On the morning of Feb. 8, 2003, a training ride went awry when triathlete Joy Rasmussen was thrown over the handlebars of her road bike and onto the Florida pavement -- jaw first.
She lost her teeth and was operated on for five hours that evening to repair her dismantled lower face.
Two days later, she received a phone call that would leave any amateur triathlete who had become competitive in the sport jumping and screaming in exuberance.
USA Triathlon, the national governing body or the sport, informed the now 46-year-old that she had made the women's national team and would compete at the International Triathlon Union World Championships in December in Queenstown, New Zealand.
But all Rasmussen could physically do was manage a small smile, less than 48 hours after reconstructive surgery.
"I realized that I wasn't going to let anything stop me," Rasmussen said. "My head was the size of a pumpkin, and all I could do was thank God that I was alive. But that gave me a goal -- to just get better and think about being back on my feet to start training again."
Rasmussen was sidelined from training and events for five months.
In her first competition in August, having just two months to prepare, Rasmussen took second in her age division (45-49) at the Regional Sprint Championships in Key Biscayne, Florida.
She followed that up with a first-place finish in her age division at the Nautica Malibu Regional Sprint Championships in September. In October, at the National Age Group Championships in Shreveport, La., Rasmussen came in 14th place in her age group, making her eligible to possibly compete in next year's World Championships in Portugal.
And to think, her interest in triathlons was sparked more by a desire to find quality friends than to be a national team member or ranked 15th nationally in her division.
"It's a total lifestyle emersion when you have your goals set," Rasmussen said. "You get in the mode of training and being away from family and friends and deny yourself the cocktail after work. I didn't think I would ever do that well. You hear about these triathletes who are these elite-level athletes because I only heard about Ironman. That's what people see, but there are other options."
While it would be difficult for any physically active person to simply go out and compete in a triathlon without proper training, the sprint and Olympic distances that Rasmussen currently competes in are significantly shorter than the famed Ironman, and, therefore, more manageable for those with a full-time job.
Rasmussen is a realtor with Colorado Group Realty, but she previously worked as director of sales in the cruise industry and for Park City as a city employee with the Parks and Recreation offices.
She trains in the early morning hours but waits until the weekends for her longer training runs, rides or swims. Triathlon sprint distances vary between a one-fourth or one-half mile swim, a 12 to 18 mile bike ride and a 3 to 5 mile run. The Olympic distance, handled in the metric system, is a 1 1/2K swim, a 40K ride and a 10K run.
The Ironman triathlons are a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile ride and a 26.2-mile run.
Rasmussen's positive experiences in her triathlon training and competitions have prompted her to want to start a training group in Steamboat similar to the one that introduced her to triathlons in 2000 in Florida.
"You can get in at any age, but how you do it is up to you," Rasmussen said on becoming actively involved in triathlons. "I would like to put together a triathlon team here, men and women of all ages, and set our sights on something. In my old group there were people who couldn't swim from one wall of the pool to the other when they started."
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