Steamboat's TJ Thrasher tackles the Patagonman triathlon in Chile |

Steamboat’s TJ Thrasher tackles the Patagonman triathlon in Chile

TJ Thrasher runs through the mountains of the Patagonman triathlon in Chile.
Photo by Rafael de Carvalho Farnezi

Patagonia is a land of extremes. Throw an extreme triathlon into that setting, and it’s even more so. 

An eighth-place finish in the 2017 Alaskaman Triathlon was all Steamboat Springs triathlete TJ Thrasher needed for the chance to compete in the inaugural Patagonman, part of the 10-event Xtri World Tour, in December. All the events feature similar conditions — cold water, unpredictable weather and high elevations with a 2.3-mile swim, 108-mile bike and 25.3-mile run — and the Patagonman put all that on steroids. 

“These races are unique because they’re point to point instead of being looped like Ironman,” Thrasher said. “You literally start out in the ocean, swim back to shore, bike a road across Chile and finish with a trail run.”

The problem was, after earning his spot in the race’s lottery, Thrasher had only three months to train.

“It was shorter than I’d like,” he said, adding that it also was his first major event without a coach or a nutritionist. “I had to fall back on the knowledge I’d gained from other races.”

High winds forced a rerouting of the swim and created a frustrating bike ride through the mountains. The roads also were bumpy.

“I actually had a water bottle jump out of my holder,” Thrasher said. “It left me without water for an hour because the race was unsupported.”

TJ Thrasher at the finish of the Patagonman triathlon in Chile.
Courtesy Tasha Thrasher

After struggling with the frigid swim in Alaska, Thrasher focused on training in the cold, open water of Steamboat’s Bald Eagle Lake with temperature in the high 30s. Living in Steamboat helped, he said, because of its elevation.

“Most racers don’t get to train at elevation,” he said. “For me, it makes it a little less extreme.”

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Thrasher’s wife, Tasha, was his support aid throughout the race, helping prepare him at the transitions. She met him at miles 27 and 81 on the bike and joined him for the last part of the run.

Thrasher completed the race in 12 hours, 20 minutes and 11 seconds as the 21st overall finisher. Of the 158 athletes from 45 countries who started — including world champion Allan Hovda, who took second overall — 145 finished. 

But placing isn’t what’s important to Thrasher — it’s the camaraderie.

“It’s some pretty amazing people to be around, and they’re now all lifelong friends,” Thrasher said. “They all support each other, from fixing bikes to coming up with missing nutrition. It’s unique to any other type of event I’ve done.”

To reach Leah Vann, call 970-871-4253, email or follow her on Twitter @lvann_sports.

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