Steamboat endurance athlete Bonnie Herter takes a training ride along Amethyst Drive near the Strawberry Park school campus this week. Herter is preparing for the Danskin Women's Triathlon in Aurora on Sunday.

Photo by John F. Russell

Steamboat endurance athlete Bonnie Herter takes a training ride along Amethyst Drive near the Strawberry Park school campus this week. Herter is preparing for the Danskin Women's Triathlon in Aurora on Sunday.

Steamboat triathlete shrugs off age

Herter, 62, to compete this weekend at Danskin Women's Triathlon

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— The Danskin Women's Triathlon series is open to women ages 14 and older.

Steamboat Springs resident Bonnie Herter seems proud to say she is part of the "and older" of this year's field, which competes at 7 a.m. Sunday at Aurora Reservoir.

Herter turns 63 this August, but she won't let that stop her from pursuing her love of the sport she has enjoyed for more than 20 years. She has made two Ironman World Championship appearances, and typically competes in three to five triathlons each year.

"I competed in my first triathlon back in 1985," Herter said. "Now, when I'm in the top three, it's usually in my age group."

Herter has proven she belongs on the course. She competed in her

first Ironman World Championship in 2004 at the age of 60.

"I was turning 60 and that's why I wanted to do it," she said. "I knew I was getting older and if I was going to do it, that was the time."

She finished the race, which included a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and the traditional 26.2-mile run, in approximately 16 hours.

In 2005, Herter returned to the Ironman World Championships, inspired by an online training program from former Ironman champion Mark Allen and aided by a move to the high altitude of Colorado. She trimmed more than 2 hours from her time, placing sixth in her age group (with the third-fastest time on the bike) in a time of 13 hours, 58 minutes and 29 seconds.

Impressive considering that 56 athletes - about 3 percent of the field - in the 2005 race failed to finish. Herter will not compete in this year's Ironman World Championships, but she finished third in her age group at the Boulder Sprint Triathlon earlier this month and plans to compete in six triathlons this year.

Sunday's triathlon at Aurora Reservoir has a special meaning for the Steamboat athlete.

"I love the Danskin Triathlon," she said. "The athletes come in all shapes, sizes and ages. For many of them, it's their first triathlon and they are scared to death, and excited at the same time. I'm the old warhorse, but I just love to see that level of excitement for an event. It reminds me of why I love this sport."

The Danskin Women's Triathlon, a fundraiser in the battle against breast cancer, is significantly shorter than the Ironman championships, but Herter said it offers something for every athlete. This year's participants will compete in a half-mile swim, 12-mile bike and 3.1-mile run. Denver is one of eight stops across the country for the Danskin series, which has been running for 19 years and attracted 210,000 participants.

Five women from Steamboat Springs are registered to compete. Other local athletes include Karen Goedert, Maria Linna-Russell, Linda Casner and Patrice Steinke.

Steinke, 47, said she wanted to compete in this year's event as a way to get back into shape and for a co-worker whose mother recently was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"I'll be out there competing for her," Steinke said. "But this is just a great event and a lot of fun."

-To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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