Kathy McGowan, of Snowmass Village, leads a pack of riders up the final hill of the 20-mile bike section of the Steamboat Triathlon.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Kathy McGowan, of Snowmass Village, leads a pack of riders up the final hill of the 20-mile bike section of the Steamboat Triathlon.

Athletes swarm to Steamboat Triathlon

Nearly 600 participate in Sunday's 5th annual event

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A first-time triathlete

Steamboat Pilot & Today assistant news editor Nicole Miller competed in - and completed - Sunday's Steamboat Triathlon. It was her first.

Steamboat Pilot & Today assistant news editor Nicole Miller competed in - and completed - Sunday's Steamboat Triathlon. It was her first.

Top finishers

Men

1. Matt Smith, Denver, 1:32:59

2. Tim Sandell, Colorado Springs, 1:37:06

3. Jon Freckleton, Steamboat Springs, 1:39:05

Women

1. Selene Perez, Littleton, 1:46:26

2. Trisha Byerley, Morrison, 1:47:29

3. Cassi Wilbanks, Denver, 1:51:28

Sunday's Steamboat Triathlon began at 8 a.m., making for an early morning for anyone gathering his or her gear to head out to the Lake Catamount starting line.

The alarm clock seemed to come especially early for two competitors and their closest friends and family.

Paul and Kerri Hurst made the early start, Kerri in time to leap into the icy cold lake waters for the first leg of her relay team and Paul, on a different three-athlete squad, to cheer on the first leg of his team, waiting for the chance to ride his bike for the second leg.

But they admitted they were tired. And it's hard to blame them. They stayed up until 3 a.m. the night before celebrating their wedding day with friends and family.

Bright and early after their Thunderhead Lodge wedding, Kerri teamed with her bridesmaids to form The Bridezillas, and Paul joined with his groomsmen for Team Trifecta.

Their parents also formed teams and one other wedding guest competed independently.

"It was fun involving our wedding party," Kerri said. "Our parents even got involved. It was really cool. When we woke up, we were excited."

The fifth annual Steamboat Triathlon sent athletes swimming, biking and running across nearly 25 miles of rural Steamboat Springs on Sunday morning.

The newly minted Hurst family was joined by hundreds of other competitors taking on the challenge. The race included top performances by the nearly 100 Steamboat Springs locals who joined the race, and great times recorded by Front Range and out-of-state triathletes.

None, however, could match Matt Smith, who captured his second consecutive Steamboat Triathlon title.

The Denver-based athlete said he opens every competitive summer with the Steamboat Marathon and has been closing it with the triathlon.

He was in a class of his own Sunday, finishing with top-three times in each of the three components.

His final time of 1 hour, 32 minutes and 59 seconds was best by more than four minutes.

"This is just the best race in Colorado," Smith said. "We love coming up to Steamboat. We'll be back every year."

Tim Sandell, from Colorado Springs, finished second at 1:37:06. Steamboat Springs' Jon Freckleton was third at 1:39:05.

He said he surprised even himself with his strong performance. Freckleton finished with the 13th-best run but the third-best swim.

He really made up ground on the bike, averaging more than 25 miles per hour and finishing with the fastest time in the stage.

"I was really surprised. I just swam three or four times and ran three or four times, but I'm a good cyclist," said Freckleton, who struggled to find time to train while helping raise a family and open his Aspire Performance Sports Medicine private practice in Steamboat.

"This was my fourth year for the triathlon. I did real well the first year, then had a lot of trouble in the swim after that," he said. "I think my wetsuit was too small. I couldn't breathe. I got a new one this year, and I was four minutes faster swimming."

Selene Perez, of Littleton, won the women's race in 1:46:26; ahead of Trisha Byerley, of Morrison, who finished second at 1:47:29; and Denver's Cassi Wilbanks, third in 1:51:28.

"It was awesome," Perez said. "My swim was my best part. I was the second woman out of the water. My bike usually isn't as good, but I did pretty well there today, too."

- To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail jreichenberger@steamboatpilot.com

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