Steamboat athlete to compete on new NBC reality show

Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge debuts Monday night

Austin Colbert
Steamboat Springs resident Heather Gollnick, a five-time Ironman champion, was selected to compete on NBC's "Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge." The new TV series, from the producers of "American Ninja Warrior," will debut June 13.
Austin Colbert

— At some point, Steamboat Springs resident Heather Gollnick started to resemble a crazy person. Between spear throwing in the driveway, carrying bags of sand up and down the stairs and hauling buckets of rock up the mountain, it’s easy to see why her neighbors might have been concerned.

Fear not, as these peculiar activities are training for Gollnick’s new passion — obstacle course racing.

“I wish I would have done one a lot sooner, because I’m totally hooked,” Gollnick said. “Every race has been so different. So yes, it can make it mentally hard, but it also makes it exciting, because you don’t know what is coming, and you don’t know if you are going to be really bad at it or really good at it.”

Gollnick, 46, is a longtime triathlete. She is a five-time Ironman champion and runs her IronEdge coaching and triathlon team out of Steamboat. However, late last year, her athletic career took a sudden shift when she was invited to be part of a new reality television show revolving around a sport she knew nothing about.

The show, “Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge,” premiers at 8 p.m. Monday on NBC. From the producers of “American Ninja Warrior,” the “Survivor”-esque show pits teams against each other in Spartan races, Spartan being the most popular brand of obstacle course racing in the country.

“Being on the reality show, it will be interesting to see how it looks compared to how it was,” Gollnick said. “You are not supposed to say who won and how you did, but I can say our inexperience in obstacle racing was definitely a factor. The teams that did well were experienced in obstacle racing.”

The teams were made of two men, two women and one elite athlete. In Gollnick’s case, she was the elite athlete on her team, which included Colorado Springs resident Suzanne Himka, Gollnick’s best friend from college. It was Himka, who made the show with three other Colorado Springs athletes, who recommended Gollnick be cast as their elite athlete.

Gollnick, unfamiliar with obstacle course racing, was hesitant at first. But, after submitting a video and getting to take part in the show — filmed in December — the increasingly popular sport has overtaken her life.

“If I’m not very good at something, then I’m really determined to get good at it,” Gollnick said. “I would say the obstacles were a challenge for me. As a triathlete, you don’t have a lot of forearm strength, you don’t have a lot of grip strength, and I would fall on these obstacles.”

Since competing on the show, Gollnick has made it a habit of competing in other obstacle course racing events. Among her most notable races are the Spartan U.S. Championship Series races, which NBC Sports will also air this summer in conjunction with the reality show. So far, only two of the five races have been held, but Gollnick has already done enough to qualify for October’s Spartan World Championships, held at Lake Tahoe.

Without giving away any secrets she is under contract not to talk about, Gollnick hinted that her time on Monday’s reality show would likely be short and sweet. However, when the U.S. Championship Series — which is televised more as a true sporting event than a TV show — begins to air July 20, Gollnick could see a little more face time.

Either way, the longtime triathlete has found something new to keep her motivated while training.

“Who doesn’t like to play in the rain and play in the mud? So, it’s really fun. I got to the point where I just wanted to get better at all the obstacles,” Gollnick said. “I’ve been doing triathlons so long, and I’ll never be at the level I was at, so this is really exciting to keep seeing improvements. I’m hooked.”

To reach Austin Colbert, call 970-871-4204, email or follow him on Twitter @Austin_Colbert

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