beginning to see that Nordic skiers are the best-conditioned athletes in the world,” Siff said.
Steamboat athletes who understand Nordic skiing’s benefits are taking notice of the winter events.
Katie Lindquist, who teaches both skate-skiing lessons at Lake Catamount and spinning classes at Old Town Hot Springs, had always shied away from triathlon events because she didn’t like the swim element. When she found out about Siff’s event, which combines an 8K run, 15K bike and 10K ski, all on hard-packed snow courses, she was hooked. She’s already signed up for both of 5430’s winter triathlons.
The first event, a Jan. 14 winter triathlon, features shorter courses in the three disciplines at the Devil’s Thumb Ranch Nordic trails.
On Saturday, Lindquist started training for her first triathlon by skiing the third 7.5-kilometer relay leg of the New Years Relay at the Steamboat Ski Touring Center. She then donned her running shoes for a jog downtown to Eriksen Cycles, where she works as the business manager. After grabbing her custom 22.8-pound mountain race bike outfitted with 29-inch wheels and knobby, tubeless tires, Lindquist headed out for a ride up Emerald Mountain.
Now she just has to learn to transition from the gear of one sport to the next.
Hadley Graham, a Steamboat local who races six triathlons each summer and is training for both 5430 winter triathlons and a pair of winter triathlons hosted in Summit County, recommended setting up the transition stages in logical order and practicing going from one pair of shoes to the next.
Graham also is training for the Yampa Valley’s main multi-sport event of the season – the March 3 Steamboat Pentathlon. The popular race combines a 400-foot climb up and race down Howelsen Hill with a 2.5-mile snowshoe run, a 4-mile Nordic section, a 12-mile mountain bike ride and a 5-mile run.
While most athletes may not go through the rigorous training schedule Graham plans for the races – daily mountain bike rides up packed snow to the Emerald Mountain Quarry, weekly uphill endurance snowshoe climbs and participation in the Ski Touring Center’s Wednesday and Saturday Masters Program. Many can step into the races one sport at a time in relay team divisions and shorter course options.
To racers like Rasmussen, multi-sport events come down to setting goals and creating a plan with the race in mind.
“Triathlons are about establishing a new attitude – accomplishing something you never thought you could do before,” she said.
– To reach Dave Shively, call 871-4253
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