Kimberly Zacher rides Friday afternoon in Steamboat Springs to train for Sunday's Steamboat Springs Triathlon. The fourth annual triathlon will start at Lake Catamount at 8 a.m. More than 600 athletes are expected for the swimming, biking and running race.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Kimberly Zacher rides Friday afternoon in Steamboat Springs to train for Sunday's Steamboat Springs Triathlon. The fourth annual triathlon will start at Lake Catamount at 8 a.m. More than 600 athletes are expected for the swimming, biking and running race.

Change in perspective

Athlete has new goals for triathlon

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Race day information

Spectators: Steamboat Springs Triathlon volunteer coordinator Joy Rasmussen said the best two places to watch the race are the cycling leg turnaround point at Howelsen Hill Lodge and the Lake Catamount transition area near the Lake House. Spectators will be directed to park in a nearby field at the lake, and Rasmussen encouraged them to show up at least an hour before the 8 a.m. start and to stay behind the closed transition area fencing. There will be a parking lot available near the lake, but spectators won't be allowed to park on the road.

Volunteers: Rasmussen still needs race-day volunteers, namely course marshals, finish-line greeters and aid station attendants. Participation includes a T-shirt, snacks and access to the after-race party. Volunteering also can count toward community service hours. Call her at 846-8678 or e-mail joy@mybrokers.com.

Racers: The race starts at 8 a.m. The race site opens at 6 a.m. Sunday for racers to check in, set up transition areas and mark their bodies.

— Kimberly Zacher has completed many of the goals she set for herself since taking off from the starting line in last year's Steamboat Springs Triathlon. Much to her relief, that triathlon was one of those goals.

She has since accomplished hundreds of days of training, ran a half marathon in June, and is a good bet to finish another triathlon Sunday when she again takes to the Lake Catamount course of the Steamboat Springs Triathlon.

The goals have changed for Zacher, however. She said she'll never get away from the massive health kick that convinced her to move to Steamboat and drop 90 pounds, and she said just finishing a triathlon is no longer enough.

"Last year, I just wanted to make it, but this year I need to beat my time," Zacher said.

Full house

Zacher will be one of many competitors toeing the line at 8 a.m. Sunday for the fourth annual Steamboat Springs Triathlon. Competitors will launch themselves onto a course that features three-quarters of a mile of swimming, four miles of running and 20 miles of biking.

She won't be lonely. The race this year reached its 600-particpant cap more than two months ago, a strong sign to race organizer Joy Rasmussen that in the land of skiing and trail running, the triathlon has caught on.

"Triathlons used to have a mystique because of the Ironman. But since that time, it has appealed to a whole different spectrum of athlete," she said. "It's the fastest-growing sport in the country for people who want to get out and set and achieve a goal."

It is not just locals such as Kimberly Zacher who are flocking to Catamount's shores. Rather, race director Barry Siff said it's a crush from the Front Range that's turned Steamboat's triathlon into one of the hottest tickets in Colorado.

Siff coordinates such events across the country with his company, 5430 Sports, and is returning to Steamboat for the fourth time.

He figured the first-year participation to be at 400, about one-third being locals. Now fewer than 25 percent of those diving into the lake will be Routt County residents.

"It's the beauty of Steamboat Springs, plain and simple," Siff said of the appeal. "It's just a spectacular place to get out and swim, bike and ride. It's not as intense as some of the other races we put on that might have 1,600 people. It's more relaxed, and everyone has a great time."

The course's length further complements that laid-back atmosphere. Although covering nearly 25 miles of water and earth can be daunting, it will be considerably easier than the famed Ironman races, and even than the Olympic event, which debuted in 2000 in Sydney.

There still will be plenty of challenge, however, and it will be longer than popular sprint triathlon distances.

Sunday's course will take racers across Lake Catamount in the water. The bike stage will run into Steamboat Springs and to Howelsen Hill before returning to Catamount, while the running stage will go out two miles on Routt County Road 18 before returning.

Setting a goal

Zacher hopes to knock all that off in less than the 2 hours, 28 minutes and 9 seconds it took her last year.

She was confident Friday afternoon as she tackled another day of training, riding on River Road on a road bike borrowed from a friend.

She said she's put in at least five days a week this summer building up for the triathlon, and that the work has helped her shave off 10 more pounds.

Loud, happy and confident, she said she's an entirely different person than she was before moving to Steamboat. She's different in what she eats, what she does for fun and who she spends time with - and different in what will make her happy after a day on the race course.

"When I started training for my first triathlon, I couldn't even run for a minute. Now my whole life is changed - my thinking, my eating and everything," she said. "Last year, I made it in 2 1/2 hours, and I just want to beat that time. I know I can."

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